Are You Eating a Rainbow?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It is well understood that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables provides many health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and reducing risks of heart disease, cancer, and digestive problems. Not only do they provide many necessary vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial fiber as well.

According to U.S. nutritional data, we are not measuring up when it comes to eating a variety of fruits and vegetables but tend to consume the same bland produce repeatedly. When you limit fruit and vegetable intake to only a few more common sources, you are also limiting your phytochemical intake as well. Phytochemicals are the naturally occurring non-nutritive disease preventive chemicals found in plants.

It doesn't matter whether you rely on the ROY G BIV mnemonic or need to look at a rainbow picture, as long as you focus on an intake that includes all the colors of the rainbow, you will be certain to provide your body with a wide range of nutrients. Here are some fruit and vegetable suggestions to help you eat a rainbow.

Red fruits and vegetables are colored naturally by lycopene or anthocyanins. Some of the more popular choices include red apples, beets, cherries, cranberries, pink grapefruit, red grapes, red peppers, pomegranates, red potatoes, radishes, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, and watermelon.

Orange/Yellow fruits and vegetables are usually colored by natural pigments known as carotenoids. Options that are more popular include yellow apples, apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papayas, peaches, pears, yellow peppers, pineapple, pumpkin, rutabagas, yellow summer or winter squash sweet corn, sweet potatoes, tangerines, and yellow tomatoes.

Green fruits and vegetables receive their color from natural pigments known as chlorophyll and some contain lutein and zeaxanthin. Common green choices are green apples, artichokes, asparagus, avocados, green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, green cabbage, cucumbers, green grapes, honeydew melon, kiwi, lettuce, limes, green onions, peas, green pepper, spinach, and zucchini.

Blue/Purple fruits and vegetables get their color from natural pigments known as anthocyanins. Most common examples of these foods are blackberries, blueberries, eggplant, figs, plums, prunes, purple grapes, and raisins.

When talking about light, white is the presence of all color. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the same theory can also apply when you include white choices along with all the other colors. The pigment anthoxanthins provide the white color to fruits and vegetables and common examples include bananas, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, mushrooms, onions, parsnips, potatoes, and turnips.

As you work to get five rainbow servings of fruits and vegetables each day it is important to know what a serving would be. Recommendations for fruits and vegetables are usually in cups so here are some typical portion sizes in cup and half-cup references:

Examples of one cup serving size

1 small apple

1 large banana

1 medium grapefruit

1 large orange

1 medium pear

1 small wedge of watermelon

2 large or 3 medium plums

8 large strawberries

1 large bell pepper

1 medium potato

2 large stalks of celery

1 cup cooked or 2 cups raw greens such as spinach, collard, mustard or turnip

Examples of half cup serving size

1 snack container (4 oz) of applesauce

16 grapes

1 medium cantaloupe wedge

Half a medium grapefruit

4 large strawberries

5 broccoli florets

6 baby carrots

1 large plum

1 small box (1/4 cup) of raisins

Here are some helpful tips from the NDSU Extension Service to help you increase fruits and vegetables in your diet.

  • Save prep time by using prepackaged salads and stir-fry mixes.
  • Add different colorful vegetables to casseroles, stews and soups.
  • Consider investing in a juicer to experiment with different 100% fruit and vegetable juices instead of high-sugar drink options.
  • Make fruit your dessert at the end of your meal.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables cleaned and ready to go in the refrigerator and grab and go snack options like apples, bananas and oranges readily available in a bowl on the counter.
  • Use plenty of sandwich fillers like lettuce, onions, peppers and tomatoes.
  • When you need a sweet treat, reach for dried fruits like dates, apricots, raisins or prunes.
  • Order double veggies on your pizza.

