The month of May is dedicated to the Blessed Mother, so this is a perfect time to form the habit of d daily Rosary. It only takes about 20 minutes to pray a five-decade Rosary, but some people find that difficult to fit into their day. To make it easier, you can divide the Rosary into five decades, prayed throughout the day. (You can add the short opening prayers to the first decade.) Try praying the first decade in the morning, the second around 10 am, the third at lunchtime, the fourth at mid-day and the fifth at dinnertime.
To make this habit not only holy but also healthy I’ll give you some tips to make that habit a little easier, along with some ideas on how to improve your diet by adding more daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
Why do I need to eat so many fruits and vegetables?
Scientific studies have shown that although it’s beneficial to eat fruits and vegetables every day, it is even more important to eat a variety of these important foods. Every plant has unique phytochemicals (natural chemicals in plants), which help protect us against disease. According to the American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR), different fruits and vegetables provide different types of disease protection.
For example, broccoli, sweet potatoes, squash and apricots act as antioxidants (slowing the aging process), boost immunity and help fight cancer cells. On the other hand, apples, soybeans and onions reduce inflammation, and boost production of disease-fighting enzymes. If you eat Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and cabbage, you can block carcinogens and halt tumor growth. Cherries, grapes and berries can slow or stop cancer growth and fight viruses.
Think of the rainbow when buying fruits and vegetables. The more colors that are on your plate throughout the day, the better you’ll protect your body against disease and aging. If the only fruits and vegetables you eat are orange juice, iceberg lettuce and potatoes, then you’re missing out on a whole host of benefits.
Minimizing the Expense of Fruits and Vegetables
A common complaint is that fruits and vegetables are expensive. If you are open to eating a variety of foods, then buy fresh produce when it’s in season as the price will decrease substantially. Farmers markets and co-ops are becoming very common and offer a chance to support local businesses. Canned fruits and veggies are often on sale or can be bought inexpensively at bulk food warehouses. The freezer aisle of the grocery store is another great place to find a variety of fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices. If you have a green thumb, plant a garden and grow your own.
How Much is One Serving?
Health experts recommend a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. A serving size varies, based on the type of food eaten:
½ cup of sliced or cooked fruit or vegetable
1 cup of leafy greens
¼ cup of dried fruit
6 oz. of 100% juice
1 medium-sized whole fruit or veggie (apple, banana, potato, etc.)
Start With Breakfast
The first opportunity to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet is breakfast. A simple option is to drink 6 oz. of 100% fruit juice. Orange juice is always a favorite, but mix it up by trying carrot juice (especially good when mixed with OJ), pomegranate-blueberry juice, mango juice, grape juice or any of the countless varieties available. To save money, buy a frozen juice concentrate.
Although juice is a good start, it lacks most of the beneficial fiber found in whole fruits and vegetables. To add more fiber to your breakfast, slice bananas or strawberries on top of your cereal, or toss in a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries.
A smoothie makes a terrific energy-boosting breakfast. Pour ½ cup each of low-fat yogurt (plain or flavored) and your favorite juice into a blender, then add one cup of frozen fruit such as peaches, mangoes, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. Blend until smooth. Add additional ingredients, as needed, to create the consistency you prefer. You can modify the recipe by using fresh or canned fruit and ice. Experiment with different combinations of fruit, juice, and flavored yogurt.
A Reminder to Pray
While you’re taking the time to prepare a healthy breakfast, turn your thoughts to heaven in prayer. I’ll assume that you bless your food before eating it, but you can also pray a decade of the Rosary or reflect for a few minutes on one of the 20 mysteries. Perhaps you can read a few verses of the Bible before you sit down to eat. If you’re pressed for time, simply pray an Our Father, Hail Mary or another short prayer. Don’t just rattle off the words. Really focus on what you’re saying and give God your undivided attention for a brief period.
When your stomach starts to growl in a few hours, a mid-morning snack is so much better for you if it includes a fruit or vegetable. Try a box of raisins, a banana (add a tablespoon of peanut butter for extra protein), an apple, dried fruit mixed with nuts, or celery sticks spread with cream cheese or peanut butter. If you didn’t have a smoothie for breakfast, then whip one up for a snack. There are a variety of small, inexpensive blenders that can be taken to work for this purpose. Many of these foods can be eaten on the run. These same suggestions can be used for an afternoon snack, or try a fruit or veggie you’ve never eaten before.
Once again, take a few moments to devote to prayer. Pray the second decade of the Rosary or ask your guardian angel or patron saint to guide your thoughts, words and actions. You might search for beautiful religious art online and spend a few moments pondering the scene. I like to use the Google Image search feature by typing in an event from the Bible or one of the Rosary mysteries, which brings up thousands of different works of art.
Brown Bag It (And Pray the Angelus)
Bringing lunch from home saves money, cuts calories, and is a healthier choice than fast food or a restaurant. Add a serving (or two) of fruits and vegetables to your lunchbox or cooler. Most grocery stores sell pre-packaged, individual salad kits that include toppings, dressing, and even a fork. Swap the chips you eat with a sandwich for baby carrots, grape tomatoes, celery, radishes or bok choy. Include low-fat Ranch dressing as a dip. If you prefer fruit, pack a tangerine, apple, grapes, kiwi, or a peach.
While you’re eating lunch, pray the third decade. Since that takes just a few minutes, why not also start a habit of praying the Angelus? This ancient prayer in honor of the Incarnation is traditionally prayed at 6:00 am, noon and 6:00 pm.
Don’t turn to caffeine to beat that afternoon slump
A caffeinated beverage may give you a boost, but it will be short-lived. Instead, eat a healthy snack, including a fruit or vegetable and a source of protein. (See the section on Healthier Snacks above.) This will also remind you to pray the fourth decade of the Rosary.
Dinner and (Yes!) Dessert
Dinner is a perfect opportunity to add vegetables to your diet. Salads are quick and easy with the variety of pre-packaged “salad in a bag” options available. A less expensive alternative is to buy your own greens and salad fixings. Don’t settle for iceberg when you can try fresh spinach, mixed field greens, Boston butter lettuce, Romaine or Belgian endive. Add another serving of veggies by topping the greens with red or yellow peppers, tomatoes, radishes, or carrots; or toss in a handful of dried fruit such as cranberries or cherries.
You can make a quick and easy side dish and increase your veggie intake by using frozen vegetables. The new steaming bags make this especially easy — just heat in the microwave for a few minutes for a healthy addition to dinner. You’ll find a huge variety in the freezer section, and some even include a sauce. Canned vegetables are inexpensive and can be heated quickly. Potatoes and yams can also be cooked quickly in the microwave if you’re short on time, but do omit or limit fatty toppings such as butter and sour cream.
A healthy diet can include an occasional dessert, and fruit is an excellent choice. Dip fresh strawberries in a bit of chocolate, or serve pineapple chunks with cream cheese dip. Baked apples with cinnamon and a little brown sugar will make your kitchen smell amazing. Baked or poached pears are delicious too. Make a low-fat cobbler with fresh or frozen berries by limiting the amount of topping and serving with low-fat whipped cream or a small scoop of frozen yogurt or ice cream.
Invite your family to join you as you pray the fifth Rosary decade. You can also pray for someone who is sick, lonely or suffering in some way. Ask your family for prayer intentions, or pray for our nation’s leaders, our military, or the Holy Father.
You might not get to five servings (or five prayer opportunities) the first day or even the first week. Start slowly and incorporate just two or three of the suggestions. Gradually work up to five, or better yet, even more. You’ll soon be reaping the physical and spiritual benefits from your efforts.
Copyright 2011 Peggy Bowes