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Half your plate for healthy eating

Recipe Swap: The Ultimate Veggie Pizza, and Corn and Kale Chowder

A food diary is how you tell yourself how well or poorly you eat. I’ve kept one and, believe me, it’s an eye-opener. Too much of one thing and not enough of another, especially fruits and veggies.

But I’m typical. Canadians are anything but vegetarian.

The Food Guide says men should eat eight to 10 servings of fruit and veggies a day, but they usually only manage about 3-1/2. Women fare only a little better. Most only eat about half their recommended amount, which is seven to eight servings a day.

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What’s a serving? They’re actually pretty small. For instance, one medium-size fruit is a serving. So is a half-cup of vegetables, a half-cup of 100 per cent fruit or veggie juice, or 1/4 cup of dried fruit.

But who thinks about these things in that sort of detailed way? There’s other, simpler ways to eat the daily recommended amount. Just make a habit of filling half your plate with fruits or vegetables at every meal.

That’s the message of the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s recently launched Half Your Plate program, done in partnership with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Public Health Association. It’s meant to be a simpler, clearer health message that cuts through confusion around serving sizes, says CPMA president Ron Lemaire.

“Rather than having people count servings or worry about serving size, our messaging is that at every meal, make half your plate fruit and vegetables. By the end of the day, you’ll have your recommended number of servings.”

And why should you? There’s a windfall of research that links a healthy balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruit with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. Eating more veggies and fruit is also a good foundation for long-term weight control and this is the food group that’s a great source of carbs, vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, folate, and fibre.

Plus, vegetables and fruit taste great, add variety to meals, and aren’t nearly as expensive as some think. Ten bucks should buy you about 26 servings, according to the CPMA’s campaign. I’d add that depends on where you live and how you shop.

Keep an eye out for Half Your Plate promotions. The program’s recipes, shopping tips, meal-planning ideas, plus a comprehensive guide on the nutrition and preparation of veggies and fruit from ‘A to Z’ are also found online at: www.halfyourplate.ca.

Here are two recipes from the Canadian Produce Marketing Association’s website and Half Your Plate program.

Happy and healthy eating in 2015, everyone.

Getting the most from your fruit and veg

  • Eat at least one dark-green vegetable (such as broccoli, green peas or beans, spinach, or romaine lettuce) and one orange vegetable (such as carrots, sweet potato or squash) each day.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit prepared with little or no added fat.
  • Choose vegetables and fruit more often than juice.

Are frozen, canned and dried vegetables and fruit as healthy as fresh ones?

Although nothing beats the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables in season, frozen, canned or dry products that contain little or no added sugar, fat or salt can be healthy and sometimes more affordable alternatives. They are often harvested and packed at the height of the season when nutrients are at their peak, so they provide us with nutritious options all year round.

How do I prepare vegetables and fruit?
Always wash fresh vegetables and fruit thoroughly under running water to remove dirt, bacteria, and any pesticide residues. Organic produce must still be washed thoroughly as well. Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables and scrub root vegetables like carrots and potatoes to remove all dirt, especially if you will be eating the skins. To keep vegetables and fruit fresh, store them unwashed and clean them just before use.

Avoid overcooking vegetables, as this depletes them of nutrients and robs them of taste. Healthy cooking techniques include steaming, stir-frying, parboiling or microwaving until tender-crisp.

Source: Dietitians of Canada

The Ultimate Veggie Pizza

Start with whole wheat crust for a nutrition boost. Add lots of vegetables and reduced-fat cheese for a well-rounded meal.

  • 26 ozs. fresh whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1-1/2 c. baby red potatoes
  • 1 pkg. crimini mushrooms
  • 1 pkg. cherry tomatoes
  • 1 sweet red pepper or yellow pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1-1/2 c. part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 3 c. baby arugula
  • 1-1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Set oven rack to lower third and preheat oven to 475 F. On rimmed baking sheet, brush potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, red pepper and red onion with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring once; let cool slightly and toss with red wine vinegar and garlic. Meanwhile, line separate rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On lightly floured surface, gently stretch and roll dough to prepared baking sheet.

Sprinkle mozzarella over dough and top with vegetables. Bake until crust is browned and top is bubbling and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

In bowl, toss together arugula and vinegar; arrange over pizza.

Preparation time: 20 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 to 25 minutes. Serves 6.

Corn and Kale Chowder

At just 195 calories a serving, this delicious bowl of soup has a lovely creamy texture.

  • 2 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes
  • 1 can white kidney beans no salt added, drained and rinsed
  • 2 c. sodium-reduced vegetable broth
  • 1 c. skim milk
  • 4 c. thinly sliced kale leaves
  • 1 c. corn kernels
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil or parsley

In a soup pot, heat oil over medium heat and cook onion, garlic, thyme and hot pepper flakes for three minutes or until softened. Stir in kidney beans to coat. Add broth and skim milk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and using an immersion blender purée soup until smooth.

Alternatively, let cool slightly and purée in batches in blender and return to pot.

Return soup to a simmer and stir in kale, corn and basil. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until kale is tender.

Preparation time: 15 minutes.
Cooking time: 20 minutes. Serves 5.

About the author

Reporter

Lorraine Stevenson

Lorraine Stevenson is a reporter and photographer for the Manitoba Co-operator with 25 years experience writing news and features. She was previously a reporter with the Farmers Independent Weekly and has also written for community newspapers in Winnipeg and Manitoba's Interlake.

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