How to Eat a Rainbow (Even in Winter)

Half our plates should be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. But is eating a rainbow possible all-year round? And can you really get your picky youngsters to eat a spectrum of colorful fruits and veggies? I spoke with the fabulous Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of the new book Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family. She shared simple tips and tricks to get you and your family eating a more colorful diet.

We've all heard that half of our plates should be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables at every meal. But is eating a rainbow of recipes possible all of the time, even in the dead of winter? (And can you really get picky youngsters to eat a spectrum of produce?) Frances Largeman-Roth, RD, author of Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family, shares some tips from her new cookbook.

Q. You cook with colorful produce to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes and obesity. What's the theory?

Compared to the rest of the food supply, fruits, vegetables and whole grains are lower in calories and higher in fiber. And when you focus on filling your diet with unprocessed foods, you're eliminating much of what leads to the typical unhealthy American diet. Second: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds contain phytonutrients -- plant compounds that provide a health benefit. Science is really just scratching the surface of how important phytonutrients are. One thing is for sure: Most of us aren't getting enough fruits or vegetables, so just adding another couple of servings each day will go a long way toward making us healthier.

Q. Following a healthy diet is the classic January resolution. How do colorful foods help?

A lot of people get caught up in the details when they embark on a new healthy eating plan. They might focus on getting a certain number of grams of fiber or fat, or on getting specific micronutrients. This can be overwhelming and may ultimately derail efforts. But if you simply make sure that each of your meals -- and hopefully snacks too -- is as colorful as possible, you'll be hitting lots of marks automatically: more fiber, more vitamin C, more phytonutrients, and most likely, fewer calories.

Q. The recipes in the book are family-friendly. How do you get kids to eat more colors?

Picky eaters are a challenge. I know -- I've got one! I learned that if I made my approach more about trying "colors" and getting as much color as possible on my kid's plate, that went over much better than when I talked about trying a fruit or vegetable because it was good for them. Even if my daughter ultimately doesn't like the food, she will at least give a new "color" a try. And I do try to keep it fun by cutting veggies into fun shapes and dressing up pancakes and waffles with fruity faces.

Q. Winter's here, and fresh produce isn't as available. What to do?

Citrus fruits just came into season, which are wonderful. And some fruits, like mangoes, have a fall/winter season, as well as a spring/summer season. I also like keeping bags of frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer for smoothies and weeknight meals. They have the same nutritional value as fresh, and are a great way to boost the color of winter meals. And while I do think that seasonal produce always tastes the best, if you (or your kids) just really want some strawberries in the winter, go for it.

Pumpkin Seed-Chia Granola with Mango from Eating in Color

Makes: 6 cups
Cooking spray, for the pan (if needed)
2 cups (310g) old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup (120g) chia seeds
½ cup (70g) shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup (200g) diced dried mango
¼ cup (25g) dried blueberries
½ cup (25g) flaked unsweetened coconut
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup (125ml) honey

1.Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Place a silicone mat on a rimmed baking sheet or spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, mango, blueberries, coconut, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl, combine the butter, oil, and honey. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry, stir to combine, and spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

3. Bake the granola for 20 minutes, until golden. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then use your hands to break the granola into pieces. Transfer to an airtight container (I like lidded glass jars). The granola will stay fresh for 1 week to 10 days.

Nutrition information (per ¼ cup): Calories: 136; Total Fat 6.6 grams; Saturated Fat: 2.4 grams; Mono Fat: 1.8 grams; Poly Fat: 2 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Carbohydrates: 18 grams; Fiber: 3 grams; Cholesterol: 4 milligrams; iron: 1 milligrams; sodium: 10 milligrams; potassium: 50 milligrams; calcium: 35 milligrams

Photographs by Quentin Bacon

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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