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MUSICNUT 12/3/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
KOALA_BEAR 10/6/2019
Since rejoining SP, I have consciously added more colors from the rainbow to my daily diet. I started w/ a big salad bar trip once a week supplemented by homemade vegetable soup eaten thru out the week w/ lunch. Usually alongside half a sandwich & a piece of fruit. Drank a lot of V8 & some of the V8 Fruit Fusion too. Easy to pack for work lunches but now retired I don't need them.
Dinner is often fish, fowl or meat w/ sweet or reg potato & veg like green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. When going out for Mexican food I frequently order fajitas, & sub black beans or steamed broccoli for fries when dining out even if I get a turkey burger at a casual dining place like Denny's or Chili's.
I drink smoothies w/ banana & berries/spinach/kale. There is always fresh produce for snacks - apples, oranges, berries, plums, nectarines, grapes, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots. I keep fresh and frozen bananas on hand, & freeze lots of berries too for both smoothies & faux ice cream. I mix unsweetened applesauce into my oatmeal or farina & add cinnamon & sometimes PB. I buy big jars of trail mix, my favorite from Target is Sunny Cranberry that also has golden raisins (+seeds & nuts) plus a stash of other dried fruit. In winter I eat dried pineapple, apricots, prunes & dates. Frozen corn, peas, onions, carrots, parsnips & cauliflower combined w/ canned tomatoes & beans or cooked lentils make great stews w/ chicken, turkey, beef, kielbasa, or seafood. I love cooking in the colder months & eat variety then too. Report
Great article. Report
RAZZOOZLE 2/22/2019
thank you Report
Sometimes they look like they are all the same color! Haha Report
Great article! Jicama is also included in the white selection of vegetables. Report
I eat fruit in my cereal at least 2 or sometimes3. Then the rest in smoothies! Report
thanks. Report
thanks. Report
Excellent article. Report
thanks. Report
Great Article.............Great Advice. Report
A very good reminder. It has been a long time since I've made my rainbow tabbouleh mix. Mmmm. Report
I have never had much in the way of fruit or vegetables in my diet and tend to be rather picky in what I eat. Part of that has been not knowing which to buy and include; there is such a confusing array of both in grocery stores today and all of them 'claiming' to be the best thing since sliced bread! I now have a list I can go by and have printed the NDSU booklet that includes a breakfast menu, nutrition analysis of menus and goals. Excellent to get a good start on to revamp your diet!! Report
This is my FIRST comment on SparkPeople. I love the great ideas and ways for support. I forget how exciting it can be to enjoy the process of selecting my foods, even if it does seem a silly thing to eat a is definitely a way to remember this guide to better health. Thanks for the article. Report
great advice Report
My kids will like the though of eating a rainbow! LOL! Saved to my favourites! Report
I am an visual artist and seeing my diet from a visual point of view is both fun and beautiful. Thank you. Report
I try to eat a rainbow everyday. Not only is it a healthy way to eat; it is also a visually satisfying way to eat. I think the food we eat should appeal to all our senses. To me, the perfect meal should have a variety of textures, flavors, colors and shapes. It has to smell good, look good and taste good. Putting colorful fruits and vegetables alongside an appealing entree makes the meal for me. Report
Never thougth of it as a rainbow, but with that image in my head I am sure I will be shopping differantly Report
Awesome tips. Thanks! I love the idea of shopping for a rainbow when I go to the grocery store.

BTW - V8-FUSION LIGHT juice is a great source of a variety of fruits and veggies with low calories. Report
I loved this article, just when I needed something new too.... I have a creative nature so this was right up my alley....can not wait to go home and see what I can come up with A MILLION THANKS!! Blessings Di Report
I try to serve "every colour every day" for my family to get a variety of nutrients from my fruit and veg...I don't always achieve it but it definitely is my intention and has been for years Report
I think eating the dried fruit would be alternative to some of the naughty sweets that I enjoy. Report
Very neat article! Report
Okay. I'm going to start getting more fruits and veggies daily- effort is the key! Report
i love my fruits &vegies Report
I try each day-sometimes it doesn't work Report
It's always good to get a reminder to "eat the rainbow." This post inspired me to buy some red cabbage and figure out different ways to use it. Not only is it a color I don't eat enough, it can help me up my fiber intake, too. Report
Since my family has begun this year with a new eating lifestyle, eating veggies & fruits we never thought about before has been an amazing journey. Some of the ways we get things in... bowls of fruit on the dinning table, crockpot lasagna that hosts zuccini, squash, broccoli, tomatoes, and onion with wheat pasta.. they never noticed.... stir fry is a favorite as well... whatever veggies come to mind works great over whole grain rice.... flat wrap pizza, whole wheat wraps brushed with olive oil and topped with natural sauce, italian seasoning and layered with bell peppers, onions, olives, even pineapple and finished with low fat mozz cheese.. the varieties are endless.. .just use your imagination and be surprised! Report
I also try to eat a rainbow and have 5 or more fruits and vegetables nearly every day. unfortunately I tend to get into ruts - bananas for breakfast, green apple with dinner, etc. This was a good reminder to get different fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Fortunately I don't think I've met one I didn't like. Report
I'm an extremely picky eater! I don't like MOST veggies raw but I'll eat some cooked. I really like fruits so I try to make up for my lack of veggies by eating more fruits to get my rainbow. I was eating homemade veggie soup to help incorperate more veggies into my diet at least I control the seasoning in homemade soup and it isn't loaded with sodium. Report
I try to have the "rainbow" of colors every day. But the pre-packaged salad concerns me, ever since the recent Consumer Reports did a small study and found that 39% of the samples contained coliform - a general indicator for contamination. 23% had enterococcus, usually assocition with fecal contamination. I suggest you still washed the bagged lettuce ( !!). Report
I must get in about 2 or more fruits and at least one veggie daily. I will increase my veggie intake. Report
I love all fruits and most vegetables. I try to have at least 2 fruits, 2-3 vegetables along with salad everyday. Report
I read this last night and how timely it was for me!

