Cooking a Thanksgiving Turkey for the First Time

As the end of the year approaches, holidays are on the mind! And of course first thing that everyone associates with holidays is food.  I am focusing on Thanksgiving. And for those of you who are cooking, many questions may come to mind. What types of food should I consider making this year? Should it be healthy or should it be festive? How much food do I prepare? This time of year can be very overwhelming. Have no fear; this blog is here to help!

No matter if you’re going to your future in-laws house for the first time, hosting the holiday event yourself, or perhaps you are invited to a new tradition “friendsgiving,” this blog will show you a first-hand experience at cooking that beautiful Thanksgiving bird.

Typically, we associate Thanksgiving with turkey, dressing, potatoes, and fresh roasted corn. Well that is if you’re from Memphis. Our friends in northern states prepare turkey with stuffing. According to an article written by the Smithsonian, turkey was not actually the centerpiece of what we all think Thanksgiving is about. Instead pigeons may have been offered among the first people. Wild game such as water fowl and deer were also the main meat sources. The birds were probably not stuffed with bread either, instead corn was in abundance and often used.

I decided to make my very own, and first, Thanksgiving turkey this year and document every step along the way. The first thing I did was find a delicious recipe that I thought would be a crowd pleaser as well as something easy to manage on my first attempt. The second thing I had to do was decide if I would buy a frozen or fresh turkey. The convenience of buying a fresh turkey is that it could be bought as late as the day of Thanksgiving with no defrosting required. However, I could save nearly half the cost by purchasing frozen. For this experience, I decided to buy a frozen turkey. If you’re like me and never shopped for a whole turkey before it can be quite overwhelming staring at multiple types, brands, and sizes of turkeys not knowing which one to choose. Since I’m on a budget, I decided to go with the Kroger special which was $.79 per pound. Being a late shopper, the only problem was most of the turkeys left were enormous. I purchased a 15 pounder and was ready to take it home and let it thaw in the refrigerator.

Feeling quite satisfied with myself, I gazed upon what I thought was going to be a fantastic turkey when I realized I had nothing to cook it in and my happy holiday bubble, at that moment, was popped! I ran out to the dollar store and I bought an aluminum foil bottom for the chore. My girlfriend came up with a brilliant plan of rolling aluminum foil to create a rack that the turkey could sit on without being submerged in the pan.

The recipe required the turkey to be defrosted, cleaned out, and stuffed with seasonings before being set in the refrigerator for a day before cooking. Since I bought the turkey with only two days to spare, I did not have the time to follow the full instructions. In a sweat, I began a quicker defrosting method by placing the turkey in a large pan of cold water and flipping it after half an hour. Once an hour of cold bath was complete, I pulled out the giblet bag and neck which I saved for use in making the gravy. I dried the turkey off and seasoned the outside with a little salt and pepper. Next, six whole cloves of garlic were placed inside the turkey with an onion peeled and quartered. The herbs added included sage, rosemary, and bay leaves. Last, I zested the top of the turkey with fresh lemon and wrapped it in foil to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

The next step was to wake up (at 6am, Thanksgiving Trooper) and pull the turkey out of the refrigerator. The directions indicated to let it sit out at room temperature for an hour before transferring to the baking pan. A friend of mine mentioned coring a Granny Smith apple and stuffing it inside with an onion chopped in fourths and the lemon chopped in fourths. Getting to business, I broke the tabs off the plastic rings that held the turkey legs in place. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but apparently I was supposed to gently pull each leg out to allow the stuffing of the bird and then place it back on so the stuffing remains secure inside. As you see in the photo, no problems with the pieces I inserted! The legs also came out golden all over. I chopped up the rest of the onions and poured the bottle of apple cider into the pan then moved the turkey onto the pan. Being a semi-unprepared novice, I had no basting utensil. However, I did have a small ladle which proved perfect for pouring the liquid over the top of the turkey before placing it in the oven for 30 minutes at 450° uncovered.

Baking the turkey was a breeze. During my initial recipe search, I found another site online that directed cooking the turkey at 350° for 15 minutes per pound covered with foil. My plan was coming together nicely. Once, the 30 minutes of foil-less baking was complete, I pulled the turkey out and let the oven reach the desired temperature while I poured the liquid back on top and set a timer for 30 minutes. From then on, in 30 minute intervals, I would open the oven and baste the bird. The house smelled amazing. The turkey was coming along great and my fingers were crossed that it would turn out a delicious, moist centerpiece at lunch. Through the entire process, my main fear was showing up to lunch with 15 pounds of dry meat.

