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Add more fruit, veggies to diet

The other day I was giving a presentation to a group consisting mainly of businessmen.

The other day I was giving a presentation to a group consisting mainly of businessmen. I asked them a few questions about nutrition and fitness to get an idea of their general awareness of current recommendations.

"How many minutes of moderate physical activity should adults try to get five or more days a week for overall health?" I asked.

Almost in unison, they said the correct answer: "30 minutes."

"How many cups of milk or other dairy products are recommended for adults?"

Their answers varied on this one, but the general consensus was "2 cups."

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Unfortunately, it wasn't the right answer.

"Most people need at least

3 cups of milk or the equivalent in calcium daily," I explained.

We talked a little bit about men and osteoporosis and the need for calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones, regardless of gender.

"What is the recommendation, in cups, for fruits and vegetables per day?" I asked.

I was greeted by silence, then someone volunteered, perhaps a bit hopefully, "2 cups."

"The current recommendation is quite a bit higher than that. For most of you, the average recommendation would be in the neighborhood of 5 total cups of fruits and veggies per day," I replied. They almost gasped.

"I'm not hitting that!" one man said, throwing up his hands.

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The others chuckled in agreement.

"Start with a small goal and aim for lots of variety. You can find your personal recommendation by going online to www.mypyramid.gov and entering your physical activity and age information," I encouraged.

Many people fall short of the current fruit and vegetable recommendations, despite the role these colorful foods play in helping prevent cancer and heart disease. Explore the wide range of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables at peak quality during the summer.

Recently, the North Dakota Department of Health sponsored a "Get Smart North Dakota! Fruits and Veggies - More Matters Tip Contest." These are some of the winning tips from North Dakotans:

- Maria R. of Napoleon begins shopping in the produce section and chooses a variety of fruits and vegetables in season and on sale.

- Rita L. of McVille serves apples with popcorn. She finds that the refreshing apples replace the soda that many people drink while eating popcorn.

- Ann F. of Bismarck makes fruit smoothies for her kids. To make sure that fruit is on hand and ready to use, she buys or picks blueberries and strawberries fresh in the summer and freezes them in convenient 1-cup packages.

- Lisa D. of Cogswell keeps her refrigerator snack drawer stocked with 100 percent juice boxes, apples, oranges and peeled carrots.

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- Amy E. of Fargo balances family dinners by serving fruits and vegetables with each meal.

- Denise B. of Parshall sets out a bowl of cut-up apples, peeled oranges, grapes or carrots when her family is home. She also packs these foods on ice in an insulated cooler when the family is out boating in the summer.

- Shana H. of Fargo encourages folks to try shopping at a local farmers market or joining a community-supported agriculture venture. She gets weekly shipments of vegetables at harvest time.

Easy Veggie Dip

1 cup nonfat cottage cheese

1 tbsp. onion, chopped very fine

1/4 tsp. salt (or seasoned salt) - optional

1/4 to 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. parsley flakes

Measure cottage cheese and place in a bowl or blender. Beat with a fork, mixer or in a blender until cottage cheese is smooth. Add the other ingredients and mix. Store in the refrigerator for at least one hour to allow flavors to blend.

Serve with carrots, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower or green peppers.

Makes eight servings, 2 tablespoons per serving. A serving has 20 calories, 0 grams (g) of fat, 1 g of carbohydrate and 4 g of protein.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences

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