HEALTH & NUTRITION: Fruits and Vegetables: The Original Fast Food

By SUSAN LEDNICKY

Fast foods are convenient, easy and always available. Big Macs, stuffed pitas, tacos, and pan pizzas tempt our taste buds and quell hunger pangs, but are these types of foods the only fast food choices? The answer is “NO.”

The original fast food has been available for thousands of years! I’m not talking about the Brontosaurus Burgers of Fred Flintstone. I’m talking about good old fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables fulfill all the requirements of the common fast food. They are quick, convenient, easy to prepare, flavorful, and filling. They are biodegradable, so they won’t harm the environment. But the greatest part about fruits and vegetables is that they are packed with healthful nutrients that do a lot more than just fill you up.

Foods in the fruit and vegetable groups are valuable for their contribution of energy-giving carbohydrates, dietary fiber, water and significant amounts of vitamins and minerals. There are naturally-occurring components in fruits and vegetables, called phytochemicals, which may have a beneficial effect on health by preventing cancer and other diseases. Due to their high dietary fiber and water content, most fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories. Fruits and vegetables eaten raw help clean teeth and promote good dental health. Best of all, fruits and vegetables contain no cholesterol. It is recommended that Americans make half their plate fruits and vegetables.

Most fast food restaurants now offer some fresh vegetables and fruits on salad bars or as sides. Intelligent choices from these items can give you everything you need for a healthful diet without all the calories and fat. If you really want a fast food burger, bring along some crunchy baby carrots or some cool, juicy grapes to eat instead of spending money on salty, greasy French fries. Extend the enjoyment by drinking fresh fruit or vegetable juice instead of a soda pop.

Take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables. Their bright color, vibrant flavor and variety in texture complement any meal. Best of all, fruits and vegetables are nutritious, make easy snacks and desserts, and cost less than the typical fast food fare. Try getting all that from the super value, ultimate grande meal!

Susan Lednicky is a Nutritionist with Clark County Cooperative Extension. Contact lednickys@unce.unr.edu or 702-257-5548.

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