December 09, 2021

Newton Wellness Talks: Iowa, eat your fruits and veggies

Despite being one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, Iowa continues to rank among the lowest in the nation for fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, according to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Iowans, on average, consume vegetables less than twice per day. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska all ranked higher than Iowa for 2013 vegetable consumption.

Of course, there is more to a healthy lifestyle than adequate fruit and vegetable consumption, but having plenty of produce in your diet plays a very important role. Whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables are often lower in calories, salt, and fat than meat, dairy, and grains. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient-dense and contain high levels of healthful antioxidants. Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension, stroke, coronary heart disease, obesity, cancer and other health problems.

It is recommended that half of your plate should contain fruits and vegetables, but for some this is easier said than done. Here are a few practical tips for increasing your fruit and vegetable consumption:

• Choose vegetables rich in color like acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, spinach or sweet potatoes. A diversity of colors on your plate means a diversity of nutrients in your diet.
Cut up a batch of bell peppers, broccoli, carrots or cauliflower to keep in the refrigerator. Use them later, either for a healthful snack in between meals, or to add a flavorful and nutritious boost to your dinner casserole.

• Start your own vegetable garden; gardening is a great way to get active while saving money on fresh produce. For information on home gardening visit hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/ or contact the Jasper County Extension Office 641-792-6433.

• Shop for produce at your local Farmers Markets. Newton Farmers’ Market is 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays on the Courthouse Square. The Prairie City Farmers Market is 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on the Garden Square.

• Stock up on canned and frozen fruits and vegetables, which store well and are simple to prepare.

Check out the “Spend Smart Eat Smart” tool from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. This resource can help you plan a healthful diet, while still staying on budget. There is even a smartphone app to help you out on the go — spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/

Making changes to your diet can be a challenge. But those that commit to adding more fruits and vegetables to their diet discover a greater diversity of flavors and are rewarded with a greater sense of well-being.