National Nutrition Month starts tomorrow, March 1. It is a perfect time to reflect on how you are eating, and if there is any room for improvement.

An essential component of a healthy diet, which is sometimes forgotten, is eating a variety of foods. Too often we fall into the dreaded "food rut" of eating the same foods or recipes every week. In fact, most shoppers fill their grocery carts with the same six produce items each week.

Eating a wide range of fruits and veggies increases the variety of vitamins and minerals you give your body -- and it makes meals more exciting!

Registered Dietitian Katie Francisco from Mercy Health joined My West Michigan to encourage you to join the Fruit & Vegetable Challenge for National Nutrition Month.

Here is the Challenge, if you choose to accept it:

  • Find a group to challenge, like your family, friends or work colleagues
  • Each week during the month of March, try at least one new fruit or vegetable
  • At the end of the month, vote on which is your favorite
  • Add these new foods to your regular rotation!

*Hints:

  1. Use the chart below as a reference to base your new food choices on something that you already like.
  2. Re-try a fruit or vegetable that you previously did not like, but prepare it differently. Instead of eating frozen, boiled Brussels sprouts, which can be mushy, try roasting them with olive oil.
  3. Look at different varieties of familiar foods– try fresh baby spinach instead of adult whole leaf spinach which has a milder taste OR change up your standard orange carrots with the rainbow variety.

Key Nutrients Differ by the Color of Fruits and Vegetables

Did you Know?

Green Fruits & Veggies – Help to decrease risk of heart disease and cancer. They can also improve digestion, vision health and boost the immune system.

Red Fruits & Veggies – Decrease cancer risk, especially prostate cancer. They also lower blood pressure and "bad" LDL cholesterol levels. Compounds in red fruits and vegetables have been found to act as scavengers of dangerous free radicals.

Yellow/Orange Fruits & Vegetables – Improve immune function and eye health including decreasing your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration. Citrus fruits also help with wound healing.

Blue/Purple Fruits & Vegetables – Contain nutrients that reduce the risk of having a stroke and developing cardiovascular disease. They have also been found to improve brain function including a reduction in memory loss.

White Fruits & Vegetables - Boost your immune system and decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.

New Fruits & Veggies to Try based on what you already LOVE

IF YOU LIKE: TRY THIS

  • Apples → Asian Pears, Jicama, Star Fruit
  • Arugula → Mizuna
  • Cabbage → Brussels Sprouts
  • Cherries → Pomegranate
  • Green Beans → Sugar Snap Peas
  • Kiwi → Mango
  • Portobello Mushrooms → Eggplant
  • Radishes → Kohlrabi
  • Sweet Potatoes → Butternut Squash
  • Watermelon → Dragon Fruit

Recipes

Jicama, Mango & Cucumber Salad

  • 1 c mango, diced
  • 1 c cucumber, chopped
  • 1 c jicama, sliced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro diced
  • 1/2 cup red pepper diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ lime
  • Chili and lime seasoning

Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the mango, cucumber, jicama, cilantro and red pepper. Squeeze the limes over the fruit mix. Add olive oil, chili lime seasoning, salt and pepper.
  2. Toss well to combine and chill until ready to serve.

Kohlrabi and Pomegranate Seed Salad

  • 2 Large Celery Stalks, chopped
  • 1 Medium Kohlrabi Bulb, trimmed & peeled
  • ½ c Pomegranate Seeds
  • 3 cups Arugula
  • 2 T Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • ½ t Dijon Mustard
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Thinly slice celery & kohlrabi into ¼ inch wide strips.
  2. Ad Pomegranate seeds, celery, kohlrabi and arugula to serving bowl.
  3. In separate mixing bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt & pepper; add oil slowly. Toss with salad.

*Recipe modified from MarthaStewart.com

BBQ Jackfruit Pizza

BBQ Jackfruit

  • 1 20- ounce can young green jackfruit in water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce of choice
  • 1/4 cup water

Hemp Seed Ranch

  • 1/4 cup Hemp Hearts
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 scallion, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

Pizza

  • 12 ounces pizza dough
  • olive oil for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and sliced very thinly
  • 1/4 cup loosely-packed cilantro, stems removed
  • 1/2 tablespoon Hemp Hearts
  • 6 oz shredded cheddar cheese, if desired
  • Instructions

BBQ Jackfruit

  1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit. Cut the core of the jackfruit (the triangular tip) from the flesh and discard, leaving only the stringy portion of the jackfruit.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Add in the jackfruit flesh and toss to coat.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium and add the seasoned jackfruit. Sauté for 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce and water and pour it over the jackfruit. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove the lid from the skillet and use 2 forks to shred the jackfruit. Continue to simmer with the lid off for another 5 minutes or until the barbecue sauce is reduced, stirring occasionally.

Hemp Seed Ranch

Make the hemp seed ranch by combining all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blending on high until smooth. Spoon into an airtight jar and refrigerate until assembling.

Pizza

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Lightly flour a clean work surface and roll out your pizza dough to desired shape and size. Transfer the pizza dough to cooking stone or maneuverable cutting board and brush the top with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Place crust directly on oven rack and cook for 2 to 4 minutes or until the bottom is golden-brown. Then, brush the top, uncooked portion of the dough with olive oil and carefully flip the pizza.
  4. Once flipped, brush the top of the pizza with the 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce and spread the jackfruit over the pizza. Sprinkle cheese on the top of the pizza. Top with as much of the sliced red onion as desired. Cook for another 7 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bottom of the pizza is golden-brown. Carefully transfer the pizza back to the pizza stone or cutting board. Drizzle with the hemp seed ranch and sprinkle with fresh cilantro and Hemp Hearts. Slice and serve immediately.
  5. Recipe Notes -You can also use a precooked flatbread pizza. Simply reduce the cooking time. Also, ok to substitute vegan cheese if preferred.

**Recipe modified from Blissful Basil

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