A “Fresh” Perspective on Fruits and Vegetables

By: Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE —

Despite all the nutrition controversy in the media touting different diets and food folklore, I am pretty confident we can all agree on one thing: most people need to eat more fruits and vegetables. In fact, according to the CDC, only 1 in 10 Americans eats enough fruits and veggies. June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month so it’s a great time to remind everyone to eat more produce. But I believe we need more than just a reminder. Although most people are aware of the need for more fruits and vegetables, the numbers don’t lie. Why are we still not getting enough? (Note: If you’re wondering what “enough” means, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommends 2 ½-cup equivalents of vegetables and 2-cup equivalents of fruits per day for a 2000 calorie level in the Healthy U.S.-Style Eating Pattern).

As a registered dietitian for over 20 years, I am very familiar with the many barriers to achieving this goal. Here are some of the most common barriers I’ve heard and some solutions:

  1. The “fresh is best” mantra causes people to assume that only fresh produce “counts” when in fact dried, canned, frozen and 100% juices can provide excellent nutrition for less money and more convenience, making it easier to increase your intake.
  2. Fresh produce costs more. However, you can look for sales and in-season produce which is typically less expensive, and tastes better, too!
  3. What about organic? Organic also tends to cost more, but research shows the nutrition content is essentially the same, so you don’t need to worry about choosing “regular” produce. You’re getting safe, nutritious produce without the higher price tag.
  4. If you’re really concerned about saving money, don’t discount the hidden cost of food waste. Did you know that 30-50% of the food that makes it to the supermarket is thrown away in homes of people who purchase it? Is your produce hidden away in the crisper drawer where it gets forgotten and gets rotten? Place those beautiful fruits and vegetables on a top or middle shelf in clear containers so you can see them and use them before they go bad. Check out my video on Healthy & Affordable Food Tips.

As a wife and a mom of two kids, I rely on my pantry and freezer to round out my fresh produce. My Veggie Challenge Pinterest board is where I pin inspirational tips and recipes for squeezing more vegetables into my family’s diet, and here are two recipes to help you enjoy more fruits and vegetables this week: Pineapple Yogurt Dip and Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread.

Melissa Joy Dobbins, MS, RDN, CDE is a nationally recognized registered dietitian nutritionist with more than 20 years’ experience helping people enjoy their food with health in mind. Melissa is a certified diabetes educator, a former supermarket dietitian, and also a former national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). She was named Outstanding Dietitian of the Year in Illinois by AND and Outstanding Diabetes Educator of the Year in Chicago by the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Melissa is a paid contributor to Sucralose.org. Melissa is the CEO of Sound Bites, Inc. based in Chicago, Illinois, and you can connect with her on Twitter (@MelissaJoyRD), Pinterest, Facebook, and check out her blog at SoundBitesRD.com.

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