Nutrition and Fitness Advisors
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About Vegetables and Fruits

Fresh vegetables and ripe fruit, simply but perfectly presented, can enhance the pleasure and nutritional value of any meal. But as with everything, variety is vital. Salad is a green vegetable, but if you're getting all your vegetable exchanges from salad greens, you're missing out on both enjoyment and nourishment.

For example, instead of a green lettuce salad, you could be having roasted red pepper, baby spinach or arugula, and (for added flavor) a little cheese, dressed with Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This tastes delicious, and the red pepper alone provides almost double the vitamin C of most fruits, including oranges. The red pepper also has 4,200 mg of vitamin A, and a powerful antioxidant, lycopene. The spinach provides calcium, iron, more vitamin A, and B vitamins.

It's no accident that red peppers are bright red, spinach a deep, vibrant green. The most intensely colored fruits and vegetables have the most vitamins. Their color is even a guide to their vitamin content! Red, orange, yellow, green, and blue/purple fruits all have different vitamins and antioxidants: eat some of each every day.

Vegetable Exchanges

artichoke (1/2 medium)
artichoke heart (1/2)
asparagus spears (7)
beans: green, wax, Italian
bean sprouts
boiled beets (1/3 cup)
Brussels sprouts (3 large)
carrots (1 medium)
carrots, baby (5 medium)
cauliflower (8 florets)
celery (2 stalks)
cucumber (1/2)
green onions (3/4 cup)
greens: collard, kale, mustard, turnip
lettuces: red leaf, green leaf, romaine, Bib, Boston, etc.

mixed vegetables
(no corn, peas, potatoes)
(6 medium raw)
onions -1/4 cup of boiled
peppers (3/4 of 1 medium)
radishes (10 medium)
salad greens: endive, frisee, radiccio, etc.
salsa (1/4 cup)
(3/4 cup canned)
snow peas (1/3 cup)
sugar snap peas in pod (1/3 cup)
summer squash (3/4 cup cooked or 11/4 cups raw)
tomato (1 whole)
tomato, cherry
(6 medium)
tomato, soup, water-based (1 cup)
tomatoes, stewed
(1/2 cup)
water chestnuts
(1/3 cup canned)
(3/4cup cooked or 11/4cups raw)

Most vegetables are low in calories (25 per cup of raw) and loaded with fiber, phytochemicals, and vitamins. The starchy ones--such as corn, winter squash, and potatoes--are higher in calories, and can raise blood sugar levels as rapidly as some candy. If you're counting exchanges, count starchy vegetables (Link accessible to members only) in with sweets, refined grains, and the other foods you approach with caution.

Make sure to get at least your minimum number of exchanges a day of non-starchy vegetables (in general, one exchange is 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables or one cup of raw vegetables). And if you want seconds, heap your plate with these before having more protein, dairy, or grain.

Each vegetable exchange contains about:

  • 20-25 calories
  • 5 grams of carbohydrate

Note: Broccoli, kale, carrots, greens (mustard, turnip, collard), spinach, chard, red peppers, and tomatoes also contain powerful antioxidants.

Fruit Exchanges

First Choice
apple, unpeeled (1 small)
apricot, fresh (4 whole)
blackberries (3/4 cup)
blueberries (3/4 cup)
cherries (12)
dates (3)
figs, fresh (2 medium)
grapefruit (1/2 large)
grapes (17)
pear (1/2 large)
plums (2 small)
prunes (3)
raspberries (1 cup)
strawberries (11/4 cup)
tangerines (2 small)

Second Choice
banana (1/2 large)
canned fruit (1/2 cup)
dried fruit (1/4 cup)
fruit cocktail (1/2 cup)
mango (1/2 fruit)
melon (1 cup)
papaya (1/2 fruit)
pineapple (3/4 cup)
raisins (2 tablespoons)

Like vegetables, fruits are great sources of vitamins, phytochemicals, and antioxidants. Unlike vegetables, fruits are not things to "heap your plate with" if you're watching your weight.

All fruit contains some sugar--natural sugar--but sugar nonetheless, which can raise your blood sugar rapidly. Some fruits contain more sugar, and less fiber, than others; and these are the fruits that raise your blood sugar the fastest.

The best choices are those in the first column: citrus fruits and fruits with edible skins, like peaches, pears, and all berries.

In general, one small piece or 1/2 - 3/4 cup of fresh fruit, half a cup of canned fruit, and one quarter cup of dried fruit all count as one fruit exchange: exceptions are noted.

Juice is high in sugar and low in fiber. All juice, even "100% pure fruit juice, no sugar added" has just as much sugar as soda does! We do not recommend juice: it raises your blood sugar too rapidly. Eat the whole fruit.

Each fruit in this list contains about:

  • 60 calories
  • 15 grams of carbohydrate

Note: Berries and grapes also contain powerful antioxidants.

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