Creatures of Habit
By Mark Mulcahy
I’m working in Williamstown, Massachusetts as an Interim General Manager to help get a store get ready for their new General Manager, who will start in October. This has given me an up-close view of how customers shop for produce, and also revealed some of my own shopping patterns. It seems that on busy days when I shop late after work, I fall into what I call the grab-n-go shopping mode.
I grab a bag of organic romaine hearts, some organic cherry tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers, and something to steam up like organic broccoli or chard. Then, I move on to whatever fruit looks good at the moment. Most likely, a melon or a package of berries to get through the next several days. While this is keeping fruits and veggies in my diet, it’s certainly not helping me keep up with the recommended amount to live the healthiest life possible (five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day). We’ve all been told the benefits of eating plenty of vegetables and fruit, such as, it can help reduce the risk of heart disease, control blood pressure, and has even been shown to help prevent several types of cancer.
Farmers markets have grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and Melissa’s organic produce can be found nearly everywhere you look. Plus, during COVID, produce sales are through the roof in many parts of the country.
So why do the latest statistics on fruit and vegetable consumption show that the average American eats a total of just three servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Is it my grab-n-go mentality? Or, could it be that many folks feel preparing fruit or vegetables is too hard or time consuming, or it could also be that we think that five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day is a lot to consume?
Maybe, it's a little bit of all three!
Perhaps, if we look at it differently it might make eating the produce we need a little easier. This recommended serving breaks down to about 2½ to 6½ cups per day. And for a person who needs 2,000 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight and diet, this breaks down to only nine servings, or 4½ cups per day (2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables). If you go and look at a measuring cup, you’ll see that a cup is very little in actual quantity and eating your daily amount won’t seem so daunting. Another way to look at it is to break it down into how many Melissa’s organic carrots or grapes you need to eat to make a serving.
Here are some typical serving sizes for fruits and vegetables:
One-half cup of orange or other fruit juice
Five broccoli florets
Ten baby carrots
One Roma tomato
3/4-cup tomato juice
3/4-cup vegetable juice
Half of a baked sweet potato
One ear of corn
Four slices of an onion
When you look at it this way, if you had a banana and a cup of OJ with your cereal, a handful of grapes for a morning snack, some sliced organic tomato and onion, and a leaf of lettuce on your turkey and cheese sandwich, an apple or kiwi for an afternoon snack, and five broccoli florets and ten baby carrots when making dinner, you would have eaten what you needed for the day. If you make even a basic dinner salad with a couple of cups of Melissa’s organic romaine lettuce, 5 or 6 slices of cucumber and 3 or 4 rings of red pepper, you’ve got your veggies covered for the day.
Heck, a vegetable omelet with ½ cup of sliced organic mushrooms, ½ cup of green pepper, ½ cup of chopped onions could make up almost ½ of your day’s needs. It doesn’t seem so monumental this way, does it?
Of course, it would be great if we would eat more than the daily recommendation, but if you are eating little or none, this is a good place to start. And, once you get started, you’ll see that Melissa’s organic produce can be a pretty nice addition to just about any meal or snack routine.
Tips to help make eating produce easier
Ask your produce person what’s fresh and in season. Afterall, that is usually when produce is at its best flavor and best price. For example, melons are really tasty right now, as are autumn favorites like organic Fuji apples and pears.
Keep fruit out where you can see it. That way you'll be more likely to eat it. Keep it out on the counter or in the front of the fridge. When I’m home in the office, I place 5 or 6 pieces of fruit on the counter that I will walk by the most during the day, and guess what? I do eat more fruit this way. I’ve started doing the same at work.
Have some already cut up. If your carrots are ready to eat and your orange is already quartered, you will be more apt to choose them for a healthy lunch companion or snack.
Every meal, every day. Try filling half your plate with vegetables or fruit at each meal. It may seem odd at first, but eating big salads with lots of veggies, or a stir-fry or fruit salad, makes it easier to do every day.
Get to know your produce manager. Ask them to help choose something new from Melissa's seasonal lineup of great produce. It’s easy to stick with the same old thing each time you shop (like I was doing) but that is also what could be what’s so uninspiring for lunch or dinner. It is said that variety is the key to a healthy diet, so your produce manager opens the door for you to try some new fruits and vegetables each shopping visit.
Make a cooking night for yourself. If you are making dinner anyway, cook up some extra sweet potatoes, they are wonderful cold or warmed for lunch. Make up a batch of coleslaw for a few days’ worth, or have lettuce and carrots ready to go in a Tupperware bin. If you are feeling adventurous, make a pot of soup with lots of your favorite vegetables to get you through the week.
Set a good example. If you do this, you’ll soon see others following suit. Afterall, we all like things to be easy, so the easier we make it to eat well the more we will. I now have apples or seasonal fruit at my office desk in Williamstown, and whenever the afternoon lull sets in, I cut slices for the team (with gloves of course). I put on my mask and pass them around the office. Not surprisingly, the office perks up and the afternoon goes a little smoother.
I hope you have a wonderful autumn filled with lots of wonderful produce.