LiveWell Northwest Colorado: What is the deal with fruits and vegetables?
Most of us consider our community to be quite healthy and in many ways we are. However, when it comes to eating the recommended nine to 11 servings (4.5 to 5.5 cups) of fruits and vegetables each day, we are way behind. LiveWell NWCO has been collecting survey data from Routt County residents to back up this claim.
• Students eat on average three servings or 1 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
• Adults eat on average 3.7 servings or 1 ¾ cups each day.
• Low-income residents eat on average 2.2 servings or about 1 ¼ cup each day.
Why aren’t we eating more fruits and vegetables in Routt County? The answer is complicated as there are so many influences on what we choose to eat; some that are within an individual’s control and some beyond their control.
There are three major factors that influence our fruit and vegetable consumption — food knowledge, access and affordability.
Food knowledge: Do we know how much to eat and how to make them taste good?
LiveWell NWCO has been promoting the 5210 campaign in the schools and community to remind us to eat five cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
To address the taste issue, remember that is takes about 10 times to offer a new food to a child before they will eat it. Scope out the web for lots of ideas about how to “stealth” cook and make vegetables and fruits a food of choice for your family.
Access: Do we have them available?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are available in Routt County, primarily at our local grocers.
Affordable: Can I afford to eat that much?
When surveyed, locals have indicated that the major barrier to eating more fruits and vegetables is the cost. According to the USDA, on average it costs about 50 cents for a cup of fruit or vegetables. To meet the 5210 recommendation of five cups fruits or vegetables each day, it would cost about $2.50.
In the last monthly article I shared that the average meal costs 25 percent more in Routt County compared to the rest of the state. So to meet the daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables in Routt County it would cost about $3.13 per day.
It is possible to decrease the cost of fruits and vegetables in Routt County if you: buy on sale; buy in bulk; buy in season (if you are not going to use them right away, buy those that still need time to ripen); buy frozen and low salt/low sugar canned (they can be even more nutritious than fresh; purchase from Bountifulbaskets.org. Every two weeks, purchase a $15 basket of fruits and vegetables and add additional low cost offerings as available.
Prioritize purchasing more fresh, frozen or low salt/low sugar canned fruits and vegetables and eat them.
Donate low salt and low sugar canned or fresh fruits and vegetables so that our lower income residents can eat healthy too. Let’s choose to make Routt County the healthiest county in Colorado by eating more fruits and vegetables every day.
For more details on the factors that influence food choices and Routt County’s food report go to: http://www.rcextension.colostate.edu/localfoods/localfoods.shtm and read Routt County Food Assessment: Part 2.
Barb Parnell serves as community coordinator for LiveWell Northwest Colorado.
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