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Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake

Whether or not my clients are trying to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol or strengthen their immune system, I’m always trying to increase fruit and vegetable intake. I like to remind them that what’s on their plates should be colorful at every meal. If they’re just looking at earth tones, there is something missing. A multitude of colors on a plate is the key to healthy eating because fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, minerals and vitamins. And the bright pigments in the red, yellow, orange, and blue tints confer incredible health benefits.
Image of winter squash
Tomatoes, Winter Squash, Spinach and other leafy greens are excellent sources of fat-soluble vitamins, which means they are stored by the body. (Water-soluble vitamins on the other hand, such as Vitamin C and B are not stored by the body and need to be replenished throughout the day.)

The carotenoid veggies (identified by their typical orange-yellow color) are perhaps best known for their ability to be converted to vitamin A, a powerful antiaging ally. Essential for healthy vision, vitamin A plays many roles in maintaining youthful body tissue. It boosts immune system function, provides protection from sunburn, and inhibits the development of certain types of cancers. Vitamin A is also involved in the formation and maintenance of healthy skin and hair.

Though preformed vitamin A is available from sources such as meat, liver, and eggs, there are many reasons to limit our intake of animal products related to their high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol. In addition, excess intake of vitamin A from supplements can be harmful.

Another way to get your vitamin A is from the form found in plant foods. The orange pigments called carotenoids in a carrot, for example, convert to vitamin A in the body. Carrots, Winter Squash, Pumpkin, Mangoes, Red Bell Pepper, and Sweet Potatoes all offer scrumptious ways to kick up your Vitamin A intake.

The markets are now loaded with fiery squashes and pumpkins so it’s a great time to enjoy them in their splendor. One of my favorites is the oblong Delicata Squash. With pale yellow skin and green markings they weigh around a pound each. When peeled and seeded a 1 pound Delicata squash will yield about 2 cups diced. It can be roast, baked or steamed.

Quinoa with Delicata Squash and Medjool Dates
Makes 8 (1-cup) servings
Image of Quinoa with Delicata Squash and Medjool Dates
2 tablespoons Medjool Dates (about 2 dates, pitted), finely chopped
2 tablespoons Walnuts, chopped and toasted
2 tablespoons Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, grated
1 tablespoon or ½ teaspoon Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Lemon Zest, grated
2 Delicata Squash, (about 1 pound each) peeled, seeded and diced (yield = 4 cups)
4 large Shallots, peeled, ends trimmed and slivered lengthwise
2 teaspoons Olive or Grapeseed oil
2½ cups Fat-Free, Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
½ teaspoon Salt (optional)
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 package Melissa’s Quinoa (1¼ cups Dry Quinoa) rinsed well (reserve seasoning packet for another use )
2 tablespoons Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Combine the dates, walnuts, cheese, parsley, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Combine the squash, shallots and oil in a medium bowl and toss well. Transfer to a baking sheet. Salt if desired. Roast for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the squash just starts to brown but is still holding its shape

Combine the broth, salt (if using), cumin, and cinnamon in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Add the couscous. Stir to coat, cover, and simmer, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until broth is almost absorbed.. When the quinoa is cooked, add the roasted vegetables and date mixture and toss gently to combine. Garnish with the cilantro. Serve hot.

Nutritional information (per serving):
Calories 170
Fat calories 45
Total fat 5g
Sat fat < 1g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 330mg
Total carbohydrates 26g
Fiber 2g
Sugars 3g
Protein 6g
Vitamin A IUs 90%
Vitamin C 15%
Calcium 6%
Iron 15%

If Delicata squash is not available, you can substitute your favorite hard squash in its place.
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