LiveWell Northwest Colorado: Aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables

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— LiveWell Northwest Colorado introduced the Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0 campaign to the community last year.

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Barb Parnell

LiveWell Northwest Colorado

This weekly column about health issues publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Let’s Go! 5-2-1-0

  • ■ 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables
  • ■ 2 or fewer hours of recreational screen time
  • ■ 1 or more hours of physical activity
  • ■ 0 sugary drinks
  • Online: www.letsgo.org
  • Source: LiveWell Northwest Colorado

The “5” component of the 5-2-1-0 message reminds us to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides vitamins and minerals, which are important for supporting growth and development and for optimal immune function.

In Routt County, 48 percent of adults and 71 percent of K-12 students surveyed eat three or fewer servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A serving is defined as one-half cup and is equivalent to eating one large apple and a small carrot. The average number of servings consumed per day for adults is 3.7 and for students is 3.0. We clearly are not reaching the goal of five servings per day in our county.

There are a few common reasons we don’t get enough servings of fruits and veggies each day. We don’t know what a serving is. We aren’t eating meals together. We have limited time to prepare them. They cost too much. One or more family members like only a few varieties, and it gets boring to have the same ones over and over again.

Here are a few hints to help you increase your intake of fruits and vegetables:

Serving size: A serving most easily is identified by the size of the palm of your hand. For children, the same rule applies. So we all need about five palmfuls of fruits and veggies each day.

Meal time: In such a busy world, meal times often revolve around our lifestyles. We often miss meals or eat foods that are not as healthy. Experts have found that children who eat regularly with their families are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. No matter how busy life may seem, it is important to make at least one meal each day a family priority.

Preparation time: Take one day each week to prep the fruits and veggies for the week so they are easy to grab and go. Packaging them in single-serving sizes also makes it easy to eat more.

Cost: Having fresh fruits and veggies your family likes available year-round can be hard and expensive. The most affordable fresh ones are those that are in season. Try adding frozen or canned fruits and veggies. They are just as good for you since the nutrients are preserved in the canning or freezing process. Choose fruit packed in natural juice, not in syrup. Choose canned veggies that are salt free and then season them yourself.

Taste preferences: Try fruit or vegetable prepared in new ways.

Here are a few hints to help you add one serving of fruit or veggie each day:

• Add one easy-to-prepare fruit to your breakfast. Eat it on the way out the door if time is limited.

• Add one day each week when you and your family eat a meal together, and talk about the fruits and veggies you are eating at that meal.

• Add one fruit or veggie to your snack.

• Introduce one new fruit or veggie each week.

• Try one new way of preparing a veggie each week.

• Add one fruit or veggie to your sandwich, soup or smoothie.

One of the most effective ways to promote a healthy lifestyle and behaviors for children is to adopt healthier habits as a family. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “families have a critical role in influencing children’s health, and health is a real characteristic of the family lifestyle.” Children who eat healthy and have an active lifestyle are more likely to: maintain a healthy weight, have better self-esteem, sleep better, do better academically and avoid health issues such as diabetes and heart disease. Adults can obtain the same great benefits from healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

Let’s work together to become the healthiest county in Colorado.

Barb Parnell is the community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.

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