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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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
While there are some fruits and veggie I don't like, I do like a variety of colors! Report
I enjoy eating the rainbow, my fruit with breakfast and a snack and vegetables with lunch and dinner! This really helps in recognizing the variety of colors and makes it easier to notice, thanx! Report
I LOVE eating from all spectrums of the rainbow!! Great article! Report
I have a huge problem with eating the rainbow. There are lots of fruits that I cannot eat, due to digestive problems. Vegetables are another story! I can eat most of them, but really don't like the taste of them. Seems like I eat the same old things over and over. I need to work on my rainbow. Report
I do colourful well.

My lunch today was butternut squash (orange), mixed cabbage (various shades of green), pancetta (pink) and chicken (white) Report
I do colourful well.

My lunch today was butternut squash (orange), mixed cabbage (various shades of green), pancetta (pink) and chicken (white) Report
Grated cabbage and carrots are great sandwich fillers, too! Report
I laughed as soon as I saw this because I was in the middle of eating fruit salad that had strawberries, red grapes, tangelos, pears, blackberries and bananas very colorful...I always feel healthier when I eat fruit. But I love colorful vegetables too. Report
I placed grated carrots into a big pot of chili along with cherry tomatoes. My family loved it. Report
My kids have always loved veggies and fruits. So my problem is keeping the rainbow on hand. I have 4 kids at home, (3 college). I like the idea of preparing fruit salad, for myself, in individual containers to carry to work. I will give this a try, but I will have to include a "DO NOT EVEN THINK ABOUT EATING IT" warning on all of them! Report
I have tons of fruits and veggies...1 cup of berries and 1 cup of spinach in a smoothie, pears, bananas, kiwi, apples, grapes, carrots, cucumbers...whatever I can grab through the day! Report
3 ounces eachof red grapes, orange carrots and green celery every day for me as a snack at work. Report
I really like this article! Unfortunately, my meals lack color :( Adding fruits and vegetables to my diet is so hard for me even though I know I should be eating more. Sometimes I look at my plate and it's nothing but brown. Me and some family friends made up a saying for the UPS commercials...."If it ain't brown, put it down"...mostly refering to food because if you notice all those so-bad-for-you-but-taste-so-good foods are brown. It was funny at the time, but in all seriousness I really need to eat more rainbow foods. Report
My rainbow is predominately green. I eat a lot of leafy greens like broccoli, spinach, chard, green beans, peppers, etc... I do eat a lot of fresh tomatoes as well as onions and garlic. So, I do well with my colors. But, it wouldn't hurt to add more colors. I think it's a good rule of thumb i.e. the more colors on your plate, the better. Report
My diet tends to be very GREEN, but I am learning to eat more of the colors. Blue/Purple is very hard for me... but I like blueberries and am starting to include them more frequently in what I eat... Report
i've been eating the rainbow more now that i did before I joined SP. i have containers at home that are exactly 1 cup in size, on a sunday night i will make a fruit salad to last me all week, and i put them in these containers so i can just grab one and go! i have Red Apples, Pineapple, Oranges, Peaches, Pears and Grapes (purple grapes)! Who knew i was consuming the rainbow! Report
Love this article ... great tips!! Report
I love cooking with different fruits and veggies. After a couple weeks I have to lay off the fiber, though. I have an ileostomy, and too much fiber can cause an obstruction. It makes my nutrition log look pretty pathetic! But life is good. I just keep on keeping on. Pam Report
HOPE2BE, actually grapefruit is great for you if you are diabetic. However, it could interfere with medications for other health issues, if you take anything for high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Report
I like different colors but being a diabetic I've heard not to eat grapefruit because it does something wrong for your system and to only eat a 1/2 a banana. You're not supposed to eat a full banana. You should differentiate between these 2 types of diaters. Unless you're a diabetic etc. Report
I eat all of these colors almost every day! Yum! The trickiest for me to get is purple, so I buy purple cabbage to shred onto my lettuce. I also eat eggplants regularly, but do they count as "purple" if I'm using a recipe that doesn't use the skin? Report
I am a vegan (on most days :) so it is really easy for me to get my rainbow intake. In the morning I make a smoothie usually with a banana, mango, pineapple, and strawberries. For snack I have cereal that has dried fruit in it plus chopped strawberries or an orange or grapes. For lunch I eat a huge salad with romaine, spinach, celery, tomatoes, red and/or green peppers, carrots, avocados, sometimes I put in broccoli, squash, beans, whatever I can get my hands on-- this helps me get plenty of colors! And then for dinner I eat a meal with grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.) and veggies such as steamed kale, roasted cauliflower, broccoli, etc. Last night I made a yummy quinoa dish that i found on the weekly roundup blog that was made with quinoa, dried apricots, broccoli, and carrots- many colors :) Namaste! Report
great article! just that i want to point out one thing. dieticians strictly advice against having fruits after the meal. Instead eating fruits before meal is more advisable. Though its written here to have them after. Report