The benefits of a colorful plate and how to construct one

July 24, 2019 Swedish Nutrition Team

As visual creatures, humans rely not only on our taste and smell for eating, but also our eyes. We all recall the generation-crossing guidance to eat your fruits and veggies, and while most of us strive to incorporate them into our daily meal planning it’s sometimes hard with our seemingly unending to-do lists. And even when we do make the effort, a lot of people are unclear on the right portions to ensure we’re getting all the nutrients we need to live our healthiest lives.

Enter MyPlate.

MyPlate is a USDA-driven initiative that uses visuals to help consumers learn about the optimal proportions of each food group. Not only does it provide a view of how the food groups should be broken down – and half should be fruits and vegetables BTW – it also offers an accompanying visual gallery of each type of food along with measurements and sub-group breakdowns. Check out the vegetable group here.

Unfortunately, most people tend to fill up on too much meat and grains and not enough fruits and vegetables. In addition to providing fiber for regular bowel function and support of a healthy gut microbiome, fruits and vegetables in each different color help to provide a different profile of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. This is why we are encouraged to eat dark leafy greens, orange vegetables, and yes, even white vegetables like cauliflower and mushrooms.

A common barrier to including more fruits and vegetables is often cost. Produce can be expensive, and if you don’t consume it before it gets old, then you throw it away. Nobody wants to pay for something they don’t use.

Here are three approaches that can be used to help reduce food waste and therefore, food cost:

  1. Find non-perishable canned and frozen fruits and vegetables to keep on hand all the time. Examples include frozen berries for oatmeal or smoothies, canned tomatoes for pasta, unsweetened dried fruit for snacks, frozen vegetables for soups, dehydrated mushrooms for a sauce or vacuum sealed cooked beets for salad.
  2. Try to do some meal planning before purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables. It is really easy to get caught up in how beautiful or delicious the produce looks but it is important to be realistic about what we will actually use. Identify the fruits and vegetables you use most commonly and like to keep on hand and only buy additional things if you have a plan for them. Though it may take more time it is actually better to buy the produce close to the time you plan to use it so it maintains as much of the nutritional value as possible.  
  3. If you find the produce you have purchased is nearing the end of its usable life, consider freezing it for future use before it goes bad. Dice up extra vegetable bits for soup. Freeze fruit in a single layer on a baking sheet before transferring it to a freezer safe storage container so that it is easier to grab just the amount you want. 

If you are interested in some hands-on learning, talking about specific products, and getting your questions answered, please join Megann Karch, a clinical dietitian in the Swedish Cardiology department, at Whole Foods Market on Broadway and Madison on the second Wednesday of each month. See the Swedish events page for details and registration.

Swedish partnered with local chefs to create a cooking series, "Heart Healthy Eating with Seattle's All-Star Chefs." Click here to view the videos.

To learn more about Swedish Heart Health Initiatives visit our website.



About the Author

The Swedish nutrition team seeks to bring you expert advice and tips on how to fill your plate with the right nutrients to fuel your body in the healthiest way possible.

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