Alberta Cancer Foundation

An Apple a Day may not be enough

The saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is meant to encourage people to eat their vegetables and fruit to remain healthy. But we actually need more than just an apple a day.

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Eating seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers and can help you to maintain a healthy weight. It also makes your skin, hair and eyes healthier.

Canadian adults report they do not eat the recommended amount of vegetables and fruit. Taste, time, cost and convenience are the reasons people are choosing not to eat enough of these foods. Research also shows that if you do not see yourself as a healthy eater, it is easy to get side-tracked from healthy behaviours. One of these behaviours is eating vegetables and fruit every day. This article gives ideas to get around some of these barriers, including some practical tips to eat more vegetables and fruit.

How can you make vegetables taste good?
There are so many ways to prepare vegetables beyond boiling. Roasting, grilling or sautéing with oil, herbs and spices adds lots of flavour.

Eating seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit each day reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and certain cancers and can help you to maintain a healthy weight.

Do vegetables take a lot of time to prepare?
It depends. If you wash and chop them yourself, it can. One great tip is to choose one hour each week to clean and chop your vegetables so they are ready as a snack or to use at mealtime. When you have vegetables and fruit washed and ready to go, opening a container of raw vegetables takes the same amount of time as opening a bag of cookies or potato chips. Remember, if you are short on time, you can buy pre-washed vegetables, like bagged salads or cut-up vegetable trays, at any grocery store.

Are vegetables and fruit more expensive than other foods?
Not necessarily. Cutting back on less-healthy foods and buying vegetables and fruit in season can help. People often think that fresh vegetables have more nutrition than frozen or canned. However, frozen or canned can be just as nutritious. Depending on the season, frozen or canned can be less expensive and can be stored for longer periods of time. Use this link to see what vegetables and fruit are in season in Alberta.

Are some vegetables and fruit better than others?

To focus on reducing cancer risk, choose green leafy vegetables like rapini, romaine lettuce, swiss chard, turnip greens, leaf lettuce, spinach and kale, broccoli, eggplant, bok choy, carrots, artichokes, rutabagas and turnips.

Starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams and cassava are also nutritious, but they do not help reduce the risk of cancers like the green leafy vegetables.

Now that you have a few suggestions to get around barriers to eating vegetables and fruit, here are a number of ways to add vegetables and fruit to your meals and snacks.

  • Turn them into condiments like tomato sauce or pesto.
  • Make a vegetable soup, or add extra vegetables to stews.
  • Eat them raw – snack on raw carrots, cauliflower or cherry tomatoes.
  • Shred cabbage, carrots or zucchini and add to wraps and sandwiches
  • Microwave frozen vegetables as a side dish; add your favourite fresh or dried herbs.
  • Add fresh fruit like chopped apple, oranges or strawberries to a salad.
  • Make it a habit to fill half your plate with vegetables or fruit at meals.

Finally, think of yourself as a healthy eater. If you think that eating vegetables and fruit is important then you are more likely to keep up the habit, even when you have a stressful day or you are not in your regular routine. You’ll reap the benefits of eating vegetables and fruit every day!

Karol Sekulic is a registered dietitian with Alberta Health Services who has expertise and interest in the areas of weight management, nutrition and communications.