Nutritionists encourage more fruits, vegetables during September

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published September 2, 2015

 A Sheiko Elementary student releases ladybugs in the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital organic greenhouse after learning about healthy eating in 2014.

A Sheiko Elementary student releases ladybugs in the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital organic greenhouse after learning about healthy eating in 2014.

Photo provided by Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital

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METRO DETROIT — With school back in session, families will soon be swinging into hectic schedules.


But instead of getting in the habit of saying, “I don’t have time,” Laura Meagher, a registered dietitian at Beaumont Hospital, said everyone can and should make time to eat healthy.


September is Fruits and Veggies — More Matters Month, a campaign launched in 2007 by the Produce for Better Health Foundation that encourages consumers to eat more fruits and vegetables, according to Kristen Stevens, chief operating officer for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. 


The foundation aims to help people increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables by communicating with them through social media and by partnering with other organizations and companies in the industry to use the Fruits and Vegetables — More Matters brand, Stevens said.


Where other produce organizations may focus on one form of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned, dried or 100 percent juice — the foundation educates consumers on all forms.


“We just wanted to help families … come up with some quick and easy ways they can eat more fruits and vegetables throughout their day,” Stevens said.


Halle Saperstein, a registered dietitian with Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, said kids ages 3-5 should consume 1 to 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 1  to 1 1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Kids 6-11 years old should consume three to four servings of fruit — one serving is the size of an adult fist — and four to six servings — either a 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables — per day. As kids get older, their serving sizes increase slightly, but Saperstein said kids should strive for five servings of each.


“Fruits and vegetables matter because they’re excellent sources for promoting good health,” Saperstein said. “We kind of think of them as our superfoods, our infection-fighter foods.”


When it comes to eating fruits and vegetables, fresh is best, Saperstein said. If fresh produce is not available, Saperstein said the next best option is frozen produce. Frozen vegetables are frozen on-site, which locks in the nutrients. If someone chooses canned produce, Saperstein said, they should buy ones in light syrup or ones that have a lower sugar content. Saperstein said dried fruits are calorically dense and typically have sugar added.


Introducing more produce into a child’s diet is fairly easy, and people can start by taking a child to the farmers market or grocery store, Meagher said.


“Take them to a grocery store and walk around, and have them look at things they haven’t tried,” Meagher said, adding that parents should let their child pick out one fruit or vegetable they haven’t tried before.


When packing lunches, parents should also involve their children in the process because kids are more likely to eat the food if it doesn’t catch them by surprise and it’s something they’re excited about.


“Children also do a lot better with things that are prepared. They’re going to be a lot more prone to eat a celery stick … or an apple that’s cut up and ready to grab,” Meagher said.


Markets do sell prepackaged fruit and vegetable slices, but Meagher said families should choose farm-to-table or fresh produce in lieu of prepackaged produce.


“A lot of those foods have things in them that I can’t pronounce, and if I can’t pronounce it, I don’t know how my body will react to it,” Meagher said.


Saperstein said parents can get creative and almost put all of the food servings into sandwiches — hummus, peanut butter, meat and cheese, vegetables and fruit. Parents can also use bento boxes, or compartmentalized lunchboxes, and add a protein source, a whole grain, vegetables, fruit and a healthy dip. For the picky eaters, parents can include a healthy dip like hummus or avocado for the vegetables.


“One thing we do with children is we tell them to eat a rainbow,” Saperstein said. “By eating the rainbow, you’re getting various nutrients that you wouldn’t get by eating the same fruit every day.”


For tips on how to incorporate fruits and vegetables and for recipes, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

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