Four years ago the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Produce for Better Health Foundation started a campaign called "Fruits and Veggies -- More Matters." The campaign used the acronym T.A.S.T.E. to encourage all Americans to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. With the change of season just around the corner, maybe you should see how T.A.S.T.E. suits your tastes.
Explore new recipes that include fruits and veggies or get creative with your own. Add shredded carrots to casseroles, chili, lasagna, meatloaf or soup. Drop berries into hot or iced tea, hot or cold cereal, or yogurt.
Be imaginative at breakfast by making fruit smoothies, egg and veggie burritos, and yogurt/fruit mixtures, or putting a new fruit on top of your favorite cereal.
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Use leftover veggies in salads or add them to a can of soup. Yesterday's fruit can be mixed into a zesty salad dressing, sauce or fruit salsa to accompany meat.
For on-the-go snacks, keep a variety of bite-size munchies on hand, such as boxes of raisins, fresh grapes or berries, dried-fruit trail mix and frozen 100-percent fruit bars. Cherry tomatoes and carrot sticks with humus can be a tasty and refreshing veggie treat.
In your menu, feature each of the "Fab-Five Forms": fresh, frozen, 100-percent juice, canned and dried, which are all packed with nutrients for better health and energy.
Make your plate colorful. A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other natural substances that protect you from chronic diseases including stroke, heart disease and some types of cancer.
Choose recipes that teach you different yet simple ways to cook fruits and veggies, including steamed, slow-cooked, sauteed, stir-fried, grilled, poached and even microwaved.
If you find that fruits and vegetables spoil before you can use them, consider buying fresh produce to use in three or four days. Clean and cut up the produce, so it will be ready to use, and start eating the most perishable items first. Buy canned, frozen and dried items for later in the week or when time is limited. They are quick to prepare and can be just as nutritious.
When shopping on a budget, remember that fresh produce is more affordable when it's in season. Look for weekly specials. At a restaurant ask what vegetables and salads are available to substitute high-fat side orders.
Have a shish kebab or homemade pizza night, so everyone can make individual healthy choices. Choose your family's favorite fruit to make a quick and easy homemade sorbet.
If possible, shop at a farmers market with your children or grandchildren. It will be a fun and educational trip, and the produce should be very fresh and economical.
For some families, it can be difficult to find fruits and vegetables to suit everyone's tastes. Use salad bars, buffets or family gatherings to try new flavors until you find the foods that your whole family likes, then prepare them at home. There are more than 350 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Port Royal resident Ervena Faulkner is a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.