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How to Work More Fruits and Vegetables into Your Diet

Image: eat better (ARA) - Remember that resolution you made at the beginning of the year to eat better? Chances are you've forgotten all about it and are snacking on chips or a candy bar right now. If that's the case, put down your non-healthy snack and pick up some food for thought.

When the USDA released its revised Dietary Guidelines in January 2005, the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables increased dramatically. The new guidelines call for the average person with an intake of 2,000 calories a day to eat two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables every day, and for good reason.

Having a diet rich in fruits and vegetables offers many health benefits. Among them, prevention of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.

So why aren't more people making an effort to add more servings of fruits and vegetables to their diets? Because they aren't sure how to do it. Well here are some easy to implement recommendations.

At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches. You can also add blueberries to pancakes, drink 100 percent orange or grapefruit juice, or try a fruit mixed with low-fat or fat-free yogurt. Try a main dish salad for lunch, or perhaps a slice of veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers and onions.

For dinner, plan a vegetable as your main dish. And how about trying a recipe that incorporates what the Center for Science in the Public Interest considers the most nutritional vegetable there is - the sweet potato.

The complex carbohydrate provides the body with vitamin A which is necessary for strong tissues and to maintain a healthy immune system, beta carotene which protects the heart and vascular system, and potassium which helps maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body cells, as well as normal heart function, nerve function and blood pressure. The sweet potato is also an important source of vitamin B6, iron and fiber which aids in digestion.

Here's an easy to prepare recipe provided by the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission:

Southwestern Yam Bisque

Makes 5-1 cup servings

1 1/2 lbs. yams (sweet potatoes) large diced
1/2 pound yams (small dice)
3/4 cup sweet kernel corn
3/4 cup black beans
2 cups blanched broccoli heads (small dice)
1 pint whipping cream
1/2 - 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (optional)
1 cup spinach chiffonade, blanched
Mixture of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese

Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Add 1 1/2 pounds yams. In separate pot, bring water to a boil and cook small diced yams just until tender-set aside for later use. In saucepan, combine corn and black beans. Cook until tender. Remove yams and drain. Slowly add 1 pint whipping cream as you mix the yams. Return bisque (puree) to the stovetop. Add in corn and bean mixture, broccoli, and spinach. Let simmer for 30 minutes. Chicken or vegetable stock can be added for desired consistency. Top with small diced yams and cheese before serving.

Sweet potatoes are also the perfect main ingredient for some tasty and nutritious dessert dishes, including Sweet Potato Bread Pudding with Apple Cider Glaze, created by David Gallent.

Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups half & half
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 cup cubed French bread, lightly packed
Apple Cider Glaze (recipe follows)

Combine eggs, sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl; beat until smooth with a whisk. Add half & half, milk, melted butter, vanilla extract, nutmeg, and grated sweet potato. Stir well. Add cubed French bread to egg mixture; stir until bread is well moistened. Cover and chill 30 minutes, stirring once. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spoon bread mixture into a well greased 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 7x11-inch baking dish. Bake for 1 hour or until a wooden pick, inserted into the center, comes out clean. Serve warm with Apple Cider Glaze. Serves 6.

Apple Cider Glaze
1/2 stick butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons apple cider
2 tablespoons half & half

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring well. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Let stand 3 minutes. Serve warm over Sweet Potato Bread Pudding. Makes about 1 1/4 cups.

For more recipes and nutritional information about the sweet potato, log on to

Courtesy of ARA Content

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