Posted on December 7, 2015 by Leah Whigham
The holiday season is upon us, and many of us have a hard time maintaining healthy eating habits during this time of year. One approach is to focus on including more vegetables and fruits.
Adequate intake of vegetables and fruits is important for several reasons:
1) Many vegetables and fruits are good sources of nutrients that most of us don’t get enough of such as folate, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K.
2) Eating vegetables and fruits is associated with decreasing your risk of cardiovascular disease (including heart attacks and stroke) and some types of cancer.
3) Eating vegetables and fruits (without a lot of added fats or sugars) in place of higher calorie foods can help people who are trying to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
Unfortunately, the majority of Americans report eating less than the recommended amount of vegetables and fruits. For these many reasons, the Paso del Norte Health Foundation has chosen increasing vegetable and fruit intake as one of the goals for the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) initiative for the next five years. To assist with this goal, the Paso del Norte Institute for Healthy Living (the backbone organization for the HEAL initiative) is equipped with veggie-meters – devices that measure changes in carotenoid levels in a person’s skin over time (www.pdnihl.org). Carotenoids, such as beta-carotene in carrots, are the best biomarker of total vegetable and fruit intake, allowing nutritional scientists to objectively assess if people successfully increase vegetable and fruit intake. These tools are being used all over the Paso del Norte region to help us understand which approaches work best to help people eat more vegetables and fruits.
So how many vegetables and fruits should you eat in a day? It varies a little based on how many calories your body needs, but in general, it is best to consume at least 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day. If it is easier to think in terms of your plate, ensure that half of the food on your plate at each meal is vegetables and fruits. For more details, go to http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ or http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2010/dietaryguidelines2010.pdf.
To help get you started, here are a couple of festive recipes you can add to your holiday table:
Beet and Quinoa Salad
Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is a grain that is especially high in protein and can be found in most American grocery stores. If you prefer, another whole grain such as brown rice can be substituted. For a personal twist, add your favorite chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, chives, mint, oregano, or parsley.
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup uncooked mixed quinoa
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Sea Salt or regular salt
1 large cooked beet, peeled and diced
1 cup mixed cherry tomatoes, cut in half
¼ red onion, finely chopped
3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
Sea salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
6 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 tablespoons of chopped herbs (if desired)
Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until lightly colored and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside. Rinse quinoa under cold water and drain. Add quinoa to a pot and cover with water or broth and a pinch of salt. Bring to boil, then turn down heat, cover, and simmer for 12-14 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and keep covered 5 more minutes. Put quinoa in a bowl and fluff with fork; let cool. Add beet and toss gently. Add tomatoes, onion, and feta.
To prepare vinaigrette: combine sea salt and pepper with lemon juice and oil in a small bowl, and whisk. Stir in herbs. Add dressing to quinoa salad and top with pine nuts.
Brussel Sprouts with Bacon
20 Brussel sprouts (10 sliced in half, 10 shaved like slaw)
2 slices of bacon, chopped
¼ cup white wine, vegetable broth, or water
Add the halved Brussel sprouts to frying pan and sauté with bacon until the Brussel Sprouts just begin to caramelize. Add the shaved Brussel sprouts and wine, broth, or water to the pan, cover and steam for 3-4 minutes.
Special thanks to Tim Terell of El Paso Personal Health Coaching for contributing the recipes.
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