Fruits & Vegetables: No Excuses, Eat More (cont.)

If you want to overcome this excuse, just look at the results from three studies presented at the 2007 American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting:

  • Among smokers, those who ate the most produce rich in flavonols (spinach, some veggies from the cabbage family, apples, onions, and berries) were 59% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least. Nonsmokers also reduced their risk.
  • A study from the National Cancer Institute with 500,000 people aged 50 and up showed that eating two additional servings a day of fruits and vegetables -- regardless of the number of servings you usually eat -- can reduce the risk of developing head and neck cancers.
  • More studies need to be done, but a lab study suggests that certain components that result from digesting soy and vegetables in the cabbage family appear to discourage the spread of breast and ovarian cancers by reducing the production of two proteins needed for the growth of these two cancers.

Excuse No. 5: I don't know how to serve fruits and vegetables to my family.

"Our recent study of 1,000 Generation X moms (born between 1965 and 1979) conducted in February 2007, found that the most common barrier for them was that they needed new ideas and inspiration about how to include more fruits and vegetables in their family's diet," Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, notes in an email.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Vegetables don't have to be boiled (or boring). Try green and fruit salads, dried fruit, raw veggies with dip, juices, or any of the other options mentioned elsewhere in this article.

  • Expand your horizons. Buy some cookbooks focusing on veggies, subscribe to a healthy cooking magazine, troll the Internet for produce recipes ... or just try some of the recipes below. Sooner or later, you'll hit on something that appeals to the whole family.

Excuse No. 6: I eat out a lot.

Another barrier to eating more fruits and vegetables that came up in the Produce for Better Health Foundation survey of moms was not knowing how to make healthy selections when eating out, Pivonka says.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Order fruits and vegetables even at fast food restaurants. You can order apple slices at McDonalds or a fruit bowl from Wendy's. And you can order side salads at almost any fast-food chain -- just order it with low-fat dressing and only use half of the packet to keep calories down. If you're ordering a "wrap" or grilled chicken sandwich, ask for extra lettuce and tomatoes. Every little bit helps.

  • Choose restaurants that offer appetizing options. If you find a restaurant that has delicious grilled vegetables, a flavorful fruit salad, or interesting entrees loaded with fruits and vegetables, visit that restaurant often.

  • Stop at a smoothie shop. Smoothies offer an opportunity to get a couple of servings of fruit into your day. Choose the flavors with lots of fruits added.

Excuse No. 7: Fresh produce spoils before i can eat it.

How many times have you had to thrown out blackened bananas, broccoli that turned yellow and wilty, or oranges that shriveled up right in front of your eyes? It's a "use it or lose it" situation. In my experience (with the exception of apples kept in the crisper) you're more likely to use fresh produce within two to three days. After that, you either forget you have it or it goes bad.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Dried fruit is ready when you are. It doesn't go bad. And dried fruit isn't just about raisins anymore. You can select from dried mango, cherries, blueberries, flavored cranberries, strawberries, apricots, and peaches. Remember that 1/4 cup of dried fruit is equal to a serving of fruit.

  • 100% fruit or vegetable juice is only a glass away. Some types of fruit and vegetable juices will spoil if you don't use them by the recommended date on the container. But there are also packaged and canned 100% fruit and vegetable juices that have a long shelf life.

  • Shop for fresh produce a few days at a time. If you just bought the fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to be in your consciousness so you'll plan them into your meals and snacks. It's a good idea to make a fruit salad or green salad right when you get home from the grocery store. Store it in a covered plastic container, and a fresh salad is only a minute away.

  • Frozen, frozen, frozen. Always have some frozen fruits and vegetables on hand. Start looking for recipes that call for frozen fruits and vegetables so you will be more likely to use the bags sitting in your freezer.

Excuse No. 8: Other snacks are more convenient.

A lot of people think it's easier to buy a bag of chips or to go to the vending machine and grab a candy bar. But with a little forethought, fruits and vegetables can be just as convenient.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • 100% fruit juice couldn't be easier. Pack a frozen 100% juice box to keep your lunch cool, and it will be refreshingly slushy by high noon. Instead of buying a soda or chips from a snack bar, buy a bottle of 100% fruit or vegetable juice instead.

  • Try single-serving veggie packets. In some grocery stores, you can find single-serving veggie packets, like carrot and dip packs, celery and peanut butter, and sugar snap peas and dip. Pop one of these in your lunch or grab one on your way out in the afternoon. Remember, 6-8 carrot sticks (about 3-inch long) equals a serving of vegetables.

Excuse No. 9: Fruits and vegetables cost too much.

Thaete says many of her patients have the erroneous idea that fruits and vegetables are too expensive.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Buy in-season produce whenever possible. The prices are usually more reasonable.