August 28, 2017
With Labor Day only days away, we’ve reached the unofficial end of summer, but that doesn’t mean that all good summer things must end. If you’ve taken advantage of the fresh vegetables and fruit available these past few months, you’ve probably noticed that you feel better and you may have dropped some pounds.
You can stay on track by continuing to add fruits and vegetables to your diet even as the seasons change.
And even if you didn’t keep to a healthy diet as much as you’d hoped, September is a good time to change that. Whether you’re planning school lunches or looking for healthier choices in your own meals, you can make a major impact by increasing the fruits and vegetables you eat every day.
STAYING HEALTHY: Finding power with produce
If you need help in this, you’re not alone. More than 90 percent of children and adults don’t get the daily recommended amount of either fruits or vegetables. That’s why September is “Fruits and Veggies — More Matters” Month.
There’s a direct link between the failure to eat enough of these healthy foods and the obesity epidemic in our country. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity.
The childhood obesity epidemic is so severe that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents.
It’s happening everywhere
The lack of fruits and vegetables in daily diets is often linked to a lack of access, but this is not always the case.
In Somerset County, the third wealthiest county in New Jersey, 4.5 percent of respondents to the 2015 Somerset County community health assessment survey indicated that, in an average day, they eat no servings of green or orange vegetables. In fact, the percent of individuals consuming no vegetable servings increased from 2006 to 2011, and then again to 2015.
The link to obesity is also visible here in Somerset County, with 54.7 percent of respondents to the survey reporting that they were either overweight or obese.
Here are some suggestions to help add fruits and vegetables to your diet:
- Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables at every eating opportunity — including snacks.
- Remember that ALL forms of fruits and vegetables, including fresh, canned, frozen, dried, and 100 percent juice, help you meet your goal.
- Explore Somerset County’s farmers markets (most are open through September), roadside stands, organic farms, and even the produce sections of most supermarkets for an abundance of choices. And remember that farmers markets are all around the region, so if you work in another county or are on a weekend trip, consider a local farmers market as one of your destinations.
- Sneak extra servings into your regular diet by adding fruit to your cereal or oatmeal, or more vegetables onto your pizza.
Spending 15 minutes in an Internet search will produce dozens of recipes, menus, and good ideas to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. More does matter!
Rebecca Perkins is the project manager for Healthier Somerset.