Degree: Eat more fruits and vegetables

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 13, 2011

In last week’s column you learned how to read and understand the nutrition facts and how to use that information to identify foods lower in fat, calories and whole grain foods. This week we will discover why fruit and vegetables are a key component to a weight loss/weight maintenance program.
Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is a good choice for weight loss/weight maintenance because fruit and vegetables are low in calories, filling and high in fiber.
Let’s look at several comparisons:
Blueberry muffin portion
Look at what 100 calories of blueberry muffin looks like compared to this apple that has about 100 calories. You may have heard about energy density. The muffin has a high energy density. That is, it packs a lot of calories in a small amount of food. The apple (and most fruit) has low energy density. Fruits have very few calories for their weight and size
3 peanut butter crackers
35 cherry tomatoes
Look at what 100 calories of peanut butter crackers looks like compared to the same number of calories’ worth of cherry tomatoes. You probably would not carry around 35 cherry tomatoes for a snack, but this comparison helps us see how low in calories vegetables are.
The final comparison contains a cinnamon bun, which is 480 calories. This is the size cinnamon bun that you might find in a vending machine or at a convenience store. Cinnamon buns from specialty stores such as Cinnabon have between 800-1,000 calories. You can eat a huge plate of fruit and vegetables for the same number of calories. The fruit and vegetable plate offers enough food to fill you up for a lot longer than the cinnamon bun. Additionally the cinnamon bun is high in sugar, which will provide you ready energy, but once the “sugar high” wears off (within one to two hours) and glucose levels in the blood go down, it often leaves you feeling drained or unnaturally tired.
Fruits and vegetables provide a feeling of fullness and that feeling full is one reason we stop eating.
Eating more fruit and vegetables helps you feel full sooner, while eating fewer calories.
So, you can eat more to weigh less, provided that you are eating lots of low-energy-density foods like fruit and vegetables!
Another reason that fruit is great for us to eat for weight loss/weight maintenance is the fiber content.
Let’s use the same two selections again, a piece of blueberry muffin and an apple. The apple has 10 times the fiber of the muffin.The fiber content of fruit is one reason we feel full when we eat fruit.
Vegetables are also great for us to eat for weight loss/weight maintenance. Just like fruit, they are high in fiber content.
Let’s use the same two selections, again peanut butter cheese crackers and cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes have 12 times the fiber of the crackers.
The fiber content of vegetables is one reason why we feel full when we eat lots of vegetables.
It’s all about substitutions:
Lower your calories by substituting fruit and vegetables for higher-calorie foods.
Substitute a banana for a package of vanilla crčme sandwich cookies and cut 100 calories; substitute 1 cup of broccoli for 1 cup of rice and cut 150 calories.
Fill your plate with low-calorie vegetables to keep calories low. A plate with lots of low-calorie vegetableswill not leave you feeling deprived.
To increase fruit in your diet, keep plenty of fresh, frozen, canned and dried fruit on hand. Keep individual cans of fruit in your desk drawer or car. Make snack bags of fruit. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit in the kitchen or at eye level in the refrigerator.
To increase vegetables in your diet, buy pre-washed, pre-cut vegetables. Prep vegetables all at once to facilitate meal preparation. Buy frozen or canned vegetables. Buy low-sodium canned vegetables or rinse regular canned vegetables if you are concerned about salt intake. Buy local and buy in-season. Keep vegetable snack bags ready. Use a variety of cooking techniques , including grilling, roasting steaming or stir frying. Fill at least half your plate with vegetables.
Also be mindful of your choices of vegetables. Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes are higher in calories than non-starchy vegetables like tomatoes, cucumber and broccoli.
Next week we will discover all the ways to move more every day to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Don’t forget to select a strategy (from this weeks topic) to work on for the week and have a good week!
For more information about the program, contact Toi N. Degree, Family & Consumer Education Agent at 704-216-8970 or by e-mail at