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Dietitians dish: Celebrate National Nutrition Month with colorful meals

Feb. 28, 2011 at midnight
Updated Feb. 28, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.

Linda Crisp

By Linda Crisp

March is National Nutrition Month, the month to celebrate healthy food choices. This year, The American Dietetic Association has chosen the theme, "Eat with Color" to bring inspiration and artistic creativity to the table.

If your plate of food is full of color, you can bet you're eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, proteins and healthy dairy products. All of these foods work in combination to provide protection against heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

The various colors found in the fruit, vegetable, legumes and grains represent a vast variety of minerals, vitamins and phytochemicals and plant nutrients, that work together to boost their individual anti-cancer effects.

In addition, these plant-based foods are low in calorie density, meaning they have lots of bulk without too many calories, resulting in protection against weight gain and obesity.

Discover the rich flavors and aromas of the colorful vegetables, as you use them in everyday cooking. For example, when preparing soups, stews and chowders start with the classic combination of colorful vegetables: yellow onions, green celery and carrots. This combination of vegetables, when sauteed together, is called "Mirepoix" in French, and creates the flavorful undertone of a great stew. After creating this base, the cook can add black beans, tomatoes, leeks, squash, corn, barley, mushrooms, meats, or any number of other nutritious, colorful ingredients to complete the soup or stew.

Let your imagination run wild, as you plan meals to include the colors of the rainbow. Start your day by getting your artistic juices flowing with a strawberry, banana, yogurt smoothie, or by adding dried cranberries, walnuts, apples, raisins and cinnamon to oatmeal. Create a riot of color in salads by adding carrots, orange sections, grape tomatoes and purple cabbage.

Children love color and will enjoy topping a pizza with broccoli, tomatoes, yellow peppers, red onions, mushrooms and zucchini. They can help combine fruits, such as blueberries, banana chunks, mandarin oranges, apple slices and grapes for a great side-dish salad.

Let the theme of National Nutrition Month inspire you to add color to your meals all year long, and increase enjoyment and health at the same time.

Linda Crisp is a registered and licensed dietitian who is a board certified specialist in Oncology Nutrition. Send questions or comments to dietitians@vicad.com.

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