Jane Connell, MS, RD, Nutrition Coach:
Each March, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) celebrates National Nutrition Month®, and this year's theme, "Eat Right with Color," encourages parents to take time to make sure their children are getting all of the nutrients they need to feel well and be well - emotionally, mentally, and physically. One of the biggest challenges for us as parents is to meet their (and our) nutritional needs by preparing tasty, healthy, real food for our families in the small amounts of time we have available to us each day. We need a get-real game plan. The good news is that shopping, cooking and eating healthfully have just gotten easier with assistance from www.kidseatright.org, a new website from ADA and its Foundation. Here are a few tips to help us with a get-real game plan to “eat right with color”.
- Get real. First and foremost, get your color from real foods, not artificially colored foods. If you’re feeling powerless to control what you eat, there’s good reason according to David Kessler, MD, author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. “When food is highly processed and loaded and layered with sugar, salt, and fat, it becomes so stimulating that it hijacks the brain – and our behavior.”
- Get variety. At the produce store/section, experiment by adding one fruit or vegetable that’s different than your usual pick. Not sure what to do with it? www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov provides tips on how to select, store, and prepare fruits & veggies, including recipes and tips for stretching your food budget.
- Get cooking. It’s easier to find recipes for your ingredients than the other way around. If you go to the store, and the recipe ingredients on your shopping list are not available, don’t look good, or are over-priced, at that point you’re in a pickle. On the other hand, if you go to the market and buy whatever fresh ingredients look best at a decent price, then figure out how to cook them, you’re actually going to end up with less stress- and a much better meal. Mark Bittman, cookbook author and New York Times columnist sometimes jokes that there are only nine recipes in the world, but he says there’s a lot of truth to that. “The same patterns crop up over and over again. If you cook a piece of chicken with ginger, garlic, and scallions, you get a Chinese flavor. Use lime and cilantro, you have Mexican. Parmesan and oregano? Italian. You can apply these flavor patterns to almost everything – fish, broccoli, tofu, whatever. Healthy cooking is often just a matter of riffing on well-worn little flavor combos. It’s like multiplication: not hard at all once you learn it.”
- Get color. Challenge your child (or yourself) to put one item of each color in the cart: white cauliflower, blue blueberries, orange carrots, green spinach, etc. Go to www.epicurious.com and use the interactive map to see what's in season in your area, plus find ingredient descriptions, shopping guides, recipes, and tips. Brighten up your plate with the quick color guide below.
Green produce indicates antioxidant potential and may help promote healthy vision and reduce cancer risks.
• Fruits: avocado, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi and lime
• Vegetables: artichoke, asparagus, broccoli, green beans, green peppers and leafy greens such as spinach
Orange and deep yellow fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that promote healthy vision and immunity, and reduce the risk of some cancers.
• Fruits: apricot, cantaloupe, grapefruit, mango, papaya, peach and pineapple
• Vegetables: carrots, yellow pepper, yellow corn and sweet potatoes
Purple and blue options may have antioxidant and anti-aging benefits and may help with memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks.
• Fruits: blackberries, blueberries, plums, raisins
• Vegetables: eggplant, purple cabbage, purple-fleshed potato
Red indicates produce that may help maintain a healthy heart, vision, immunity and may reduce cancer risks.
• Fruits: cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red/pink grape fruit, red grapes and watermelon
• Vegetables: beets, red onions, red peppers, red potatoes, rhubarb and tomatoes
White, tan and brown foods sometimes contain nutrients that may promote heart health and reduce cancer risks.
• Fruits: banana, brown pear, dates and white peaches
• Vegetables: cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, turnips, white-fleshed potato and white corn
For more information on how to "Eat Right with Color," visit ADA's National Nutrition Month website for a variety of helpful tips, fun games, promotional tools and nutrition education resources.