I never ate fruits and veggies growing up - my mother didn't cook and didn't require us to eat them so, natch, I didn't like them, (except grapes). Sad. I only recently started eating them after discovering Spark and wanting to earn points - what a deal - ha!

The PTO had a "Thank You Faculty & Staff" spread this a.m. in the lounge, consisting of assorted fruits, plenty of assorted pastries, and the biggest bagels I've ever seen.

I got excited, grabbed a plate, and started filling it up with blackberries, purple grapes, green grapes, pineapple, cantaloupe, and strawberries. Those around me said "wow". I said, I was trying to create a rainbow. :-)

I resisted the ginormous muffins! Go, Me! Thanks, Tanya!
I LOVE dried fruit as a sweet treat! The only question I have, is what about eating in season? I've read that it's generally healthier to eat the fruits & veggies that are in season. Report
I realized that I'm doing great in all color groups except Blue/Purple! Didn't realize I was neglecting that color of the rainbow, so I'll try and remedy that next time I shop at the grocery store. Thanks for the article! Report
I do pretty well on this. I already do most of the tips recommended. Growing up, my mom would always emphasize having at least two colors of veggies at dinner (usually one green & one something else). Report
This is such a helpful image! Now every day I try to see how many colors I can include. Thanks! Report
What a wonderful description - rainbow of food. Since embarking on my health journey I have certainly increased the amount of fruit and vegetables that I eat but I must confess that I am not adventuresome in trying new foods - I stick to my old favourites!! Report
ALWAYS eat a rainbow of good whole natural foods.
LOVE my veggies & fruits!! Report
I have not been eating enough in this category. This article was very motivating. Now I have a new goal-eat 5 a day. Report
I like the comparison of the rainbow of colors to the rainbow that we have to remind us of a promise, a commitment. We just need to follow the rainbow. Report
I LOVE that picture! Report
I used to used a variety of foods, then developed UC and had to pull back significantly. I feel the article is right on with the importance of rainbow eating. Since remission I've been able to add foods back and am happy on that. There are foods that I can no longer eat but I can still get in the rainbow. As for juicers, I say don't waste your money. The amount of veggies or fruit required to create 1/2 c of juice is crazy high and expensive. Rather, if one insists on juice (which I feel isn't a necessary unless like some with UC you cannot tolerate anything but juice) buy the real juice. It's cheaper in the long run and just as healthy as an expensive juicer and all that is required to make. Or buy a hand juicer and squeeze orange/lemon into a glass of water. I add lemon juice to all my water. Back to rainbow eating, at this time the barrier is cash. It's difficult to purchase the rainbow of foods when there isn't much money but that will change one day too. Report
This was an awesome article. I am going to copy the one cup and half cup servings so I can look at them often Report
Thanks, Tanya, on a wonderful article well written! On my doctor's recommendation, I've really gotten into "rainbow" eating, and I can honestly say that I feel markedly better! My shopping patterns have gotten a wee bit different, though: Most of what I buy is produce, and then I tend to go around the perimeter of the store for dairy and protein. Have really gotten away from processed foods. I'm saving your article for future I've gotten to love these goodies :) Report