The total bake time was approximately 4 hours. Using my meat thermometer, it reached the safe zone of 165° and was ready to be loaded up and carted off to Thanksgiving lunch!


-Michael Muchmore

Thanks for reading. If you have any questions or comments please email me at


Happy & Healthy Holidays

Holidays are full of excitement, festivities, and delicious foods. Many are excited to share holiday themed meals with their families and friends. With Thanksgiving (and now, even Friendsgiving), Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s falling right after one another, it makes it easy to indulge into all the favorites—such as pie, apple cider, stuffing, and casseroles, to name a few! To prevent excessive eating and weight gain, here are a few tips to healthy eating during this wonderful time!

One of the best methods to avoid overeating is by using a smaller plate. Smaller plates call for smaller portions, teaching portion control and moderation. Since a smaller plate fits less food, naturally, while standing in the buffet line, we are more likely to visualize and plan what all we want to make space for on our plates. Although, always plan, no matter the size of the plate! With this, another tip would be to include for more vegetables and fruits, offering satiety, but with better nutritional benefits!

Eat slowly—chew and really enjoy the taste of every bite! By eating slowly, it allows our bodies to feel fuller and can prevent us from wanting to go back for seconds. Remember, it takes about 20 minutes for our brains to know that our stomachs are full. Do not be scared to be the last one sitting at the table. In addition, engaging into conversation and enjoying your company are two great methods to eating more slowly.


As the variety of foods during the holiday season is vast, sometimes knowing which foods are better choices than others can be hard. Do not let the aroma and the presentation of the food be the decision factor, instead take a look at the chart below and use it to plan the best plate! Green light foods indicate the foods that are great to consume more of, while the yellow light foods are those that are better to less often. Holiday treats do not have to be avoided, so you do not have to think of foods as red light foods, as long as they are consumed in moderation!

Green Light Yellow Light
Turkey breast Beef prime rib
Chicken breast Pie
Tossed salad Cake
Steamed vegetables Stuffing
Fruit Casseroles
Plain rice Gravy
Fruit Infused Water High calorie and high sugar beverages

Some other tips to a successful and healthy holiday season include:

  1. Do not come with an empty stomach. Skipping either breakfast or lunch can cause overeating and weight gain. Our bodies need fuel, so just because it is a holiday, treat it like any other day, and eat on a regular schedule!
  2. BYOD: Bring Your Own Dish. As you may be invited somewhere for the holidays, offer the host to bring your own dish, and make it healthy! The host will be thrilled that you are willing to help. If the gathering is at your place, feel free to cook with leaner meats, vegetables, fresh herbs, and less butter. There are many delicious and easy adjustments that can be made to typical holiday recipes.
  3. Once full, leave the table! Pace yourself, eat slowly, and enjoy the company, but once you are done eating, do not stay at the dinner table. This prevents thoughts and habits of eating, although not hungry, to arise!
  4. Start a tradition that gets you, your family, and your friends active. How does a flag football game sound? If not, there is always running, racquetball, soccer, tag, scavenger hunt, basketball, and dancing.


Enjoy the food, make wise choices, eat in moderation, and you will be great. Happy Holidays!




  1. Taylor Wolfram. Stay Mindful with 4 Tips for Holiday Eating. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016.
  2. The Regents of The University of California. Healthy Eating for the Holidays. University of California. 2005.


Written by Nadine Assaf

University of Memphis Masters Student and Dietetic Intern

December 4, 2017




Apple Cider Vinegar and Type 2 Diabetes By: Vidisha Paranjpe University of Memphis MS Clinical Nutrition/Dietetic Intern

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) has been a staple in households for years. It is used mostly for cooking and cleaning purposes. Recently, ACV has become a trendy product. Claims have emerged that ACV aids weight loss, lowers blood sugar levels, and relieves diabetes symptoms. It is important to assess these claims and see if they are correct.

 BG testing.png

Apple Cider vinegar and Type 2 Diabetes 

  • Diabetes is linked to high blood sugar levels.
    • Insulin is a hormone in our body. Its job is to absorb sugar from our blood and bring it into our cells.
    • Insulin does not work as well in type 2 diabetics.
  • High blood sugar can cause issues such as:
    • Headaches, liver disease, early ageing, eye problems, and digestion issues.
    • It is usually treated with diet, exercise, and medicine.
  • There is some evidence to show that ACV may help lower blood sugars in type 2 diabetics.
  • Research shows that ACV can help increase insulin sensitivity, reduce blood sugar after sugary meals, and slightly reduce fasting blood sugar.


