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Don't Forget The Vegetables

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Eating wholesome, natural foods benefits our health and waistline. Plus, most people say that they just feel better! Vegetables and fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber for your health. The power molecules of plants, phytochemicals, protect the plant from damage and have enormous benefits for our bodies. They shield the plant from UV damage by color, repel or attract insects by scent; in short, they insure the plants survival. The effects of the power molecules within our bodies include improved memory, lower risk for heart attacks and stroke, more energy, better eyesight, and reduced risk for cancer. The power molecules are found naturally in all plants; currently, there are serious, well-designed research studies evaluating their potential benefits. If you keep your meals colorful you will be rewarded with energy and health. Because of the water and fiber they contain, eating lots of vegetables and fruit can help you to lose weight: you feel full but consume fewer calories.

How many servings do you need? The greatest health benefits are seen with nine servings of vegetable and fruit per day. But in the US we consume a meager two servings daily, on average. To increase your consumption of fruit and vegetables, make it a point to include them at all meals and with a snack. Breakfast: add vegetables to your morning omelet or include berries with your yogurt. Lunch: A big leafy salad should supply 3 servings of vegetables. Snack: One piece of fruit with 1-2 oz. cheese or crudités with yogurt or cheese. Dinner: Include 2 cooked vegetables or a salad. On your dinner plate vegetables should take up the most room. Think of protein as a condiment.

For those who may find it difficult to achieve the nine servings of vegetables and fruit, I have a solution for you. Incorporate a smoothie into your day, as a breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Below are some of my favorite smoothie recipes. I hope you like them!

Breakfast smoothies give you an energetic, nutritious start to the day. If you are in a rush, pour the smoothie into a travel bottle. The idea is to not compromise your nutrition when you are in a rush.

Avocado-Pear Smoothie (Equivalent to 1 serving of fruit and 1 serving of vegetable)

1/4 ripe avocado, peeled and pit removed
1 cup fat free, plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pear juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup ice

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth.

Per serving: 162 calories; 1 g saturated fat; 6 g unsaturated fat; 2 mg cholesterol; 22 g carbs; 27 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 3 g fiber

Berry Mango Smoothie (Equivalent to 2 servings of fruit)

6 Ounce container Fage Total 0% Authentic Greek Yogurt
1/3 cup organic skim milk
¼ cup organic raspberries frozen
¼ cup organic blueberries frozen
½ cup mango frozen or fresh, chopped
1-2 ice cubes (optional)
¼ cup water

Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth.

Serve immediately.

Calories per serving: 160 calories, Protein per serving: 20 grams
Calcium per serving: 465 milligrams

Afternoon smoothies are ideal when you feel that afternoon energy lag. The energy lag is your body’s hunger signal. Respond to hunger by giving your body real nutrition as opposed to a vending machine snack.

Green Smoothie (Equivalent to 3 servings of vegetables and 1 serving of fruit)

1 cup kale or collard greens firmly packed, stems removed, coarsely chopped (4 oz.)
1 Granny Smith organic apple, coarsely chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt (fat free, plain)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 cup water
4 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a little more water.

Per serving: 150 calories; 0 g saturated fat; 0 g unsaturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 32 mg sodium; 15 g protein; 7 g fiber

Blueberry and Green Tea Smoothie (Equivalent to 1 serving of fruit)

1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries
2 cups green tea, room temperature
2 teaspoons agave nectar
4 ice cubes

Combine ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Per serving: 50 calories; 0 g saturated fat; 0 g unsaturated fat; 0 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbs; 0 mg sodium; 0 g protein; 1 g fiber

By the way, children love smoothies! Even children who resist fruits and vegetables enjoy the cold, sweet taste of a smoothie. I suggest offering an after-school smoothie as a snack.

Look for our announcement of our Green Field Trips coming up in April!

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