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Produce Profile by Mark "Guido The Gardner" ® Ferro
5 Day Program

(Dear Produce Profilers. Kill me. My produce guy working hours preclude me from getting regular rest, so I tried to squeeze in a nap before deadline time. OOPS!! I overslept this not-so-fine afternoon. So in place of a fresh, witty and life enhancing Produce Profile this week, I must substitute a not-so-fresh, but still witty and life enhancing article from a while back. Luckily, the 5 a Day message is WELL worth another go-round! Let the reading fun begin .......................)

To quote some of their own literature ... "The 5 A Day program is designed to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables to an average of 5 or more servings a day to improve the health of Americans through a partnership among the health community, government agencies, the fruit and vegetable industry, and other private sectors."

The entity behind the 5 A Day movement is the Produce for Better Health Foundation, a non profit organization, in partnership with the National Cancer Institute. They are funded by scores of organizations from a wide range of fields.

The message is pretty clear. Get more folks to eat fruits and vegetables. Why? Because doing so is good for your health. It is estimated that eating a diet rich in fruits and veggies may cut the 500,000 cancer deaths per year by a third! There are studies a mile thick telling us what we all should know by now. Sub in carrot sticks for Doritos, and a juicy peach for Gummy Bears, Worms, Eyeballs, etc.

The 5 A Day folks cover lots of bases to make their mark on the eating habits of America. Over 30,000 retail stores participate in the 5 A Day message. Programs and promotions are run in schools, restaurants, cafeterias, health agencies and community groups. Every one of these United States has a 5 A Day coordinator that implements an educational program at the local level.

Ever see that 5 A Day logo on produce bags or boxes? Those organizations are members of the 5 A Day program and take an active part in encouraging consumers to eat healthier.

So how is this outfit doing in spreading the healthy message? According to the U.S.D.A., in 1991 before this push started, the average adult American consumed 3.9 servings of fruits and veggies per day. By 1994 that figure was bumped to 4.4 servings per day. The same figures for kids was 3.1 in '91 and 3.4 in '94. The goal of 5 servings per day by the year 2000 seems within reach.

A "serving" varies according to the goodie we are talking about. Her are a few examples: 1 medium fruit, 6 ounces of 100% fruit or vegetable juice, a half cup cooked fruit or veggie, likewise 1 cup raw, one half cup cooked dry peas or beans or one quarter cup dried fruit.

Here are some easy ways to get your 5 a day. Instead of those calorie packed snacks you have stashed in your desk drawer, try dried fruit instead. Dried cranberries, apricots, figs, and even bananas and papaya can fill that hungry hole in your tummy until mealtime.

Grapes and raisins can get tossed in almost any kind of salad. Cole slaw, chicken salad, potato salad or any lettuce or spinach salad are prime candidates. Apples also complement these salads too.

;Any kind of sliced or diced vegetable can be added to rice or pasta. Due to an abundance in my backyard farm, I've been adding VERY nutritious green kale to many dishes. (At this late February date, that kale is still producing healthy leaves-331 days after I planted the seeds last spring!) I slice it thin and toss with a green salad, cook it with rice, and add it to my scrambled egg breakfast surprise.
Oh! Smoothies ... berries, bananas, any stone fruit, with milk or yogurt.

A quick word about kids and 5 a day. I confess that even though my own young bean sprout, Sarah Bella, has a produce dude for a Papa-I still have trouble getting her to eat "right". When it comes to fruits and vegetables, I feed her what she likes, and not what I'd like her to eat. She has a pretty wide field of take, but nothing like her old man!

(A current PS- I recently spoke with Joe Prickitt, the Foodservice Marketing Director for 5 A Day. He said that meals eaten away from home usually include fewer fruits and vegetables. Given the fact that so many meals today are not eaten at home, more of an effort is being made to encourage restaurants and other foodservice folks to up the produce ante in their respective menus.)