We’re now “over the rainbow” on another Saint Patrick’s Day, and I hope this one didn’t leave you feeling bloated (or worse, hung over) from too much green beer or weighed down by the salty corned beef and starchy potatoes. Whether during holiday meals or any other time, we can all easily forget who the party guests in greatest attendance should be: colorful fruits and vegetables. While there may not be a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of this rainbow, keeping in mind those fresh and vibrant colors while meal planning and grocery shopping will reward you with the ability to maintain a healthy weight and better health overall.
One of Sesame Street’s most popular lessons, the advice to “eat your colors” or “eat a rainbow every day,” is something nutritionists agree on for people of any age. Fruits and vegetables of different colors provide essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients such as fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Concentrating your meals more strongly on these fresh items also helps with weight management as many of them are far lower in calories than the other processed food sources that too often crowd the American dinner (or breakfast, or lunch) plate.
Here are some of my favorite colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that will add zest to your meals and help you paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow:
Red – red bell peppers, cranberries, strawberries, tomatoes, red onions, cherries, pomegranates, radishes, radicchio, beets, watermelon, apples.
Orange– sweet potato, pumpkin, carrots, cantaloupe, oranges, mango, apricot, peaches, persimmon.
Yellow –pineapple, yellow bell pepper, squash, lemons, corn.
Green – asparagus, artichokes, green beans, kale, kiwi, green pepper, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, celery, zucchini, honeydew melon, avocado, pears.
Purple/Blue– eggplant, blueberries, kidney beans, blackberries, purple cabbage, raisins, plums, grapes, figs.
White – banana, potatoes, white beans, mushrooms, onions, garlic, cauliflower, white peaches, white nectarines.
With practice and regular incorporation of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, I hope you’ll also find that colorful dishes are a lot more fun. Preparing dishes with a variety of vivid hues will help you to thoroughly enjoy a multi-sensory meal experience. From different tastes and textures – whether crisp and juicy or soft and creamy – to taking in the appetizing aromas and visually appreciating the appealing colors on your plate, who says you can’t still play with your food?
A simple way to ensure you’re getting enough of the rainbow each day is to keep fresh veggies and fruits in easy-to-see places. How about adding a nice, big fruit bowl to your kitchen counter? Or organizing your see-through refrigerator drawers to display your beautiful bounty? Need something quicker, or think you don’t have enough time for fruits and vegetables in your life? Don’t forget that dried versions make a great, healthy snack while you’re on the go.
Since March is National Nutrition Month, how about a small challenge? During your next grocery trip, try adding a few fruits and vegetables to your cart that you’ve never tried before. For example, eggplant can look like an intimidating vegetable to many people, but there are plenty of easy ways it can be prepared like roasting it in the oven, sautéing it on the stove, pureeing it as a dip, or simply slicing and lining it up on the grill. Add in some garlic and bell pepper and you’ve already got three colors on your plate!
With these tips in mind, I hope you’re inspired to create some of your most colorful and healthy meals yet. Dig in!
P.S. For more information, check out the CDC’s tips for “How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight.”