Kids still not eating enough produce

179322257How many fruits and vegetables should children eat every day? 

Actually, the recommendations for fruits and vegetables vary widely. They depend on children’s daily calorie needs, which relate to their age and activity level. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advises that:

  • Children ages 2 to 5 should eat 1 to 1.5 cups of fruit and 1 to 2 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children ages 6 to 11 should eat 1 to 2 cups of fruit and 1.5 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
  • Children and teens ages 12 to 19 should eat 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruit and 2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day.

For details on these recommendations, including amounts of specific types of vegetables and methods to prepare fruits and vegetables, see appendices 6 and 7 in the Dietary Guidelines, online as a PDF atbit.ly/2010dietary.

As you might suspect, most kids don’t eat enough produce. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that while children have increased their overall fruit intake since 2003, most — 6 in 10 — are still not eating enough fruit. What’s worse, 9 in 10 kids don’t meet the recommendations for vegetable consumption.

One promising sign: The message to choose whole fruits over fruit juice appears to be getting through. Fruit juice is a concentrated source of calories and doesn’t have the fiber or, sometimes, some of the nutrients that whole fruit provides. The CDC report found that fruit juice intake significantly decreased, while whole fruit consumption increased significantly — more than making up for the reduction in juice intake.

The findings about vegetables were not as positive. Not only was there no increase in vegetable consumption over the study period, 2003 to 2010, but 30 percent of the vegetables kids consumed were white potatoes, often eaten as less-healthful fried potatoes or even potato chips.

To help kids and teens eat more fruits and vegetables, parents can:

  • Eat fruit and vegetables with your children. Modeling good behavior and enjoying a healthful snack with your kids is always helpful.
  • Make sure a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are available and in eyesight. Cut up and prepare produce ahead of time, and keep it at the front of the refrigerator. Make it easier to reach for an apple or carrot sticks than it is to grab some chips or cookies.
  • Include children when shopping for, growing, and preparing fruit and vegetables.
  • Encourage children to eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. Offer options — “Would you like this or that?” — to get kids to try new fruits and vegetables. Don’t just stick with favorites all the time.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, nutrition specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

When good fruit goes bad

177423860When I hear about a recall involving fresh produce, how can I find out if the fruits and vegetables in my refrigerator are affected? If I buy organic produce, am I safe?

Information about recent recalls and food safety alerts are available on the front page of foodsafety.gov.

This listing contains information from both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees 80 percent of the nation’s food supply including produce, seafood and dairy, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is in charge of meat, poultry and processed egg products. For foods covered just by the FDA, see www.fda.gov/safety/recalls for recall information going back 60 days.

For recalled fresh produce check the FDA list. You can run a specific search by using the product name as a keyword. By clicking on the name of the product, you’ll see a description and the pictures of the product that was recalled and the retailers that sold the item.  Packaged products that have been recalled will have a date, and a production lot number to look for on the package. For bulk produce without a label, check with the store where you bought the product to find out if your items are part of the recall.

If you do have a product that’s been recalled, follow the FDA’s advice and don’t take any chances. Either throw it away or take it back to the store and ask for a refund.

To be on the safe side, the FDA recommends that you should also:

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds (count it out — it’s longer than you might think) with soap and warm water after handling the recalled items.
  • Wash any surface that the recalled items have touched, including refrigerator shelves or bins, countertops, bowls or plates, with soap and warm water.

Unfortunately, organic produce isn’t immune to food safety problems.  For example, one brand of organic mangos sold in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey and Texas was the subject of a recall in May due to possible contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. A more recent recall of peaches, nectarines, plums and pluots (a cross between a plum and an apricot) included both conventional and organic produce, because they were packed in the same facility where, again, Listeria was found.

Anyone can sign up to get automatic alerts about recalls by email or text. Just go tofoodsafety.gov/recalls/alerts to sign up.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Sanja Ilic, food safety specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

Eat fruit, veggies for health, not weight

467006435I was hoping that eating more fruits and vegetables this summer would help me lose a few pounds, but so far, no luck. Am I missing something?

A lot of people think that eating more healthfully will automatically help them slim down. And no wonder: Most weight-loss plans emphasize the importance of incorporating more fruit and vegetables into the diet.

That’s advice worth following for most Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults in the U.S. consume fruit only 1.1 times per day on average, and vegetables only 1.6 times per day. At the same time, U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend adults eat 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit daily, along with 2 to 3 cups of vegetables. Boosting fruit and vegetable consumption is a good idea for just about everyone.

But for most people, unfortunately, that’s not the only change in diet required for weight loss.

