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Easy ways to eat your 5 a day

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If you read the story on veggie chips, you know they don't qualify as a serving of vegetables. Those who are wondering about other ways to get their "five a day" of fruits and vegetables can watch local chef demonstrations Sept. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Gallivan Center, 50 E. 200 South. Chefs Thomas Ryan of the Grand America Hotel, Matt Anderson of Absolute!, Scott Blackerby of Bambara and Thomas Satterfield of the Delta Center will cook up tasty fruit and vegetable recipes for the public to sample.

The event is free, said Christine Krstic, a dietitian with the 5 A Day organization. Those who come will get a booklet of the recipes and will be eligible for a prize drawing of gift certificates from the participating restaurants.

In the past few years, diet messages seem to conflict with each other — low-fat, high-protein, "sugar-buster," low-carbohydrate and so on. But through it all, the value of eating more fruits and vegetables has remained constant. Krstic says over 100 studies from decades of research have shown that about 35 percent of all cancers may be related to diet, and five or more servings of fruits or vegetables a day may help reduce the risk.

The 5 A Day program is a joint effort of many public and private partners, including the National Cancer Institute, the Produce for Better Health Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some tips for increasing your fruit and veggie intake:

5 a Day in 5 Minutes a Day: Carry small boxes of raisins in your glove compartment for snacking. Cook veggie-packed meals on the weekend and freeze the leftovers for weekday dinners. Take advantage of ready-peeled carrots and salads-in-a-bag. Stock up on frozen vegetables to throw in the microwave.

5 a Day on $5 a Day: Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables often cost less. In-season produce is usually less expensive —and also fresher. If you buy more than you can use, freeze it before it goes bad. For peaches or nectarines, place them in boiling water for a minute. Take them out, and the skin will come right off. Remove the pit, cut the fruit in sections, freeze on cookie sheets and place in storage containers or plastic freezer bags. With berries, all you have to do is wash, freeze and store the same way.

Find a "U-Pick" orchard and bring your family to pick cherries, apples, peaches and so on. Home-can the fruit, with everyone pitching in assembly-line style.

5 a Day with 5 Kids a Day: Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. Teach your children to choose 100 percent fruit juice instead of fruit-flavored drinks. Tuck banana slices into peanut butter sandwiches. Set out carrot and celery sticks after school. Make a veggie pizza for dinner. Put fresh fruit on frozen yogurt.

5 a Day at 5 Locations a Day: At restaurants, ask to substitute fresh fruit such as an orange or apple for greasy french fries, or a light salad instead of onion rings. Smoothie/juice bars are a portable option, and you can get a sandwich topped with lots of veggies (Subway sandwich shops are endorsed by the 5 A Day program, but be sure to pile on the veggies instead of just ordering cheese and meat).

5 a Day for 5 Senses a Day: Tune in to the vibrant colors, different flavors and textures, and crunchy sounds. Enjoy the aroma of freshly baked breads made with leftover produce. Banana bread is a great way to use overripe bananas. Or try using oranges or cranberries, or zucchini.

For more tips, check out the 5 A Day Web site at www.5aday.gov.


E-mail: vphillips@desnews.com