Ok, so how many of you know that you should include more servings of fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables in your daily diet? Yes, just as I suspected all of you knew that one. Great, you received an A grade for this test question. Now onto your second test question. How many of you are eating the recommended daily amount of 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Aha, just as I thought, a minority of you. But if you are meeting the recommendation, congratulations and keep up the great work; however for a lot of you it looks like you are receiving a failing grade for this one, for now. As your dutiful nutrition professor I feel compelled to guide you toward an A grade.
I often ask my peers, mentors and students what is their personal disconnect between knowing and acting. The knowing being that fruits and vegetables are good for you and the acting being obtaining, preparing, and consuming them. What I have found is three reoccurring themes.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables “go bad” too quickly.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables are too labor intensive to prepare.
- I just don’t like the way they taste.
In order to address each of these barriers I have created a “study guide” so you can be well on your way to that desirable A grade.
Problem: Fresh fruits and vegetables “go bad” too quickly.
Solution: Simply buy less and buy fruits and vegetables that have a longer shelf-life. Start with an attainable goal of 1 serving of fresh fruit and 1 serving of fresh vegetables a day. In this way when you go to the grocery store you need only purchase 3 apples and a bunch of grapes to last a week. These specific fruits will last the week for a single person. (Hint: start with the grapes and keep them in your refrigerator). For your vegetables, bagged lettuce will last up to 7 days (or more) if stored properly and winter squash, onions, celery, cauliflower, and potatoes much longer.
Problem: Fresh fruits and vegetables are too labor intensive to prepare.
Solution: Purchase fruits and vegetables that are simple to prepare. Yams only need a scrub, time and a hot oven. Bagged lettuce only needs a quick rinse, tangy vinaigrette and handful of nuts. Apples and pears, merely need to be eaten. Additionally, over time, both farmers and grocers have adapted to our frenetic lifestyles, developing either new products like broccolini (a hybrid of broccoli that requires no chopping and only a quick steam or sauté) or value-added products such as prewashed and chopped green beans.
Problem: I just don’t like the way they taste.
Solution: All this requires is a sense of adventure. If you don’t enjoy Napa cabbage give the slightly sweeter (and very delicious) Savoy cabbage a try. Don’t relish the thought of steamed zucchini tossed with butter? Try it roasted with tomato sauce. By altering either the variety of vegetable or the method of preparation you should find a wide range of fruits and vegetables that you will not only enjoy, but dare I say crave.
I hope you found my study guide helpful. As your nutrition professor I would like to encourage all of you to study hard (i.e. eat more fruits and veggies), retake the exam following all that hard studying, and give yourself that A grade you deserve! You can do it. Just remember to start small and try different fruits and vegetables and/or find new ways to cook the classics. Good luck and happy studying!
-Serena Marie is a fourth year Nutritional Biology Doctoral Candidate at the University of California, Davis. Her primary research focuses on the genetics of body weight and the investigation of gene x diet interactions. Serena is adjunct faculty at Napa Valley College teaching, Nutrition Today, an introductory nutrition class for non-science majors and is a guest lecturer for Physiological Genomics and Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Davis.