Saturday, August 23, 2014

Published 9:30 AM by StilettoLova with 0 comment

Why don't we eat enough of the good stuff?

The importance of fruits & vegetables| Yes, We Rise

Fruits & Vegetables: Why Don't We Eat Enough of the Good Stuff?

I remember being a kid, growing up in Southeast Washington, D.C.  The life for me was playing double dutch, riding my Big Wheel (telling my age here), and playing jacks.  Those were the good old days.

After a day of running, tumbling, and doing kid stuff, my day was often topped off with a dinner full of a good, hearty meat, such as a lean piece of baked chicken, maybe a starch, like corn, and at least two heaping helpings of some sort of vegetable, let's say, spinach for example.

I often wondered why my parents and grandparents would give me less meat and starch and more of the vegetables.  After a long sigh, I'd always go through the same drill: 

Me:  "Grandma, why come I always have to eat all this broccoli?"

Grandma:  "Because it's GOOD for you!"

I hated vegetables because my family would give me so much of them and they NEVER let me season them (read: salt, butter) them to my taste.  They lacked the flavor and body that meat and starches did.  Truthfully, I really was a meat and potatoes kid.  I loved ham.  I loved steak.  I loved fish, but I especially loved chicken, or that Barnyard Pimp, as my cousins used to call it.  I loved corn, rice, and especially potatoes.  French fries, mashed potatoes, hash browns, baked potato, you name it!

The importance of fruits & vegetables| Yes, We Rise

As I got older and started to learn more about proper nutrition and its benefits, I began to delve into vegetables and gain an understanding of why my vegetable portions were always so disproportionate in my childhood.

Getting the proper servings

The 1992 USDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) Food Pyramid stated that the human body should consume at least 3-5 servings of vegetables per day in order for the body to get its proper vitamins and minerals.

I thought to myself, "Okay. Grandma's passed away, so I can put salt on anything I want! I grew to LOVE spinach. I like carrots, collard greens, and kale. I can do this." So, I attempted to at least find a veggie for each meal that I ate. 

Surprisingly, for a person who is on the go, this is a bit more challenging than one might think.  I found that if a person doesn't PLAN, for example, carrying around some chopped celery stalks or carrot sticks to eat throughout the day, or having prepared servings of spinach or broccoli packed away in Tupperware, then one may find themselves spending a great deal of money trying to keep up.  This was my situation.

I hated carrying lunch bags.  They were cumbersome.  What was worse, I hated carrying around cooked food for fear of leaks during transport (Have you ever spilled collard green juice on your car's carpet?  No bueno!).  It seemed easier just to go to the carryout and buy the baked chicken with extra helpings of collard greens. 

The importance of fruits & vegetables| Yes, We RiseAs for fruit, historically, I'd never had a problem eating anything sweet.  Who didn't adore watermelon?  I liked apples, oranges, tangelos, pineapples, grapes.  In later years, I'd come to appreciate honeydew melons and cantaloupes.  So, eating the 2-4 servings that the USDA
recommended was simple.

The chief benefit of fruit for me, was its portability.  Fruit was compact.  I mean, it was nothing to throw an orange in my purse.  Plus, they smelled great. I didn't have to chop up fruit unless I wanted to. There were virtually no issues with spills during transport.  I know I made excuses for not eating vegetables, but these issues were and are very real to a person who is constantly on the go.

Fruits and vegetables really are important

So, after going back and forth on my healthy eating mission, I learned the value of vegetables and fruits.  I learned of their cleansing benefits to the large and small intestine, and the colon.  I learned of the energy gained by eating fruits, their cleansing benefits to the bladder, kidneys, and female reproductive organs.  I learned of vegetables alkalinity and how a more alkaline body wards off many diseases, making the body less acidic.  I learned why my great-grandmother ate those three bananas her doctor described for her every day to keep up her potassium deficiency, and yes, she made me eat them with her (sigh). 

However, in short, my family was on to something.... 

Could they fully break down the benefits of eating healthy to a 7-year old who just came in from running around all day?  No.  Could they explain how many vitamins and minerals were needed to replace what I spent playing that day?  No.  Could they convey how important it was for me to eat those bananas or that apple that was packed in my lunchbox every day?  No.  All they could say that was that those fruits and vegetables were good for me. 

I'm sure my experience is not unique.  Sometimes, behaviors are passed down in families and we just do what we do and we don't know why, but we know it works.  When I had my children, and it was time to buy baby food, I racked up on spinach, carrots, applesauce, peaches, and the like.  I raised my children on salads.  I couldn't really explain to them until recently why this healthy eating was so important.  Now, of course, they will do as I did, and eat what they want, how they want, when they want, but eventually, they will do, as I have done.  They will revert back to what they know once their bodies painfully remind them that it's time to go back to feeding them the good stuff.

Tips to help you

Family, here are some tips that I found along the way that helped me get my veggies and fruit on:
  • On weekends, buy your fruits and veggies and chop them up.  Place them in plastic baggies for the week.
  • Buy Mason Jars.  They are less than $15.00 at most retail outlets.  You can store your salads in them for the week, and they last longer.
  • Buy Freeze Packs.  They sell them at dollar stores everywhere and most are less than two dollars in most cases.  They will keep your foods cold during transport.
  • If Freeze Packs aren't your thing, insulated bags are just as suitable for food transport.
  • If you hate chopping your veggies and fruits, buy them pre-chopped from the produce section at your local grocery store, but beware.  They will be a bit more expensive.
  • There is nothing wrong with buying canned veggies and fruits.  If you choose canned vegetables, open them and rinse them with water first.  Oftentimes, canned vegetables have been packed in water, but the sodium content is high to preserve them.  Use salt sparingly, and instead add hot sauce, or your own blend of spices.  I love canned fruits and their conveniences.  You can surely reap their benefits as well.  However, read your labels.  Anything that says, "High Fructose Corn Syrup", "Sucrose", "In Syrup" in the ingredients list is no good.  The one thing I love about fruit is that they don't need any additional help.  Who puts sugar on an apple that's already sweet?  Stay away from those canned fruits that are filled with sugar.  Look for canned fruits that CLEARLY state that they are packed in their own juice. 

Well, these are just a few tips to get you started!  Make your food journey the best ever!



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