Summer is a great time for fruit – berries, stone fruits, and melons are at peak ripeness and flavor. It’s also the perfect time of year to focus on eating more fruit every day, and develop the habit of including fruit with every meal and as a focus of snacks.
Why? Eating fruit provides many health benefits. Research has shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables are likely to maintain a healthy weight, and have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. Fruits provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.
Aim for a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
Here are tips to help you eat more fruit each day:
- Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table, counter, or in the refrigerator.
- Consider convenience when shopping. Try pre-cut packages of fruit (such as melon or pineapple chunks) for a healthy snack in seconds.
- Make the most of your choices. Select whole or cut-up fruit rather than juice to make the most of the benefits dietary fiber provides.
- Vary your fruit choices. Fruits differ in the nutrients they provide.
- In the “off” season, include fruits that are dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100 percent juice) as well as fresh, so that you always have a supply on hand.
- Keep a package of dried fruit in your desk or bag. Fruits that are available dried include apricots, apples, pineapple, bananas, cherries, figs, dates, cranberries, blueberries, prunes (dried plums), and raisins (dried grapes).
- As a snack, spread peanut butter on apple slices, or top yogurt (plain fat-free or low-fat ) with berries or slices of kiwi fruit.
- Frozen juice bars (100 percent juice) make healthy alternatives to high-fat snacks.
- Blend fresh fruit into a smoothie as a cool and refreshing treat for a hot day.
Enjoy the freshest of local fruit this season by visiting a “pick your own” farm. It doesn’t get any better than meeting farmers on their home turf and harvesting your own right from the field. Many farms have a variety of fruits and vegetables that ripen through the summer and into the fall. Some offer entertainment for a family outing, including live music, corn mazes, or a petting paddock to meet friendly animals. Find a farm at PickYourOwn.org (http://www.pickyourown.org/VT.htm), or follow the signs along the road to the local berry patch for a true adventure!
Cathy McIsaac, a registered dietician, is the Manager of Clinical Nutrition at the UVM Medical Center.