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Filling Up With Fruits and Vegetables

Susan J. Epstein, MS, MEd, is the Program Coordinator at the Jacobs Neurological Institute. In her new book The Life Program For MS: Lifestyle, Independence, Fitness, and Energy, she addresses the limitations imposed by Multiple Sclerosis which results in patients becoming sedentary, gaining excess weight and developing poor eating and exercise habits.  Epstein provides a user-friendly teaching tool that helps sufferers to incorporate new behaviors into their daily routines.  In the excerpt below Epstein turns her gaze towards the goal of incorporating fruits and vegetables in a healthy diet.

In the year 2000, the goal for daily fruit and vegetable intake for the population was “Strive for Five,” which was later updated to include 9 servings of fruits and vegetables when the revised food pyramid was released in 2005.  Regardless, the goal is to increase  your overall intake of fruit and vegetables, whether you aim for 5 or 9 servings per day.

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” holds more truth than we once realized.  As it turns out, the color of the apple plays an important role in helping to protect against diseases.

The biological compounds that produce the rich color of fruits and vegetables also act as health-promoting compounds.  Colorful foods not only contain loads of vitamins and minerals but also are rich in antioxidants that may help prevent cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy blood sugar levels, and immunological disorders.  Red and purple produce contain lycopene, a compound that helps protect against heart disease and cancer.

Try some or all of the following strategies for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake.  Remember, fresh, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables all count.

  • -Drink a frozen fruit smoothie for breakfast
  • -Keep a vegetable platter on hand
  • -Add vegetables and legumes to favorite soups
  • -Add fresh fruit as a topping to cereal and yogurt
  • -Opt for an all vegetable lunch
  • -Top salads with legumes
  • -Choose a rainbow of colorful produce

If necessary you can use your Reinforcement Record to help you incorporate behaviors that increase your fruit and vegetable intake.  For some people eating fruits and vegetables is not the problem, but putting them in their environment is.  So the steps to reaching your goal would focus on environmental design and include:

  • 1) Stocking up on baked potatoes and frozen spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts or any other favorites.
  • 2) Keeping frozen berries, peaches, and cherries on hand to mix with your favorite non-fat yogurt.

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Recent Comments

  1. BigLoser

    I’ve lost 15 pounds since Feb. 1 just by following these guidelines and adding 3 one-hour walks to my weekly routine. 15 pounds! Yes, I have more to lose — but am well on my way…

  2. mollymooly

    How meaningful is the value of the recommended number of servings per day?

    In Australia it’s five veg + two fruit, but, from watching a TV ad there, potatoes seem to count as vegetable.

    In the UK, it’s five servings of fruit and/or veg; I recall baked-beans makers successfully lobbied to get the tomato sauce recognised as one serving. For prepackaged products, you get tags saying “half a pack is one of your five a day” and the like; but for items sold loose (as eco-friendly produce is wont to be), it’s hard to gauge: how big is a “serving”? Apples come in different sizes as well as colours.

    There’s a danger akin to “teaching to the test”: health advisors set a guideline, and producers attempt to meet the guidelines in the skimpiest manner.

  3. Susan Epstein

    Excellent point. You would probably enjoy my book as I try to empower the reader to be in charge of their health by equating food and calories to FUEL; along with focusing on other health behaviors which can positively affect your quality of life. The American culture has been inudated with fad diets, super nutrients and supplememnts, most of which have no scientific validity. I emphasize the behavior of buying the apple and eating it, and build from there. Small,medium, one serving or two is not of concern if the person is choosing fresh fruits and vegetables. Its like you said, many prepackaged products come with tags which can be confusing and at the same time just barely meet the minimum daily requirement of vitamins and minerals. Ironically, the foods boasting a variety of color and nutrients may only have a tag stating one word, like “Sunkist” which is simply an orange and nothing else! Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Dr. Charles Martin

    Thanks for this post offering real, practical suggestions for ways to include more fruits and vegetables into everyday eating. As a dentist who sees many people who have diabetes I’ve found that getting their teeth fixed and getting their gum disease under control helps people enjoy a healthier diet because they can enjoy firm foods like crunchy fruits and vegetables. To read more about the links between diet, diabetes and dental health, visit my blog at http://www.dentistryfordiabetics.com/blog.

    Charles Martin, DDS
    Founder, Dentistry for Diabetics

  5. Joesph Steitzer

    Thanks dude, I never knew this, thankyou.

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