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Healthy Brown Bag Challenge: Pack the Produce, and You Pack the Power

When you pack the produce in your healthy lunch, you pack in the power! Powerful fiber, vitamins and minerals in colorful fruits and veggies can help ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and prevent some types of cancer. Plus, it’s a great way to get in your extra servings of fruits and veggies each day. Only 25% of Wake County respondents meet the recommendation to eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day, according to the Wake County Human Services Public Health Report (Nov. 2011), so let’s change that this week!

So how much produce do I need?

Naturally low in calories, deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain the most vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, so they are a great way to fill up without lots of calories! Most people should aim for at least 2½ cups of fruits and veggies with lunches and snacks to achieve the recommended nine servings (at least 4½ cups) of vegetables and fruits per day. 

Don’t panic — getting your 2½ cups at lunch is much easier than you may think.  First, choose fresh fruits and vegetables that are easy to pack and eat. Second, be creative. Avoid lunch doldrums by varying the texture, flavor, color and temperature of foods. And third, don’t forget to pack snacks.  A common mistake is not packing enough food. Pack fruits and/or vegetables for your snacks, and you’ll be meeting your goal easily. 
Good choices include what’s in season locally—right now, lots of varieties of fresh lettuces are available at area farmers’ markets, plus strawberries will be in season very soon. Pack your favorite vegetables (raw baby carrots, pepper sticks-especially red, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, sliced cucumbers and celery) with low-fat dressing or hummus for dip. Pack plain low-fat yogurt mixed with berries, bananas or peaches, and spread natural peanut butter or low-fat cheese on a banana, apple or celery.
Written by Sarah Plentl MS, RD, LDN, Wake County Human Services, Health Promotion Chronic Disease Prevention

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