Resolve to Improve Your Health in 2021

Healthy fruits and vegetables in brown paper bag

By Ella Cummings and Dana Danley, MD

For the New Year 2021, make a resolution to improve your health! One simple and easy way is to add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Just by adding three or more fruits and vegetables per day, you can help lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. With healthier choices, you can reduce your risk of cancer and obesity as well as improve blood pressure and diabetes.

How can we add more fruits and vegetables to our diet? Start with ones you already like and are easy to prepare.  Add cut up bananas to your morning cereal or toast. Crunchy fresh vegetables and fruits are favorites of kids, especially with homemade dip. Yogurt with cinnamon or herbs is an easy, healthy choice. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table so it is easy to reach for healthy snacks. Apples and grapes are favorite kid snacks. For dinner, steaming green beans or carrots in the microwave make a quick side dish.

The US Department of Agriculture My Plate website has a lot of good tips and ideas on how to create a healthier eating style. The Iowa Department of Public Health has a “Pick a Better Snack” program which highlights different vegetables and fruits with recipes, activities, and resources.

Eating healthy foods is crucial for good health. However, fruits and vegetables are often more expensive. Start with buying what is in season and then look for frozen or canned foods. Choose canned produce packed in water or juice instead of syrup. When choosing canned vegetables, look for low sodium or no sodium options. Shopping for a variety of fresh, canned and frozen items is the most economical and they all have similar nutritional value. Skip the potatoes and choose other vegetables with different benefits and less carbohydrates. Try something new!

To help stretch your dollars, Double Up Food Bucks is a great program. It is free for anyone with a SNAP EBT card. For every dollar spent on fruits and vegetables at participating locations, you receive a dollar food buck voucher to purchase more fruits and vegetables. These can be spent on the same day or saved for another visit or location. In Polk County, there are over 15 retailers who participate in the program.

Another resource that can help with your budget is “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” It is an online tool and downloadable app with ideas, recipes, and cooking videos. Learn how to make meal plans for the week to include fruits and vegetables in each meal. There are lots of recipes to try for meals, snacks, and even healthy desserts!

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve your health. Imagine taking less medications for blood pressure and diabetes or reducing your risk of weight problems or cancer.  Start by adding your favorite fruit or vegetable to one meal and then add to each meal. Try new recipes! “Pick a Better Snack” and “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” can help you with ideas. Your goal is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. With all the colors and textures, eating fruits and vegetables can be easy and fun.

Broadlawns Medical Center is here to help you improve your health in the New Year. Take the first step by scheduling your annual physical exam at a Broadlawns Clinic. All insurances are accepted.  

Ella grew up in North Des Moines and is currently a student at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. She is interested in medicine and global health. Dr. Danley is a Board Certified Family Medicine Physician at the Broadlawns Family Health Center. Both are advocates of lifestyle changes and opportunities in our community to improve patient health.