Rainbow on Your Plate: Why it’s important to eat healthy and colorful food
The more colors of fruits and vegetables you eat, the happier your body will be. Why? Many compounds in fruits and vegetables that boost our immune systems, keep our memories sharp and help our vision stay strong are tied to or may actually be the compounds that provide the color. So the more colors you get the more protection you have. Also, different fruits and vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals. No one has them all. Eating a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables helps you get all of them. And getting your vitamins and minerals from real foods, instead of pills, means that your body will usually absorb and use them better.
Also—think about the MyPlate logo (www.choosemyplate.gov) that children in schools are often shown. Vegetables are green, fruits are red, grains are orange, proteins are purple and dairy is blue. Eating from all the food groups ensures that your body will get the full range of nutrients it needs.
Short step-by-step vegetable/fruit preparation for lunch boxes:
Step 1 – Wash! Wash your hands. Wash the fruit or vegetable and wipe it dry with a clean paper towel. No special cleaner is necessary for the produce, just clean running water. Rub it well, down in any crevices too, then wipe it dry. This will remove most bacteria that might be hiding on the surface.
Step 2 – Slice, dice, peel or prepare the fruit or vegetables however you want. For small children use sizes that won’t be a choking hazard and that are small enough for little fingers to handle easily.
Step 3 – Package them in individual serving sizes in clean containers.
Step 4 – Refrigerate. This is important! Once fruit or vegetables have been cut they should not be at room temperature for more than 2 hours max. The cutting or peeling has opened up the insides and left juices out. Those juices are great places for bacteria to grow. So they must be kept cold to stop the growth.
Step 5 – Pack the lunch with an ice pack, a frozen bottle of water or juice or other way to keep the prepared food cold until it is eaten.
YOGURT DIP FOR FRUIT
8 ounces (1 cup) plain low-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey (or brown sugar)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon, or ½ teaspoon ground ginger, or ½ teaspoon curry powder
Mix together, adjust sweetness if desired and serve with fruit slices. Or, put cubes of fruit on short kebab skewers or toothpicks and dip in the sauce.