How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Did you know there are two food groups that can help you maintain a healthy weight, fight cancer, protect your heart, and help reduce the appearance of wrinkles? Unfortunately, most people only eat about half the recommended servings per day of these “magical” foods. I am taking about fruits and vegetables, nature’s powerful disease fighters.

If you are like most people, you are looking to help increase your fruit and vegetable intake, but may not be sure how without hours in the kitchen or breaking the bank. The recommended amount is 2 servings of fruit per day and 5 servings of vegetables daily. That amount can sometimes seem quite overwhelming, especially if you are not sure what a serving is and if you are getting enough.

A serving of fruit is about 150g of fruit, which equals:

  • 1 medium whole fruit: apple, banana, orange, peach, pear (about the size of a tennis ball)
  • 2 small whole fruits: kiwis, plums, apricots
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit without any additional sugar.
  • 30g of dried fruits

A serving of vegetables is about 75g of vegetables, which equals:

  • ½ cup of cooked green or orange vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, or carrots.
  • ½ cup cooked or canned beans or other legumes
  • 1 cup raw vegetables
  • ½ of a medium size starchy vegetable, such as a potato or cassava
  • 1 whole tomato

Tips for Getting More Fruit & Vegetables into Your Diet

Not sure how to get in all those servings? Here are some helpful tips for those of us who want to eat healthier by adding more fruits and vegetables to their diets.

  1. Eat fruit as your primary go-to snack. An apple, pear, banana, or other whole piece of fruit is easy, portable, and takes no time to prepare.
  2. Choose fruits and vegetables in-season. These fruits and veggies will taste better, cost less, and possibly contain more nutrients than those that are not in season. If you are not sure which fruits or vegetables are currently in season, you can check out this Seasonal Food Guide.
  3. Sneak fruits and veggies into your breakfast. Sometimes we tend to rely on traditional breakfast foods such as cereals or breads for breakfast. But, breakfast is a great time to add in some additional fruit and vegetables. Top your cereal with colourful berries or make an omelette with a variety of your favourite vegetables. It is easy to get in a serving or two before your day even begins!
  4. Sneak veggies into your favourite meals. Love pizza or sandwiches? These are great places to add a few servings of vegetables. Don’t just add meat or cheese to the pizza, get creative and top the pizza with peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, olives, or any vegetable of your choice. Add spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, avocados, or any other favourite veggies to a sandwich. Vegetables will make your favourite foods more nutritious and more filling.
  5. Learn to love soup. Vegetable soup is a great way to add a ton of vegetables to your diet and is easy to prepare. You can even freeze some of the leftovers for later. Try one of my favourite soup recipes.

Be sure to check back regularly for even more delicious recipes with tons of fruits and vegetables.

The Truth About Garcinia Cambogia

garcinia cambogiaGarcinia cambogia is the latest weight loss supplement in a line of many that have taken the internet by storm, initially promoted by Dr. Oz, a United States television personality. It seems like almost every website you visit has an ad for the latest garcinia supplement claiming miraculous results with little effort. But, what is this “miracle” fruit and will it actually work for weight loss?

Garcinia gummi-gutta, the scientific name for garcinia cambogia, is a tropical, yellow colored fruit from Indonesia. It is about the size of a small pumpkin. It is traditionally used for cooking and to make curry in many Southeast Asian countries. In Ayruvedic medicine, it is believed to be healing to the digestive system. Initially there were many animal studies that suggest that HCA may cause weight loss, but generally only with very high doses. Therefore, researchers decided to look deeper into the potential of this fruit to help promote weight loss in humans.

Garcinia and Weight Loss

In 2011, a small meta-analysis of was conducted on the effects of Garcinia combogia as a weight loss supplement. The slimming ingredient in Garcina is called hydroxitric acid (HCA). HCA is found in many plants native to Southeast Asia. It is believed to inhibit appetite and reduce carbohydrate metabolism.  This particular meta-analysis of the effects of HCA did find that those who took HCA lost more weight than a placebo. But, the study found that those who took HCA reported more digestive problems while taking the supplement, although few other adverse effects were reported. Also, all the studies included in the meta-analysis had methodological weaknesses and were not considered to be “strong” research studies, which are needed to make conclusive results for the efficacy of any supplement. The overall weight loss experienced by the participants was small and therefore the researchers suggest that more information is needed on the effects and optimal dosage of HCA. Within their analysis, the largest study they looked at found no significant difference in weight loss between those who used HCA and those who didn’t.

Another 2011 meta-analysis found similar conflicting results. There are some studies that do show that garcina cambogia’s active ingredient HCA may result in moderate weight loss, none of the studies show consistent outcomes. Many studies have small sample size and are short-term, usually less than 12 weeks long. There is also no long-term follow-up with the participants to see if they were able to keep the weight off long-term.

Should you take garcinia combogia?

As with any supplement, you should proceed with caution. The current research is not strong enough to conclude that garcinia or HCA will definitively help you lose weight. It will likely not give you the rapid results you are looking for in terms of weight loss and there is nothing in the research to support that it could be a quick fix. Although it has also not shown any significant or dangerous side effect from taking the supplement, caution should still be used. If you want to try a garcinia supplement ask your doctor first, as they are most familiar with your medical history and can discuss any concerns they might have with you. Also, be wary of where you purchase the supplement as many online dealers can be selling a placebo which contains no HCA at all. Overall, it is probably best to wait for more research to determine if HCA is effective at all for weight loss since long-term side effects are virtually unknown.

And always remember, if it sounds too good to be true – it probably is.  See one of our dietitians for assistance with achieving your goals in a sensible and sustainable way. You deserve a new life through good nutrition!


Juice: Health food or junk food?

Often people suggest that instead of softdrink, they will have a juice. I’ll put it out there – I hate juice. It provides a false sense of security as it comes from something healthy like fruit. However, when you look at how many teaspoons of sugar a juice has, you may think again!

A freshly squeezed medium sized fruit juice typically contains around 11 teaspoons of sugar, and while it may be natural and not refined cane sugar, ultimately, it’s still sugar with none of the fibre you’d get from eating the whole fruit. I always like to think about how many oranges you would need to juice to get a glass of juice – would you eat that many oranges in one sitting? I would say probably not!

Juice teaspoon sugar

Just as a side note, the type of juice we are talking about here, is not your popular juice bar smoothies.   Smoothies from these shops can have up to 30 teaspoons of sugar in a serve!! (eeek!) That is astounding – especially considering they are marketed as a healthy product!  The worst of these are those that are based on frozen yoghurt, sorbet, fruit concentrates and syrups.

If you choose to buy a juice, get one which is freshly squeezed, stick to a small size and combine the fruit with even more vegetables.  If you must buy supermarket juice, choose those that have no added sugar and include the pulp – however keep you serve to 1/4 of a glass and dilute it with lots of water!

Another even better alternative, why not make your own Green Smoothie at home!  For information about Green Smoothies head to my blog post all about them here.