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Create a Rainbow on Your Plate

Carrots with pigments that reflect the colors of the rainbow.

What a great time of year to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat. With the start of many local farmers' markets and the availability of fresh, local fruits and vegetables, challenge yourself to consume more each day by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that most Americans eat three cups or more of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, depending on their gender and activity level. Eating this amount will add fiber for good digestion, ensure that you receive the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and minerals and improve your overall health.

Fruits and vegetables don't just add nutrition to meals, but they add color, flavor and texture. They are low in fat and calories. Fruits and vegetables also are linked to the prevention of serious diseases such as stroke, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

The more color variety you consume in your nutrition plan, the better your health. Green fruits and vegetables are full of luteins, indoles and other vitamins that protect eyes against cataracts and macular degeneration. Orange vegetables are an excellent source of beta-carotene and help improve the immune system.

Red fruits and vegetables contain lycopene and anthocyanins, which help reduce the risk of some cancers and keep your heart healthy. Blue and purple fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants that protect your cells against damage and improve memory function. White fruits and vegetables assist in lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. A colorful plate will definitely provide good health!

Looking for some new ideas on how to include more fruits and vegetables in your meals or snacks? Try the following ideas:

  • Grill or saute your own medley of mixed vegetables using each color such as red onions, orange carrots, yellow corn, white jicama, green broccoli and black beans. 
  • Make a tropical rainbow fruit salad with fruits of each color. For example, you could use oranges, pink grapefruit, mango, papaya, kiwifruit, bananas and purple grapes.
  • Add some peppers, spinach, red beans, onions or cherry tomatoes to your pasta dish.
  • Create a spinach salad with fresh strawberries, dried cranberries, orange segments and red onion with your favorite vinaigrette.
  • Make fruit-sicles. Puree your favorite fruits such as melon, peaches, banana and/or berries with 100 percent fruit juice. Freeze in ice cube trays, paper cups or popsicle molds for a refreshing treat.
  • Make a refreshing summer fruit smoothie.
  • Roast a whole head of garlic to make a delicious spread for an appetizer or sandwiches.
  • Steam edamame for a fun snack. Kids love it.
  • Make a Greek-inspired salad with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, chick peas, black olives and artichoke hearts.
  • Mix up a bowl of confetti coleslaw using shredded green and red cabbage, grated carrots, julienned kohlrabi and finely chopped red and yellow peppers.
  • Create a dip of Greek vanilla yogurt and peanut butter to serve with raw fruits and vegetables.

Everyone loves pizza so why not consider some of these healthier options? You can make a Mexican pizza with tortillas, refried beans, salsa and grated low-fat jalapeno cheese. Or try some different veggie toppings on your pizza such as eggplant and black olives, pineapple and onion or sliced tomatoes and spinach.

Pizza for breakfast? Sure! Top a toasted English muffin with tomato sauce, a scrambled egg and fresh spinach. Add grated Mozzarella cheese and melt.

Or liven up a breakfast omelet by adding veggies such as mushrooms, spinach, onions or bell peppers. On a busy night, you also might want to check out the unique combinations of veggies in the frozen foods section to build a meal. How about a quick stir-fry, vegetable soup or stew or frittata? Eat more color this summer for a healthier you.

 

Here are two recipes to get your family on the road to healthier eating this summer:

SIMPLE SWISS CHARD

Serves 2. You can substitute any leafy green in this recipe or add some white beans for more protein.

  • 2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, discard stalks, cut leaves into wide ribbons
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the garlic and cook until tender and aromatic, about 2 minutes. Add the Swiss chard and balsamic vinegar; cook and stir until the chard is wilted and tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

GLUTEN-FREE RHUBARB STRAWBERRY CRISP

Serves 6. You can substitute any kind of fruit in this recipe.

  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, 1-inch diced (4 to 5 stalks)
  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved, if large
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps. grated orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

Topping:

  • 2 cups gluten-free oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 F. For the fruit, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the orange zest together in a large bowl. In a measuring cup, dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then mix it into the fruit. Pour the mixture into an 8-by-11-inch baking dish and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

For the topping, combine the oats, the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt and oatmeal. With the mixer on low speed, add the margarine and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering it completely, and bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown.

For more recipes, refer to University of Vermont Extension's Eating What We Grow web site at http://www.uvm.edu/extension/food/?Page=grow.html&SM=sm-healthyeating.html.

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