Apple Cider and Weight Loss

 Weight loss can help improve diabetes symptoms.

  • There is some proof that acetic acid (the main factor in ACV) can help people lose weight.
  • Some studies have shown that ACV helps people feel more full, so they eat less overall.
  • There is also evidence that taking 1-2 Tbsp. of ACV per day helps lower belly fat.


How to add it to your diet

 Cooking: add to salad dressings, homemade mayonnaise, marinades, smoothies, or condiments.

  • Add to water: Anywhere as little as 1 teaspoon to up to 2 tablespoon.
  • Pill: Not as effective. May cause throat injury.
  • Tip: For best results use an organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar. Bragg’s is the most popular brand.

apple cider

Side effects

 ACV is safe if consumed in moderation.

  • Some medications might react with apple cider vinegar.
    • Check with your health care provider before taking ACV
  • High doses of ACV may cause your throat to burn.


 ACV has shown to have many health benefits. To get the health benefits from ACV It is vital to still do regular exercise and follow a healthy diet low in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fat. ACV does not “cure diabetes,” but it can possibly help manage blood sugars and weight. More research should be done on this topic.



Johnston CS, Kim CM, Buller AJ. Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2004; 27(1): 281-282.
  1. Brighenti F, et al. Effect of neutralized and native vinegar on blood glucose and acetate responses to a mixed meal in healthy subjects. European journal of clinical nutrition. 1995; 49(4): 242-247.
  2. White AM, Johnston CS. Vinegar ingestion at bedtime moderates waking glucose concentrations in adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2007; 30(11): 2814-2815.
  3. Johnston CS, et al. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2010; 56(1): 74-79.
  4. Liljeberg H, Björck I. Delayed gastric emptying rate may explain improved glycaemia in healthy subjects to a starchy meal with added vinegar. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1998; 52(5): 368-371.
  5. Ebihara K, Nakajima A. Effect of acetic acid and vinegar on blood glucose and insulin responses to orally administered sucrose and starch. Agricultural and biological chemistry. 1988; 52(5): 1311-1312.
  6. Budak NH, et al. “Functional properties of vinegar.” Journal of food science. 2014; 79(5): R757-R764.
  7. Iman M, Seyed AM, Barahoyee A. Effect of apple cider vinegar on blood glucose level in diabetic mice. Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2015; 20: 163.
  8. Sjöström, C. David, et al. “Differentiated long-term effects of intentional weight loss on diabetes and hypertension.” Hypertension 36.1 (2000): 20-25.
  9. Hamman RF, et al. Effect of weight loss with lifestyle intervention on risk of diabetes. Diabetes care. 2006; 29(9): 2102-2107.
  10. Östman E, Granfeldt Y, Persson L, Björck, I. Vinegar supplementation lowers glucose and insulin responses and increases satiety after a bread meal in healthy subjects. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005; 59(9): 983-988.
  11. Kondo T, Kishi M, Fushimi T, Ugajin S, Kaga T. Vinegar intake reduces body weight, body fat mass, and serum triglyceride levels in obese Japanese subjects. Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry. 2009; 73(8): 1837-1843.
  12. Hill LL, et al. Esophageal injury by apple cider vinegar tablets and subsequent evaluation of products. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005; 105(7): 1141-1144.

Natural sugars vs. Added sugars By: Rasha Abounassif University of Memphis, Dietetic Intern

The most common question asked nowadays is “what is the difference between natural sugar and added sugar?” Well, I can definitely say that it is quite a debatable topic. In this week’s blog post, we will be discussing how to distinguish between natural and added sugars, any benefits contributed from sugar intake and healthy tips for reducing sugar intake in your diet.


