Fruits and Vegetables Best Choice for 2009

Although there is no such thing as a magic bullet when it comes to weight loss, fruits and vegetables may be as close as you will come to magic. Well…that may be a bit of a stretch but I do encourage you to make this the year you resolve to eat more fruits and vegetables. As a nutritionist this is my single most important tip for weight management AND better health. Having said that, fruits and vegetables can only work their “magic” if you understand why they matter, what to choose, and how you can easily incorporate more servings into your diet.

Isn’t it nice to have something you are encouraged to eat more often rather than hearing “don’t eat this” or “don’t eat that?” When it comes to your health, most experts including the Mayo Clinic, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), dietitians, and nutritionists would encourage you to eat all the fruits and vegetables you might want. However, it is still possible, though not as likely, to eat too much of a good thing when it comes to weight management.

Calories do matter. But don’t let that get you down. If you make the best choices you can eat quite a LOT of certain fruits and vegetables for very few calories. Do take a look at some of my previous articles for some ideas on what you might like best:

Healthy Low Calorie Fruit

Low Calorie Vegetables: 100 Calories or Less

Best Low Calorie, High Fiber, Summer Fruits and Vegetables

Fall Fruits and Vegetables: Low Calorie and High Fiber

Low Calorie, High Fiber Winter Fruits & Veggies

High Fiber Low Calorie Spring Fruits and Vegetables

Do limit your intake of dried fruit, fruit juice, and most fruit smoothies to keep your calorie count down. Also, limit added sugar and sauces made with sugar and/or fat. Here are some other overall guidelines for weight management:

Fruits and Vegetables for Weight Management

•For weight loss, you need to eat fewer calories then what you burn. You have calorie needs for physiological processes (such as breathing and keeping your heart beating), physical activity, and the digestion of food. Eat more than your calorie needs and it goes to fat!

•Recent research suggests that people may not limit what they eat based on calories alone but rather on calories and the VOLUME of food eaten. It seems that the volume or amount of food may influence satiety (the sense of being full) more than calories. It is the sense of fullness that signals most people to stop eating.

•Foods with low energy density (low number of calories by weight) have a greater volume than those that are high energy dense (high calorie foods).

•Both water and fiber increase the volume of foods and reduce energy density. Fresh fruits and vegetables have a high water and fiber content. This means they tend to be low in calories and energy density.

•Fruits and vegetables make good substitutes for foods of high energy density.

(Source: Adapted from “Can eating fruits and vegetables help people to manage their weight?” National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

The bottom line is that when you fill up on low calorie fruits and vegetables you can eat more total food for less calories. This, of course, will only work if you substitute or replace some of the high-energy dense foods you normally eat with low energy dense foods.

The added benefit of more fruits and vegetables is that you can improve your health while you manage your weight. Now I’d say that’s a good deal!

Health Benefits of Fruits and Vegetables

•Little in the way of calories or fat and no cholesterol

•Lots of vitamins (such as vitamin A and C), minerals, fiber, and antioxidants

•A diet low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol with plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grain breads and cereals may reduce the risk of diseases of the cardiovascular system (such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s) and cancer.

The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 2.7 million lives could be saved each year if we ate more fruits and vegetables.

O.K. so maybe you have good intentions of eating more fruits and vegetables but it just doesn’t happen. Is cost an issue? Or how about the need to get organized so that fruits and vegetables can be more easily incorporated into your diet without it taking a lot of time and effort? Maybe you’d like to get inspired with some new recipes. If any of these issues strike a chord with you, I have a few suggestions.

For Part 2 of this article check back in a couple days!

(Update: Fruits and Vegetables Best for 2009: Part 2)

I wish you the very best for a wonderful and happy New Year of 2009!