Spring Into Healthy Eating

Jennifer Leheska, PhD, RDN, LD

It is still Winter, but produce sections are blooming with fresh colors of the rainbow! Although, most fruits and vegetables are available year-round, they are most lush, flavorful and appealing when they are in season. Luckily the change of seasons has started to show as everything from the assortment of fresh berries to leafy greens and tomatoes is expanding. So, spring into healthy eating with these three steps:

  • Eat the colors of the rainbow
  • Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies
  • Go for quality

Many have heard the expression, “eat the colors of the rainbow”, but what does that really mean and why is it a good idea? All fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, but the nutrients delivered often varies by color. Therefore, eating a variety of colors ensures the different essential nutrients are consumed. For instance, spinach is a great source of Vitamin K but not of Vitamin C. Whereas, red peppers are low in Vitamin K and high in Vitamin C. So, eat the colors of the rainbow for a nutrient rich diet.

Next, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal to get adequate amounts of essential nutrients. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults eat 1 ½ to 2 cups of fruit- and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables- per day[1]. Unfortunately, only 1 in 10 Americans are meeting this recommendation while 9 in 10 Americans are missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that reduce risk of chronic disease such as diabetes and heart disease[2].

Finally, go for quality! Consumers often get hung up on if they should buy organically grown produce and if the nutrient content is different. The truth is that conventional and organic produce are both safe and equal in nutrients. So, focus on selecting produce that looks appealing, free of defects and will have a shelf life long enough for it to be consumed. Frequent grocery shoppers see how produce quality can vary one week to the next. This has to do with the season, distance it is shipped and if it is nearing the end of its shelf life. So, buy produce that looks appealing to eat and will maintain that appeal long enough to eat it. When it comes to prewashed greens and other temperature sensitive products be sure to surround them with cold things in your shopping cart and get them back to refrigerated storage as soon as possible to preserve its shelf life. No matter how good you felt about buying it in the store if it is rotten by the time you want to eat it then you simply lose money and gain nothing.

Beautiful colors really attract the senses and enhance the overall eating experience. So, take away those winter blues and spring into healthy eating by focusing on eating the colors of the rainbow, fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and go for quality.
[1] https://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables ; https://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruit

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html