First of all, what is sugar? Natural sugar is an element in carbohydrates that is naturally found in foods. Carbohydrate foods contain a simple sugar known as glucose. Glucose is essential for the body to be able to produce energy and break it down. Natural sugars are also found in fruits which is known as fructose.2


Added sugars mainly make up sweeteners and processed sugars from the food and beverages that we consume on a daily basis.1 Sucrose is known to be an added sugar since it is a combination of both fructose and glucose. The table below shows the different names of added sugars found at the back of food labels that should be avoided.2


sugar graph


Added sugars tend to increase your calories without meeting your daily nutritional needs. Foods that are high in fat and calories primarily come from added sugars which provide the body with nonessential nutrients and low fiber. It has been recommended to enhance your meals with nutrient-dense foods by incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains while limiting the amount of added sugars.2,3


The American Heart Association have recommends reducing the amount of added sugars to not exceed our daily extra calories for the day. It has been claimed that women should not consume more than 25 grams or 100 calories of added sugars daily. In regards to men, they should not consume more than 36 grams or 150 calories of added sugars daily.2


For many years now, we have been consuming high amounts of sugar in our diets, which is a great precursor to obesity. Decreasing intake of added sugars in your diet will cut down on unnecessary calorie-intake which will help in maintaining weight and a healthier lifestyle by preventing risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. A heart-healthy diet generally involves consuming less than 10% of your calories from added sugar. Following the MyPlate guidelines is a great way to eat a healthy, balanced meal by incorporating the different types of food groups into your diet.3

sugar teaspoon

Tips on how to reduce added sugars in diet:

  1. Drink unsweetened beverages or better yet water
  2. Drink juices that contain 100% fruit juice, as well as, 2% milk or skim milk
  3. Eat fresh fruit in place of desserts, sweets, or chocolate
  4. Eat frozen fruits instead of packaged or canned fruit with additional sugars and syrup


  1. Choose Foods and Beverages with less saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.
  2. American Heart Association: Sugar 101.

Dietary Guidelines 2015 – 2020: Added Sugars.

American Diabetes Month

By Marcy Kaufman, University of Memphis Master’s Clinical Nutrition Intern

November 1st marks the beginning of the National Diabetes Awareness Month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a National Diabetes Statistics report in 2014, stating 29.1 million people in America has diabetes, and approximately 8.1 million of those people are undiagnosed.1 The number of those diagnosed with diabetes has nearly doubled since 2000.2 The CDC also estimates 1 out of 3 adults (nearly 86 million Americans) are living with prediabetes, and ninety percent do not know they have prediabetes.1 Many of you know what diabetes is, but it is always good to have a refresher course. Type 1 diabetes, commonly referred to as juvenile diabetes, is a chronic condition in which the body can no longer produce insulin, and is diagnosed as type 1 if the body has a special autoimmune antibody present in the blood. In type 2 diabetes, the body can produce insulin; however, the cells have built a resistance to the insulin present in the blood and very slowly brings glucose inside.


Although diabetes is a manageable disease, it cost the United States over $245 billion dollars in total medical costs, lost work and wages for those diagnosed with diabetes in 2012.1,3 There is an immense amount of medications and technology endocrinologists and nurse practitioners can prescribe to diabetics, and they are always expanding. Let us first discuss the medications the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved.


In December 2015, Eli Lilly gained approval for their first long-acting insulin, Basaglar. If you have treated those with diabetes, then you might be familiar with other long-acting insulin, such as Levemir and Lantus. Actually, Basaglar is a biosimilar version of Lantus which most consumers would call the generic version. Sanofi has made its own concentrated version of Lantus known as Toujeo, approved by the FDA in February 2015. You may have seen some advertisements on television of this drug recently. Since Toujeo is a concentrated dose of Lantus, a diabetic takes a lesser volume of this new drug to have the same effect. A new innovative drug produced by Novo Nordisk received FDA approval in September 2015 called Tresiba which is considered an ultra-long-acting insulin. Tresiba has action time up to 42 hours in duration, allowing for more flexibility in the lives of diabetics.4


While medications are a sure fire method of treating and preventing hyperglycemia, many diabetics have found technology have improved their self-management, including wearable, implanted, and smart phone apps. Abbott Company has invented a patch to wear on the back of one’s arm which monitors blood glucose levels called the Free-Style Libre Flash Glucose Monitoring System. A wand device reads the sensor through clothing to allow the user more discretion when checking their blood glucose levels. Viacyte is producing a device named VC-01 which encapsulates insulin-producing stem cells. Once implanted into the diabetic’s body, the device will act as an artificial pancreas. The product is still in clinical trials; however, the company expects the device to go to market in five years. A professor in the United Kingdom invented a wrist-watch sized implant (InSmart) which has a gel barrier, releasing insulin to match the person’s blood glucose levels. However, the insulin within the device must be replaced every two weeks. There are also several smart phone apps to assist a person with diabetes to better manage their blood glucose levels, as well as, keep track of their carbohydrate intake. These smart phone apps are, but not limited to, Diabetik, Fooducate, mySugr Junior, and Glooko. The Diabetik app allows the user to set remainders to take medications and perform certain activities. Fooducate has an immense food database to allow the user to enter foods and the app then suggests healthier options. Although these technologies are not required to manage blood glucose levels, they can make life easier on the individuals, especially those who are tech savvy.5


