Are you getting enough vegetables each day?

The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people needing 2,000 calories per day include 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables in their daily diets. The average American falls far short—consuming only 0.9 cups of fruit and 1.4 cups of vegetables per day according to U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys. Individuals choose foods based on taste, convenience, cost, and other factors. Cost, in particular, has been cited as a possible barrier to fruit and vegetable consumption, especially for low-income households.

In 2017, Crow Wing Energized discovered that 2 out of 3 people surveyed in Crow Wing County are not getting the recommended 5 fruits and vegetables each day for a 2000 calorie healthy diet. Many find that consuming fruits each day is easier. It’s the vegetables that can be a struggle.

What can we do to help our community increase our vegetables?

One Vegetable One Community is an initiative developed by the University of Minnesota Extension to help adults and children increase their consumption of vegetables. One Vegetable, One Community encourages gardeners of all levels to plant, grow, cook, and/or share one vegetable. In 2020, carrots were the focus vegetable of the year. For 2021, Crow Wing County community members voted and chose salad greens!

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Join us in celebrating and enjoying salad greens as the One Vegetable, One Community vegetable this year! Salad greens can be planted anywhere from small spaces, to large plots. Your garden of salad greens can be any size or shape.

Looking for ideas? Plant salad greens in community gardens, backyard, or front yard gardens, at food shelves, shelters, at the library, childcares, schools, in planters on town corners or store fronts, and even in planters on walking and bike paths. Really, any and everywhere.

Explore a world of possibilities in the garden by mixing up your salad greens and plant varieties. Red and green loose leaves are popular, yet there are so many delicious salad greens with different flavors to try like arugula, spinach, kale, butterhead, iceberg, and romaine to just name a few. Salads are an easy way to work in your daily veggies without loading up on the calories — as long as you choose your toppings and dressing carefully, of course.

Gardening can be a great way to grow food. This gives people an option to increase the fruits and vegetables that are available to them. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, can also help people grow their own food. With SNAP, participants can buy seeds and edible plants. It’s a great way to get fresh produce right at home! All SNAP retailers, including farmers markets, can sell seeds and plants to SNAP participants. For every $1 dollar spent on seeds and fertilizer, home gardeners can grow an average of $25 worth of produce. Growing food from seeds and plants makes SNAP benefits last longer, allowing recipients to double the value of their benefits over time.

As a general rule, the darker the green, the more nutrient-dense it is. Dark hued greens like kale and spinach contain huge amounts of nutrients, such as A, C, iron, and calcium — and have found their rightful place on "superfoods" lists everywhere. Submitted photo
As a general rule, the darker the green, the more nutrient-dense it is. Dark hued greens like kale and spinach contain huge amounts of nutrients, such as A, C, iron, and calcium — and have found their rightful place on "superfoods" lists everywhere. Submitted photo

Salad greens are incredibly good for you! As a general rule, the darker the green, the more nutrient-dense it is. Dark hued greens like kale and spinach contain huge amounts of nutrients, such as A, C, iron, and calcium — and have found their rightful place on "superfoods" lists everywhere. On the other hand, paler-leaved bunches like iceberg lettuce or endive rank lower on the nutritional scale. However, they are still low-cal, high-fiber, and generally very hydrating. Add that in with the fact that many of them contain disease-fighting phytonutrients, and it’s hard to find a reason not to go for leafy greens whenever you can. All in all, no matter the salad green, it’s hard to go wrong!

With One Vegetable, One Community, we encourage you to plant, grow, learn and share salad greens this year. Join us on the Crow Wing County OVOC Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/CWCOVOC, for tips, recipes, and events centered around salad greens. We invite you to share pictures and stories of what you are doing with your vegetable of the year! As a community, let’s have some fun while increasing our vegetable intake for better health.

Salad greens seeds (a lettuce mixture) and One Vegetable, One Community salad greens information are free and available at the Brainerd Public Library, Cub Foods in Baxter & Brainerd, and SuperValu in Pequot Lakes. Pick some up and plant today!

If you want more information about One Vegetable One Community or have an activity or event and would like seeds, please contact University of Minnesota Extension; SNAP-Ed Educator, Carolyn McQueen at cmcqueen@umn.edu or Crow Wing Energized; Community Health and Wellness Specialist, Kalsey Stults at kalsey.stults@essentiahealth.org.