A meta-analysis published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on weight. Researchers reviewed seven studies conducted between 1998 and 2013 involving more than 1,200 people. All of the studies were randomized and lasted for at least eight weeks, and all focused on fruit and vegetable intake and weight loss or gain.

The authors found that, across the board, increased fruit and vegetable consumption had no effect on weight loss in those studies.

From one perspective, it might sound like there’s no reason to focus on fruits and vegetables if you want to lose weight. But as the authors noted, in these studies, eating more produce didn’t cause weight gain, either. And there are plenty of reasons to eat more fruits and vegetables. According to the CDC:

  • A healthful diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
  • Fruits and vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals that contribute to good health.
  • Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and can help you feel full without resorting to less-healthful choices.

The CDC offers links to additional resources to help you get the fruits and vegetables you need each day on its “Nutrition for Everyone” website. Included is a link with ideas on how to incorporate more produce in your weight-loss effort. For more information, see cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Wax off, wax on? Waxed produce OK

452415655Why is there a waxy substance on some of the fruits and vegetables I buy at the grocery store? Is it safe?

Some fruits and vegetables, especially those grown in warm climates, produce a natural waxy coating on the surface to prevent too much moisture from being lost.

When the crops are harvested and thoroughly cleaned before packaging and shipping, this natural wax is removed. If the wax isn’t present, produce that needs to travel a long distance may arrive damaged. So, produce handlers apply a thin coating of new wax to replace what was lost.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, applying the wax coating is helpful because it:

  • Helps the produce retain moisture and stay fresh.
  • Protects the produce from bruising and inhibits mold.
  • Prevents other physical damage or disease from harming the produce.
  • Enhances the product’s appearance.

While the wax can be made from several different materials, they all have to be approved by the FDA as safe to consume. Also, any fresh produce that is waxed must be labeled. The FDA recommends consumers look for labels that say, “Coated with food-grade vegetable-, petroleum-, beeswax-, or shellac-based wax or resin, to maintain freshness.”

Although “petroleum” and “shellac” are substances we don’t normally consume, the amount used is very small: A piece of waxed produce has only a drop or two of the microscopic coating. Still, for organic produce, the National Organic Program says wax can be applied only to non-edible portions of produce, except for organic citrus that can be waxed even though rinds could be used in juices and baking.

Wax is most often applied to apples, cucumbers, lemons, limes, oranges, other citrus fruit, bell peppers, eggplant and potatoes, although other types of produce also could be coated.

Since the coating is perfectly edible, there’s no need to worry about removing it before eating. Just rinse your produce, as usual, under running water. For cucumbers or other firm produce with a tougher rind, the FDA recommends using a vegetable scrub brush while rinsing under running water. You should do this even for produce that you intend to peel, especially cantaloupe. Doing so reduces the risk that any contaminants on the surface get onto the flesh as you cut through or otherwise handle the produce.

For more information on fresh produce, see the FDA web page at http://bit.ly/rawproduce.

Lots of fruits, veggies might stem diabetes

I’ve been told that I’m “pre-diabetic.” Should I cut way back on fruit? I know it contains a lot of sugar.

First, for individual health-related advice, it’s always best to talk directly to your doctor or, in cases like this, a registered dietitian, who could work with you personally to examine your normal day-to-day eating patterns and help you make improvements.

But if you’re like most Americans, you likely aren’t eating enough fruit. And your question indicates that you have the common misconception that eating sweets causes diabetes. It doesn’t. It’s caused by the body’s inability to handle blood sugar, but that comes from many kinds of foods, not just those that taste sweet.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care indicates that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables — and, even more importantly, a lot of different kinds of fruits and vegetables — may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study included more than 3,700 adults in the United Kingdom and lasted 11 years. The researchers found:

• Eating more fruits and vegetables (about six servings a day) was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with eating just two servings a day.

• People who ate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables — averaging 16 different types over the course of a week — were about 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who averaged just eight different types.

It’s important to note that the study doesn’t necessarily prove cause and effect. But it is one more good reason why you might want to incorporate a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Here are some ideas to do so:

• Even if you don’t normally pack your lunch, pack a snack to have mid-morning or mid-afternoon. It can be one of the standards: an apple, orange, banana, grapes, baby carrots, celery strips or red pepper strips, or something totally new. Shop the produce section with a fresh eye to see what you might want to try.

• Buy large containers of vanilla or plain yogurt and, as you prepare individual servings, top with one-quarter to one-half cup of fresh or frozen berries.

• Add variety to salads by including spinach with the lettuce and topping with fresh blueberries or strawberries.

For more on the benefits of fruits and vegetables and ideas to include more in your diet, see the Fruits and Veggies Matter website, a partnership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, at http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or filipic.3@osu.edu.