Lastly, with the upcoming holiday season, it would be helpful to mention some tips on lowering holiday stress for diabetics. When a person typically thinks of holiday gatherings, they tend to imagine being among friends and family, as well as being surrounded by mountains of sweet treats. This can a difficult time for diabetics to stay on the straight and narrow from all of the party planning, shopping, cooking, and did I mention the sweets. Although it may not be feasible to avoid all the desserts, cookies, and cakes during the holiday season, try to limit the processed foods, and consume more fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains. Prioritizing activities and planning ahead of time can also reduce stress levels, so everything is not left to the last minute. We probably all know how important a good night’s sleep can help one’s stress levels. Sticking to a sleep schedule can reduce stress that the holidays tend to bring on.6

Even though diabetes is a chronic disease that can cause a myriad of complications, including retinopathy, neuropathy, and nephropathy, this disease is completely manageable. Medication, technology, and nutrition education can help the diabetic to maintain their blood glucose within normal limits. Dietitians, Certified Diabetes Educators, and Endocrinologists are a necessity to provide information and tips on lowering stress during the holidays.



  4. Dubois W. Coming Soon to a Pharmacy Near You. Diabetes Self-Management. 2016;33(3):88-91.
  5. Davies N. Wearables, Implants, and Apps, Oh My: smart technology for diabetes self-care. Diabetes Self-Management. 2016;33(2):28-31.
  6. Wynn P. Diabetes Resources: lowering holiday stress. Diabetes Self-Management. 2016;33(5):14.

Whole Grains

By: Ashley Hobar

            Grains are considered to be a large part of a healthy, balanced diet. According to the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended amount of grains on a 2,000-calorie meal plan, should be 6 ounce-equivalents per day. In addition, at least half of this amount should be whole grains. A whole grain food item is unrefined and contains the endosperm, the bran, and the germ. Whereas refined grains have had the bran and the germ removed during processing.

To meet the recommended daily amount of grains, U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend measuring food items in one cup- or one ounce-equivalents due to the fact that some foods are more concentrated or airier than others. For example, one slice of bread is equal to one ounce-equivalent of grains. On the other hand, a half cup portion of cooked brown rice is also equal to a one ounce- equivalent of grains.



How do you consume at least half of total grains as whole grains?


There are a couple different techniques to consume at least half of total grains as whole grains. The first method is to consume 100-percent whole grain food items for half of your grain servings per day. One ounce-equivalent of whole grains contains 16 grams (g) of whole grains. This means that if you were to consume three ounce-equivalents per day, you would be eating 48 g of whole grains per day. Many food items are beginning to label how many grams of whole grains are in a box or a serving. However, you can also determine the amount of whole grain in a food item by looking at the placement of the grain in the ingredient list. If it is a 100-percent whole grain food, then the whole grain should be the first ingredient – or the second ingredient after water.

The second method of consuming half of your total grains as whole grains is to consume foods that contain both whole grains and refined grains for all six of your ounce-equivalent grain servings per day. If a food item has at least 8 g of whole grains per ounce-equivalent, then it is considered to be at least half whole grains. Again, looking at the ingredient list can help determine the amount of whole grains in the food item.





Why should we eat whole grains?

Important nutrients are found in the bran and germ of a whole grain kernel. When a grain is refined, it removes fiber, iron, and other important nutrients. The bran is the outer protective shell for the grain and contains high amounts of fiber and B vitamins. The germ contains the seed for a possible new plant and also contains B vitamins, some protein, healthy oils, and minerals. The endosperm is also an important part of the grain and contains starch, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Since the refining process removes nutrients from grains, most refined grains are enriched with iron, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid.



Food for thought:


Individuals who have a hard time switching to 100-percent whole grains should choose enriched grains when possible. Even individuals who consume all of their grains as whole grains should choose some grains that are enriched with folic acid. Folic acid fortification in grain products is important and has been successful in reducing the incidence of neural tube defects in infants.

