March is National Nutrition Month and this post is going to be about fruits, vegetables and gardening. As most of you know, many American children (and adults) do not consume enough vegetables and fruits. Many times, my role as a dietitian is to merely encourage your children to add produce to an otherwise healthy dietary intake. The benefits of eating fruits and vegetables are many. They are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (compounds that act as antioxidants, prebiotics, anti-inflammatory agents, etc. that are known to prevent cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases) and low in calories. Suggesting to your child that they “eat a rainbow” every week is a fun way to encourage them to eat their fruits and vegetables.
Below is a great easy salsa recipe, some ideas to make fruit and vegetable eating easy and delicious and a fun way to plant a Salsa Garden.
Have fun eating your fruits and veggies!!
LaurieAnn Scher, MS, RD
• Peppers about 4 chopped
• Tomatoes 5-6 chopped
• Cilantro – 1 bunch chopped
• Scallions – 4 chopped
• 1 can no salt added tomato sauce
• 1 avocado – cubed
• Offer cut up veggies with a yogurt dip, low fat dressing or hummus.
• Offer cut up fruit with a dip made from yogurt or peanut, soy, almond or cashew butter.
• Serve vegetables as a stir-fry. Start with vegetables that everyone likes and add others as the stir fry becomes a favorite.
• Let children choose which fruits and vegetables to serve and how to incorporate them into their favorite meals. Remember to serve fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack to increase nutrients and variety.
• Make fruits and vegetables fun. Try dressing up sandwiches with faces and smiles made from fruits and vegetables.
• Give vegetables different names. Whether they are called ‘power peas’, ‘dinosaur trees’ (broccoli and cauliflower) or ‘X-ray Vision Carrots’, giving a food a fun name makes it more fun to eat.
• Roast vegetables. Cut vegetables into bite size pieces, toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 350° for about a half hour and you have delicious golden vegetables that kids (and adults) will eat. Start with carrots, green beans or broccoli.
• Serve peas, corn, berries, cherries or peach slices still slightly frozen for a unique taste, texture and temperature experience.
• Freeze washed grapes and serve straight from the freezer.
• Stuff celery with low fat ricotta cheese or peanut butter and sprinkle with crushed nuts, seeds or pieces of dried fruit.
When the weather starts to get warm, it’s time to create some fun for everyone. How about a fun, family friendly activity that teaches about healthy nutrition as well? Try planting a Salsa Garden!
Planting a Salsa Garden is easy, fun, and great for even the novice gardener. Hot peppers love warm sun as do tomatoes. Add some cilantro, and scallions and you’ve got all the fixin’s you’ll need for excellent Salsa throughout the season. Make sure to select an area of your yard that will get 6 – 8 hours of sunlight.
Here are a few varieties of peppers you might like to try:
Your choices should be made based on your family’s preferences; you might want to plant more than one type of Pepper based on different taste preferences. Select from the above and you will be sure to make everyone happy.
Tomatoes that are meaty with great flavor and not too juicy are the best for salsa. This means that paste tomatoes are often a good choice.
Try these tomato varieties for great results:
I can make this even easier for you, how about a plan? This plan is based on a 3’x6’ planter bed. Make sure to support your tomatoes, and stake your peppers. I’m going to throw in a few extra herbs for you since you have enough space, and fresh herbs make everything better!
If your bed is up against a wall, put the tomatoes at the back and wire up the wall as a trellis, if you can walk around the bed, put the tomatoes in the middle. This plan shows the tomato plants in the middle. The onions are green onions (scallions)
3 Basil | 9 Onions | 1 Pepper | 9 Onions | 1 Pepper | 3 Basil
3 Parsley | 1 Tomato | 1 Tomato | 1 Tomatillo | 1 Tomato
9 Cilantro| 1 Pepper | 9 Onions | 1 Pepper | 9 Onions | 9 Cilantro
Make sure to fertilize and water regularly. If you live in a home or condo with little or no soil available or you don’t want to dig out a large plot, you can do a small potted garden with 1 Roma tomato plant, 1 pepper plant of choice, some scallions, some cilantro, some basil and a tomatillo plant if you like green salsa.