Feel good about Fit City goals

Published on Wednesday, 8 January 2014 01:42 - Written by CHRISTINE GARDNER food@tylerpaper.com

Did you make resolutions this year to lose weight, get in shape or eat healthy? Are you determined that this will be the year you stick to those goals and actually see improvement through weight loss, increased energy and healthy meals that taste good and are good for you?

You are not alone. This Friday and Saturday at Broadway Square Mall representatives from the Fit City Coalition and Lighten Up East Texas will be there to enroll people in the 2014 Lighten Up East Texas weight loss challenge. This is a program designed to help all of us as we pledge to be healthier in the New Year.

The program is free and available for anyone who lives in East Texas. All people older than 18 can even become eligible for random grand prize drawings, simply by losing at least 5 percent of their registered starting weight.

The grand prizes include four $1,000 gift cards donated by Brookshire’s and a brand new 2013 Dodge Dart donated by Allen Samuels Tyler.

All you have to do is register and weigh in. Weigh-ins will be held inside the mall in front of J.C. Penney from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday and again on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at four locations throughout the mall. There will also be many vendors available on Saturday that will provide free health assessments, educational information, and community fitness resources.

I will be there, with others from the Fit City Coalition, offering some healthy cooking tips and recipes. I will also have copies of my cookbook, “Favorite FLAVOR” with a supplemental guide on the healthiest recipes in the book and simple substitutions that can slim down any recipe.

If you are unable to visit Broadway Square Mall during this kick-off weekend, you can also register at any of the public weighing locations that have been established across the East Texas region. For details about the kick-off event or registration, go to lightenupeasttexas.com.

Coalition members hope to recruit 5,210 East Texans into the weight loss campaign or garner a combined participant weight loss of 5,210 pounds. The number 5,210 was chosen because it also ties into a campaign developed by the America Academy of Pediatrics that emphasizes five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of screen time, at least one hour of physical activity and zero sweetened beverages. The program is less of a weight-loss challenge for children but more of a healthy-living initiative.

Even adults could benefit from the 5-2-1-0 plan. We all need help fitting five servings of fruits and vegetables into our daily diet, additionally one hour of physical activity and zero sweetened beverages is also a good idea.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation has created a website that makes adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet an easy task. At www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org you can find shopping and meal planning tips, fruit and vegetable cooking techniques, easy recipes and information on how to grow a vegetable garden.

So what is a serving and how do I manage to get five a day? The following are considered one serving:

1 cup leafy greens

1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables

1/2 cup cut fruit

1 medium piece of fruit

1/4 cup dried fruit

1/2 cup 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice

Depending on your weight or health goals you may require more than five servings. Five is the minimum recommendation when following the USDA dietary guidelines.

Some days it’s easy to eat five servings, while others are really a challenge. But I know the benefits of achieving this goal far outweigh any extra effort that goes into specific meal planning designed to increase my fruit and vegetable intake.

Here are a few ideas that can help keep us all on track. And if we fail today, there’s no need to give up, because there’s always tomorrow.

All forms of fruits and vegetables count, including fresh, frozen and canned. Just watch the sodium and sugar content on canned. In fact, canned tomatoes, because of the concentrated lycopene, are encouraged.

Add vegetables to soups, sauces, sandwiches or pizza – every little bit counts. A few ideas include frozen peas, corn, onions or carrots to soup; spinach to spaghetti sauce; sliced vegetables to sandwiches; broccoli, peppers, mushrooms or tomatoes to pizza.

When out to lunch order the 1/2 sandwich and side salad instead of a whole sandwich. You save on calories and add a serving or two of vegetables to your meal.

Add fresh or frozen fruit to cereal, yogurt or ice cream. Blend and strain to add to a sauce, dressing or to make fresh-fruit drinks. Add to water, tea or club soda.

Pack a piece of fruit or a 1/4 cup of unsweetened dried fruit as an afternoon snack.

Use a vegetable as a bowl. Stuffed tomatoes, bell peppers, poblanos, mushrooms, squash, zucchini or eggplant are delicious and then you can eat the bowl, too.

Variety matters. Try to eat all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and juice. A general rule is three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit. Also, try to eat all different colors, and pick first from what is in season.

Over the next few weeks I will be featuring some very nutritious winter fruits and vegetables that are delicious this time of year, but only in season for a short time. They pack a lot of nutrients and are exactly what our body needs to fuel us through these cold temperatures and the aches, coughs and sniffles that seem to be going around. I’m really looking forward to trying some new recipes and finding delicious ways to enjoy more vegetables.

We’ll start next week with root vegetables — parsnips, beets, carrots and turnips — just to name a few. If you have ideas or recipes for winter fruits and vegetables you would like to share email food@tylerpaper.com.