For the new year: make produce half your plate

It’s that time of year again- a return to routines. For some, it’s back to school time and for others, a return to more rigid work schedules and the end of summer relaxation. Some people have been looking forward to it, particularly parents who are eager to see their kids go back to school while others (like myself) truly lament the end of summer.

But for most people, September, even more so than January, marks the start of a new year. The break from regular schedules through the summer is actually far longer than the winter holiday season.

And there’s no better time than now to implement new strategies for healthy eating. Summer produce is still plentiful and delicious. Even though we all know that we should be eating more fruits and vegetables, all too often, the concept doesn’t seem to translate into action. Statistics Canada reported that in 2011 only 40.4% of Canadians aged 12 and older consumed fruit and vegetables five or more times per day.

Part of the problem is knowing where and how to start.

One smart game plan to consider is to redesign your plate. Planning to fill half your plate at meals and snacks with fruits and vegetables can help you accomplish that goal.

But you’re not alone if you need help. Check out the website, Half Your Plate, which can help to break down the common barriers to boosting produce intake, whether they be time constraints, cooking ideas, shopping or budgets. The website is geared towards meeting your produce quotas a reality. The website is a collaboration between the Canadian Produce Marketing Association, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Cancer Society.

Half Your Plate has it all – from the tips from smart shopping, holiday eating, back to school lunch ideas, and recipes. If you’re unfamiliar a fruit or vegetable, they provide the top ten ways to cook it. You can browse their recipes or even ask them for suggestions.

One common issue which stands in the way for many in including more produce is simply about a fear of wasting produce purchases. How often have you thrown out various fruits and vegetables because they’ve gone bad in your fridge? Knowing how to store various items is key to avoiding a mystery mouldy fruit or vegetable in your crisper. Did you know that apples, due to their emitting ethylene gas should be stored in a closed bag or container in the fridge as it hastens the ripening of other produce? That’s why when you’re trying to ripen produce more quickly, such as an avocado or peach, you put it into a closed paper bag with an apple or a banana, another source of ethylene.

Check out the website for loads of storage tips
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The Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) is a not-for-profit organization that represents companies that are active in the marketing of fresh fruits and fresh vegetables in Canada from the farm gate to the dinner plate. At the recent CPMA Annual Convention and Trade Show in Toronto, various companies showcased their new convenience products for consumers. Usually when a convenience food product is mentioned, it has, in the past, meant high sodium, preservative-laden options that are choices for a quick meal. That certainly wasn’t the case as I wandered through the exhibitors’ aisles.

The exhibitors at the show offered some real game changers for this concept. Want spiralized, ready-to-cook or eat in a salad zucchini, beets, sweet potatoes or squash? How about shaved Brussels sprouts or cauliflower rice? Or what about getting ready-to-cook sweet potatoes in a microwavable bag that can be on the table in 10 minutes?

At the convention, TV personality/chef Michael Smith, who is on a mission to get Canadians to eat healthier, suggested that people stop trying to cook like TV chefs. It’s intimidating and ends up being a barrier to home cooking.

Smith says, “Healthy eating is about simplicity”.

I say amen to that.

 

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Categories: Tips and Tricks, Whole Foods

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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