NEWS | Aug. 23, 2010

HAWC challenge encourages consumption of fruits, vegetables

By Robert Goetz 502nd Air Base Wing OL-B Public Affairs

Eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day is not easy for many people, especially those accustomed to a fast-food diet, but a challenge the Randolph Health and Wellness Center will sponsor in September aims to show participants it's not so difficult.

A four-week event open to all members of the base community, from dependents age 5 and older to retirees, the Fruits and Veggies-More Matters Challenge is designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption to minimum levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The whole premise of this campaign is to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables," said Jennifer Sides, 359th Aerospace-Medicine Squadron health and wellness dietitian. "Each week the participants will track the amount of fruits and vegetables they've eaten and turn in the log weekly."

In addition to its health benefits, the challenge, which runs from Sept. 1-30, gives participants multiple chances to win prizes each week by turning in their weekly logs, completing bonus activities and meeting the CDC's recommendations each day. A final drawing is planned for those who turn in all four weeks' worth of logs.

The CDC recommendations vary by age, gender and activity level, Ms. Sides said. Women in the 19- to 30-year-old age group, for example, should eat 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables while 31- to 50-year-old women should consume 1½ cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables. Men between 19 and 50 years old should eat 2 cups of fruits and 3 cups of vegetables each day while those over 50 should consume 2 cups of fruits and 2½ cups of vegetables. All recommendations for age, gender and activity level can be found by visiting www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.

Ms. Sides said eating a variety of fruits and vegetables every day contributes to good health.

"Fruits and vegetables are important because they contain substances that prevent chronic diseases," she said. "They also help with weight management and are high in fiber. It's a good idea to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables."

One large orange, one large ear of corn and one large sweet potato are examples of what constitutes a cup while 16 grapes, six baby carrots and four large strawberries each count as a half-cup.

Ms. Sides said she recommends that people eat fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, especially bright colors. The CDC lists green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon and white onions as examples.

The CDC also recommends ways people can easily add more fruits and vegetables to their diet. These suggestions include adding fruit to cereal at breakfast, eating a piece of fruit (such as an apple) as a snack, eating a big salad at lunch, choosing raw vegetables as an afternoon snack and having two vegetables with dinner and fruit for dessert.

People who wish to enter the challenge may register online at www.surveymonkey.com/s/FK9HBF8 or in-person at the HAWC by Monday. Weekly logs and information on optional activities will be e-mailed to participants or to parents and guardians of those under 17 years old; copies may also be picked up at the HAWC. Participants may turn in paper copies of their logs or enter them electronically by the specified time.

Call Ms. Sides at 652-3644 or e-mail her at jennifer.sides.ctr@randolph.af.mil for more information.