In addition, grain products that are high in added sugars and saturated fat should be limited. However, some of these items, such as cookies, cakes, and some snack food, can still be included in moderation and fit within a healthy meal plan.


What about Celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies?


Gluten is a protein that is found in a variety of wheat product that some people have difficulty digesting. People who cannot tolerate gluten includes the estimated 1-2% of the population with celiac disease, 0.2-0.4% of the population with a wheat allergy, and 1-6% of the population that have what is considered “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” (NCGS). However, there is still more research that needs to be done on the NCGS group. With that being said, there is no reason for rest of the population to eat a gluten-free diet.

For those that do need to avoid gluten and wheat products, gluten-free does not necessarily have to mean grain free. There are still plenty of delicious options for individuals who cannot consume gluten or wheat. Some of these options include grains such as amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, and gluten-free oats (oats should be considered gluten-free; however, they are often contaminated during processing).



Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables

By: Kimberly Boone, University of Memphis Master’s Candidate and Dietetic Intern


How many of us have heard heard the saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”? Well, lets just say there is definitely validity to that statement. In this months blog we will be discussing how to distinguish a fruit from a vegetable, why all fruits and vegetables are vitally important to include in our diets, healthful ways of preparation, and tips to include more of them in our daily routine.


A fruit is classified by botanist as being the mature ovary of a plant that develops from a flower. Fruits are also the part of the plant that contain seeds either internally or externally. With this definition in mind, although commonly referred to as being vegetables, avocados and cucumbers are technically fruits. All other parts of a plant i.e., stem, leaves, bulbs, flowers, seeds and roots, are vegetables (1). For example, celery is a stem. Lettuce is composed of leaves. Broccoli is the flower. Onions are bulbs. Beans are seeds. Carrots are roots, etc.

When compared with their animal-derived counterparts, fruits and vegetables are generally lower in both calories, fat and sodium. Since they do not contain a liver (primary organ responsible for the production of cholesterol) neither fruits nor vegetables contain any dietary cholesterol. Moreover, fruits and vegetables contain beneficial phytochemicals such as antioxidants and are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C (2,3).fruits-and-vegetables

Simply put, the intake of fruits and vegetables provides health benefits. Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce the risk for developing chronic diseases such as heart disease (including heart attack and stroke), obesity and type 2 diabetes. Eating those that are higher in potassium i.e., sweet potatoes, white beans, bananas and prunes, may also help to lower blood pressure. Additionally, the consumption of fruits and vegetables may protect against certain types of cancers. In fact, 32 out of the 33 foods listed by the American Institute for Cancer Research as being “Foods that Fight Cancer” are fruits and vegetables (4). Dietary fiber helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower the risk of heart disease. Fiber-containing foods also provide a feeling of fullness and assist to maintain regularity in bowel function. Folate (folic acid) aids in the synthesis of red blood cells and is especially important for women of childbearing age to reduce the chance of neural tube defects during pregnancy. Vitamin A benefits the eyes and skin while vitamin C helps to protect against infections, aids in wound healing and increases iron absorption (2,3).


According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should aim for 2 cups of fruit a day, and 2 ½ cups of vegetables. In reality, the usual adult eats 1 cup of fruit a day and about 1 ½ cups of vegetables (5). In the South we have what is called the “southern style” way of cooking. This usually includes the addition of bacon grease, butter, and salt finished off with frying in many cases. This preparation style leads to the degradation of many of the nutrients explained previously.   Several nutrients, such as vitamin C and the B-vitamins, are heat sensitive. Instead of boiling a vegetable to death or tossing in a fryer, lightly sautéing or steaming are better options to keep the nutrient content intact (6).


There are several tips and tricks addressing how to include more fruits and vegetables into the diet. Buying foods in season leads to cheaper cost and usually better flavor. Purchasing easy to prepare vegetables and fruits , such as frozen, prewashed or steamable bags, will make it more convenient. It is also important to purchase a variety of vegetables and fruits and avoid the monotonous staples. Experiment with herbs and spices to add flavor. You could even let your child go with you to help pick out a new fruit and vegetable every week to make it a family affair (7).

There are a myriad of reasons as to why fruits and vegetables should be consumed regularly. Turns out, the generations ahead of us were not being cruel when telling us to, “Eat your broccoli!” and scolding us when they caught us feeding it to the family dog. Fruits and vegetables are indeed necessary to achieve an optimum meal plan. They can be a delicious addition to our daily routine in order to benefit our health and quality of being!