NAP Challenge #9: Going Cuckoo for Color
This week I will eat at EACH MEAL one or two servings of red, yellow, orange, green, blue or purple fruits or vegetables.
Think rainbow or ROY-G-BIV (an acronym for remembering the colors of the rainbow). Yes, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet are colors you want on your New American Plate. This week's challenge complements The American Dietetic Association's National Nutrition Month theme – Eat Right with COLOR!
What's the connection with fruit and vegetable color and weight loss?
Plant foods are "nutrient dense," but not "calorie dense." That is, they are loaded with essential vitamins and minerals such as folate and potassium and healthful "phytonutrients" such as carotenoids, flavonoids and polyphenols, but are not loaded with calories. Fruits and vegetables are also high in water and fiber. The high water content makes many fruits and vegetables low in calories - just what you want to eat more of to lose weight, feel full, and get your boost of "phyto benefit." These powerful phytonutrients impart beautiful color to plants and may help protect you against cancer, inflammation and many chronic diseases. Dietary fiber, severely lacking in the American diet, accents the beauty of plant foods with its ability to help lower cancer risk and make you feel more satiated.
Legumes such as dried beans and split peas are "high protein vegetables." Black beans, black-eyed peas, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, lentils, lima beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans (includes edamame), and split peas also are rich in phytonutrients and dietary fiber, potassium, non-heme iron, and zinc. Dried beans and split peas, though vegetables, may be considered "meat protein substitutes" because of their high protein content. These legumes may be eaten as a main dish or added to salads, side dishes, soups and stews.
Your challenge this week is to eat a more colorful diet with fruit and/or vegetables at each meal. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend eating 3-5 servings of fruit daily and 3-5 servings of vegetables daily. It's easy to do. There are lots of ideas below. Look at the servings sizes and add up your intake! This week we are going cuckoo for color!
- Remember "Me Time"? To succeed in eating a more colorful diet with more fruits and vegetables and losing weight, you need to take TIME to plan, shop, cook and eat. These tips are broken down by categories with easy, fast and budget friendly ideas.
- Paint your plate with fruit either fresh, frozen, dried, or canned in 100% fruit juice and with vegetables either fresh, frozen or low-sodium canned. Enjoy fruits and vegetables raw or cooked.
- Brush your beverage glass with only 100% fruit juices and limit to 1/2 cup daily while trying to lose weight since juice is higher in calories relative to whole fruit. It's better to "eat the fruit" than "drink the fruit" when trying to lose weight! No need to limit low-sodium tomato juice since it is so much lower in calories and you are less likely to over drink it.
- Remember "ROYGBIV"when rounding out your New American Plate color palette:
- Red: apples, cherries, cranberries, red grapes, red grapefruit, papayas, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes (low-sodium canned too), low-sodium tomato juice; beets, red peppers
- Orange: apricots, cantaloupes, mangos, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pumpkin, tangerines; carrots, peppers, acorn squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, winter squash
- Yellow: banana, figs, grapefruit, honeydew melon, pears, pineapple; butternut squash, cauliflower, corn, garlic, onions, yellow peppers, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, summer squash, yellow or white potatoes
- Green: green grapes, kiwis, olives*, pears; artichokes, asparagus, avocado*, green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, celery, collards, chicory, cucumbers, green beans, herbs, leafy greens (mustard, Swiss chard and turnip), kale, lettuce, green peas, green peppers, romaine, snow peas, soy beans, spinach, zucchini.
- Blue: blueberries, concord grapes
- Purple: blackberries, purple grapes, plums, prunes, raisins; cabbage, eggplant. Also try: purple asparagus, purple carrots, purple cauliflower, purple potatoes – may be found at food specialty stores and farmers markets.
Read more about POWERHOUSE Fruits and Vegetables:
Planning and Shopping
- When shopping for produce, select items that will ripen at different times during the week
- Try a new fruit or veggie each week such as kiwi, papaya, star fruit, ugly fruit, assorted greens
- Try heirloom and new hybrid produce at farmers markets such as purple potatoes and purple asparagus (see link below)
- Stock up on pre-cut, frozen or canned fruit for fruit smoothies and pre-cut, frozen or low-sodium vegetables to add to meals
- Try new herbs; grow them easily in containers at home
- Stuff sandwiches with shredded carrots, sliced peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions, spinach and dark lettuce leaves
- Add to chicken, tuna or seafood salad grapes, raisins, dried apricots, celery, red onion, grated carrots
- Add to spaghetti sauce extra veggies, beans and peas and to pasta salads add zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, garlic, onion, beans and peas; add to salads, soups, stews, casseroles and stir-fries colorful veggies – be creative
- Make more veggie shish kabobs with less meat
- Use small amounts of sauces, oils, dressings on vegetables; use reduced fat or fat free dressings
- Cook with assorted fresh or dried herbs, especially oregano, parsley, rosemary, and cilantro, which are high in antioxidants and impart amazing flavor and color
- Use smaller plates so you eat less overall
- Start your meal with a salad with assorted veggies, beans and peas or a veggie soup
- Stop eating when you are comfortably full or satiated, before becoming overly full
- Try to eat 1/2 cup beans or peas most days; incorporate into salads, soups and side and main dishes
- Use 1 tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil based vinaigrette dressing per cup of salad
- Colorful breakfast ideas: 1/2 cup 100% fruit juice, better yet "eat the fruit" (drink tea or water instead) 1/2 grapefruit, 1/4 mixed dried fruit on cereal, 1/2 large banana or small banana sliced on pancakes, veggie oozing omelet
- Colorful lunch ideas: dark green leafy green salad with assorted vegetables including beans and peas and fresh or dried fruit; minestrone or gazpacho soup, fruit salad, piece of fruit
- Colorful dinner ideas: try eating two different color vegetables like carrots and broccoli and fruit for dessert such as sliced strawberries, peaches, pears or pineapple or mix together raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries for a "Berries Trio"
- To avoid overeating at dinner or later in the day, don't skip meals; do eat breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks that include fruit, vegetables, beans and peas
- Savor a colorful snack if meals are 3 or 4 hours apart. You are less likely to over eat at the next meal.
- Plan ahead, keep handy cut up fruit and veggies for snacks such as grapes, dried fruit, carrots, sliced peppers, edamame
- Bring snacks to work or school or enjoy at home:
- mid-morning – dried fruit such as apricots, cranberries/craisins, plums, raisins; low-sodium vegetable juice
- afternoon – fresh fruit with low-sugar, low-fat yogurt or plain yogurt with banana slices, strawberries or other fruit.
- home from work/school – fruit smoothie, watermelon cubes or slices, baby carrots, chopped raw veggies such sliced peppers, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, edamame. Dip in low-fat yogurt dressings or hummus
- Eat fruit or drink low-sodium veggie juice before going out
- When eating out make sure to order colorful side vegetables and side salads made with romaine or spinach and with dressing on the side; try new vegetables
- Start your meal with salad or soup; share a dessert featuring fruit such as berries parfait
- Accent your thin crust (preferably whole grain crust) pizza with more veggies, olives and pineapple
- For salad dressings use a vinaigrette served on the side, 1 tablespoon for every one cup of salad
- Enjoy the beautiful color and wonderful flavors of more fruits and veggies – go cuckoo for color!
- AICR brochures:
- AICR online articles and information:
- AICR online recipes:
- More information: