Substitute fruits and veggies for a healthier diet that's also lower in calories

9/3/2008, 1 a.m.
The government is not your mom, but it too wants you to eat your fruits...

The government is not your mom, but it too wants you to eat your fruits and veggies.

The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has designated September as Fruit and Veggies - More Matters Month, and it is encouraging adults and children to eat up.

A growing body of research agrees that fruits and vegetables are critical to promoting good health - and fruit candy and ketchup do not count.

If eaten in the recommended amounts, fruits and vegetables protect health. They contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that may help protect against chronic diseases. It is recommended that adults and children eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

People who eat generous amounts of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases like stroke and other cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. For those trying to lose weight, substituting fruits and vegetables for higher-calorie foods in a well-balanced diet can be part of a successful weight-loss strategy.

To lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than your body uses. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to eat less food, just that you have to create lower-calorie versions of some of your favorite dishes by substituting low-calorie fruits and vegetables in place of higher-calorie ingredients.

Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling. The water and fiber in fruits and vegetables will add volume to your dishes, so you can eat the same amount of food with fewer calories.

The CDC offers these simple ways to cut calories and eat fruits and vegetables throughout your day:

Start the day right

- Substitute some spinach, onions, or mushrooms for one of the eggs or half of the cheese in your morning omelet. The vegetables will add volume and flavor to the dish with fewer calories than the egg or cheese.

n Cut back on the amount of cereal in your bowl to make room for some sliced bananas, peaches, or strawberries. You can still eat a full bowl, but with fewer calories.

Lighten up your lunch

- Substitute vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, or onions for 2 ounces of the cheese and 2 ounces of the meat in your sandwich, wrap, or burrito. The new version will fill you up with fewer calories than the original.

- Add a cup of chopped vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots, beans, or red peppers, in place of 2 ounces of the meat or 1 cup of noodles in your favorite broth-based soup. The vegetables will help fill you up, so you won't miss those extra calories.


- Add in 1 cup of chopped vegetables such as broccoli, tomatoes, squash, onions, or peppers, while removing 1 cup of the rice or pasta in your favorite dish. The dish with the vegetables will be just as satisfying but have fewer calories than the same amount of the original version.

- Take a good look at your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they do not, replace some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice with legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, greens, or another favorite vegetable. This will reduce the total calories in your meal without reducing the amount of food you eat. But remember to use a normal- or small-size plate - not a platter. The total number of calories that you eat counts, even if a good proportion of them come from fruits and vegetables.