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* Kathy Peterson is currently enrolled in the Dietetic Internship Program at Vanderbilt, and has a passion for supporting community and local foods. She also loves to entertain and make nutrition education fun. Look for her around town because she is frequently seen wearing a carrot suit!

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H ealthy Table*

Shape Up For Summer with Fruits & Vegetables

By Karen Peterson

New Years' Eve is not the only time for an "out with the old and in with the new" concept. Summer is here! Warm weather means more family picnics, cookouts, and ball games. It's time to throw out the old high calorie dishes, introduce new ways to spice up the old favorites with fewer calories, and get in shape with fresh fruits and vegetables.

* "The grill is a frequent friend in the summer. Toss out the coleslaw and add these to your grill menu: fresh bell peppers, corn on the cob, and Portobello mushroom caps"

Research from The Centers for Disease Control suggests that eating fruits and vegetables is a great aid to weight management and possibly weight loss. The strategy is to fill up with fruits and vegetables that are packed with fiber and water (plus vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants). Fruits and vegetables add a burst of flavor and are a great substitute for higher calories foods.

Shaping up for summer begins at your local farmers' market or with the grocery cart. Plan ahead for the week and buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, which will be at peak flavor. Here are some tips to help you make the most of summer's bounty.

Make It Easy To Reach

Prepare ahead by washing, peeling, and dicing the fresh fruit and vegetables. Studies suggest successful weight loss begins with refrigerator and pantry preparation. People reach for food that is readily available and within eyesight. Portion out single serving sizes using snack bags or small reusable plastic containers. Store cleaned, cut-up produce at eye level in the refrigerator. Replace the cookie jar with a fresh fruit bowl.

Make It a Family Affair

Involve the family and plan together. Studies conducted by the National Institutes of Health suggest that families who eat together consume more fruits and vegetables and experience less weight gain. Add fresh spinach to sandwiches, fresh blueberries to salads, and serve fresh watermelon for dessert.

Make It Fun

The grill is a frequent friend in the summer. Toss out the coleslaw and add these to your grill menu: fresh bell peppers, corn on the cob, and Portobello mushroom caps. Trade in the traditional potato salad and chips for a large bowl of fresh fruit salad made with strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. For summer nights spent at the ball field, plan ahead and bring your own chow to the games, and save hundreds of calories. Prepare homemade trail mix with cheerios or granola, and dried fruit. Pack carrots and celery with peanut butter, and say no to the traditional hot dog smothered in chili and cheese. Sip on 100 percent fruit juice or water, and skip the jumbo soft drink.