The warning “mind the gap” is a constant reminder when one steps off a London underground train, reminding you to watch out for the gap between the rail track and platform. As consumers, we need to be mindful of the continuous gap we, as a society, have when it comes to our daily fruit and vegetable consumption.
Every five years, we hear the same “warning” as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee releases its evidence-based diet and nutrition research recommendations. Our intake of fruits and vegetables is woefully under the recommendation of “making half of your plate fruits and vegetables.” But we can close the gap if we are mindful of what’s in our refrigerator and on our pantry shelf. Now is a good time to start as September is National Fruit & Veggies Month as deemed by the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Even though we are at the height of seasonal fresh produce, all forms count including fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice. The benefits of daily consumption of fruits and vegetables are well grounded. Strong science suggests that fruits and vegetables promote health and may reduce our risk for multiple health conditions, including heart disease, certain forms of cancer and obesity. In fact, at least two of the under consumed nutrients of public health, potassium and dietary fiber, could be improved if we put a couple more veggies or fruit on our plates. In addition to the physical health benefits, emerging research suggests eating fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy eating pattern is associated with overall life satisfaction and happiness, as well as some improved cognitive function and mental health, according to the Produce for Better Health Foundation.
Where to start? Take an inventory of the fruits and vegetables currently in your refrigerator and pantry. If the gap is obvious, consider produce options at your local farmers’ market or weekly bargains at your grocery in the frozen, canned or fresh sections. The goal: add ONE more to your plate! Think apples, bananas, peaches or canned fruit cups for snacks; blueberries or avocados as part of breakfast: broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens for “stand alone” sides or part of casseroles or salads for meals. The possibilities are endless. Watch for #haveaplant social media postings throughout September for creative ideas on how to add more to your plate and take the #haveaplantpledge.