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Jam-pack your lunch with fruits and vegetables


Sure, an apple a day can keep the doctor away. But did you know that eating at least 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables daily can also reduce your risk for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke?

September is Fruit and Veggies - More Matters Month, and the “Fruits and Veggies Matter” Program, sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), is a national initiative to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables by all Americans to 5 to 9 servings a day. Fruits and vegetables should be the foundation of a healthy diet, but most people need to double the amount of fruits and vegetables they eat every day.

Does eating 5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day sound unattainable? Well, take heart. It’s really not as much as you think:

  • Any fruit or vegetable - frozen, fresh, canned, dried fruit, or juice - counts toward a serving.
  • A serving is only a ½ cup of chopped vegetables, ¾ cup of vegetable or fruit juice or one cup of leafy greens.

Why are fruits and vegetables so good for you? They are high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and phytochemicals. The antioxidants and phytochemicals in certain fruits and vegetables are showing promising results towards preventing free radicals or cancer-causing agents from damaging cells.

If you have school-aged children, you’re probably carefully planning and packing a healthy, balanced lunch for your child every day.  But, it’s essential you do the same for yourself. Think you couldn’t possible squeeze another apple into your day? Think again!

How to jam-pack your lunch with fruits and vegetables:

  • Pump up your sandwich: Put at least one salad vegetable in your sandwich. Try tomato, lettuce, cucumber, grated carrots or avocado.
  • Opt for a healthier dessert: Eat a piece of fruit instead. When fresh fruits aren't handy, choose canned fruit packed in juice or dried fruit, such as apples and apricots.
  • Add some flavor: Spoon some fresh salsa over a ham or chicken sandwich before adding the top slice of bread.
  • Make it your way: Add fruits and veggies to prepared salads. For example, add grapes, raisins or apple slices to chicken salad; chopped onions, green peppers and carrots to tuna salad.
  • Snack better: Enjoy raw veggies dipped in salsa for a snack, or add berries or sliced bananas to plain low-fat yogurt.

The variety of lunches loaded with fruits and vegetables is limited only by your imagination! But, here are a few more packable lunch ideas from Women’s Heart Secrets Program dietitian Jennifer Motl to get you going:

  • Try a classic Italian sandwich of fresh whole-grain bread, farmers-market tomatoes, basil pesto sauce and sliced low-fat mozzarella. On the side, pack a ripe peach and a small Caesar salad.
  • Enjoy a cup of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich spread with thinly sliced apples and mustard.
  • Try a whole-wheat pita sandwich with garlic hummus, cucumber, tomato and lettuce. Serve with a cup of plain yogurt and juicy sliced cantaloupe.
  • Make a curried chicken (or tuna or egg) salad sandwich with lettuce, sliced celery and grapes. Mix a quarter-cup of plain yogurt with a half-teaspoon of curry powder. Stir in the cooked, diced chicken (canned chicken works well), minced celery and halved grapes. Serve over lettuce on whole-grain bread. Eat an apple on the side.
  • Try hearty and delicious homemade Tuscan soup. It includes white beans, kale, garlic, onions and chopped tomatoes in a vegetable or chicken broth. Make it the night before in a slow-cooker, or substitute a healthful canned vegetable soup. Pack in a Thermos. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top before serving, and eat with a slice of whole-grain bread and an orange.

Make healthy adult lunches kid-friendly 
To get children to try something new, mix it with something familiar, and eat it with them. So, try the curried chicken or Italian sandwiches at home first, maybe on a Saturday. Leave out the strongly flavored, unfamiliar ingredients the first time—the children can try basil or curry or mustard later. Simply dress the sandwich with lettuce instead. Serve it with something they already like, such as applesauce or a kid-sized chocolate-chip cookie.

If the Tuscan soup seems too unusual, try using a can of familiar chicken noodle soup and chop a bit of broccoli into it.

Give PB & J a fruity twist. Make a PB & B: peanut butter and sliced bananas on wheat bread instead. Serve with baby carrots and celery sticks and low-fat dip.

For more information about the Women’s Heart Secrets Program, call (414) 961-3600.



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