Celebrate National Nutrition Month® with Michigan Apples
Reading an article about the importance of healthy eating may not seem very exciting to you, especially when there seems to be so much conflicting nutrition information. However, March is National Nutrition Month® and as a dietitian, I feel it’s the perfect time to set aside the fad diets and embrace the powerful, positive effects of consuming and enjoying a balanced diet. Over the years, I have witnessed the transformation that healthy lifestyle and dietary changes can bring. I have seen individuals go off medication for type II diabetes, lower life-threatening high blood pressure, lose and maintain a significant amount of weight, and just generally enjoy life more.
Whenever I speak to groups or individuals about healthy eating, I usually start with talking about the need for more fruits and vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), just 1 in 10 adults consume the recommended amounts. Fruits and veggies add color, flavor and texture to meals and are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber. In addition, research shows that eating more fruits and vegetables does in fact make people happier. Studies with more than 2,000 Americans showed a correlation between days per week in which fruit and vegetables were consumed and reported levels of life satisfaction and happiness. Those who reported eating fruit and vegetables every day of the week were significantly more likely to report being happy and satisfied with their life as a whole. Those who ate the most fruit and vegetables pointed to several benefits, including pride in their choices; feeling good in their day-to-day activities; alleviation of physical illness; and confidence in their future health.1,2
Think about what may be holding you back from increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables. Is it convenience, preparation time, family preferences, fear of spoilage? Remember that including all forms of fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice) can help you overcome many of these barriers.
Why more fruits and veggies?
An eating pattern that is higher in vegetables and fruits has been associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases, including the number one killer – heart disease.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories (depending on how it’s prepared, of course). For this reason, including more in your diet may help with weight management, especially if they are substituted for other higher calorie foods.
Fruits and vegetables are also a great resource in the kitchen! Fruits are naturally sweet and can help with reducing sources of added sugars. Vegetables can be used to enhance the flavor and texture of foods and at the same time expand the variety of foods we eat.
Make at least 5 cups of fruits and/or vegetables your daily goal. Try the following tips to enjoy more fruits and vegetables every day:
Add color to prepared salad greens with grated carrots, diced Michigan Apples, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves or mandarin oranges.
We all love pizza! Try veggie toppings like broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
Place colorful fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack-on-the run. Keep a bowl of fresh Michigan Apples, and other fruits on your kitchen counter.
Blend your fruit. Puree Michigan Apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles. Or create a quick smoothie with milk or yogurt.
Fill your omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions and low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
“Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Add pizzazz to sandwiches with sliced pineapple, Michigan Apples, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings.
Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle. (Try the Apple Overnight Oats recipe below).
Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
Make fruit your dessert: Cook Michigan Apple slices with cinnamon and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt.
Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or Michigan Apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.
Enjoy these easy, nutrient-rich Michigan Apple recipes to celebrate National Nutrition Month® with more fruits and veggies:[
Apple Overnight Oats – Quick and delicious for breakfast on-the-go!
Makes 1 serving
1/2 cup Quaker® Oats
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
1/2 cup Michigan Apple, chopped
2 Tablespoons raisins
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon chia seeds
Add oats to your container of choice and pour in milk and low-fat yogurt.
Add in a layer of chopped apples, and top off with cinnamon, drizzle of honey, and chia seeds.
Place in fridge and enjoy in the morning or a few hours later!
Recipe Adapted From: Quaker Oats
Fruity Apple Salad – My Mom mixed up a colorful and easy fruit salad each week by combining fresh and canned fruits – enjoy for breakfast, snack time or dessert.
Makes 6 servings
1 large green apple, chopped
1 medium red apple, chopped
1/2 cup seedless red grapes, halved
1/2 cup green grapes, halved
1 can (8 ounces) unsweetened pineapple tidbits, drained
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup mandarin oranges
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup water
In a serving bowl, combine the Michigan Apples, grapes, pineapple, blueberries and oranges. Drizzle with the reserved pineapple juice and lemon juice. Stir gently and serve.
Roasted Rome and Feta Salad – Fabulous flavor combinations make this salad a winner!
Makes 4 servings
4 firm Michigan Rome Apples*, peeled and cut into sixths
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
8 cups mixed greens
4 Tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
2 slices cooked and crumbled bacon (can substitute turkey or vegan bacon)
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss apples with brown sugar. Spread in a single layer on prepared sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until apples begin to brown but are still firm enough to pick up with a fork. Remove and cool.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss greens and green onions together. Chill for 30 minutes. Shake dressing ingredients together in a small jar. Set aside. Just before serving, drizzle salad with dressing. Toss. Divide into four salad bowls. Divide bacon and cheese onto each. Arrange 6 apple slices on each. Serve immediately.
*Other suggested varieties: Empire, Jonagold, Fuji, Braeburn, Jonamac, McIntosh
Recipe Source: Michigan Apples
Curried Butternut Squash and Michigan Apple Soup – This soup uses frozen butternut squash to cut down on prep time.
Click here for recipe
1Source Note: Mujcic R and Oswald AJ. Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. Am J Pub Health. 2016; 106: 1504-1510.
2Source Note: Produce for Better Health Foundation. Novel Approaches to Measuring and Promoting Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, 2017. (to be published)