Balancing Foods with Adim Ogbuaku

Katie Wisneski, MSU student and intern, talks with Adim Ogbuaku, community nutrition instructor, about MyPlate, balancing foods to get a variety of nutrients, ways to eat foods that aren't your favorite, and trying new foods.

September 15, 2020

Neighborhood Nutrition graphic - Title on top of wood background with fresh vegetables and pasta and the MSU Extension logo.

Katie Wisneski: Welcome to Neighborhood Nutrition, a Michigan State University Extension podcast. This first season will focus on food resource management, providing you with tips and tricks for how to make the most of your food dollars. My name is Katie Wisneski, and I'm a public health nutrition intern and student at Michigan State University. Today we're talking to Adim, a community nutrition instructor from Wayne County. Hello, Adim thank you very much for joining us today.

Adim Ogbuaku: Thank you very much for having me.

Katie: We're excited to talk with you.

Adim: I'm excited to be here.

Katie:  Can you explain what MyPlate is?

Adim: MyPlate is the USDA's recommendations for healthy, balanced eating.

Katie:  Can you give some examples of what is on that?

Adim: So there are about five food groups. So we have protein, grains, fruits, vegetables, and the dairy group.

Katie: Okay, and how should people interpret it? Should each meal look like the plate that is on MyPlate, or should it be more of a general throughout the day, that's the portions that you should have for each?

Adim: Yeah, MyPlate is a  general guideline. It's a guideline for the whole day's eating. So, your plate doesn't necessarily have to be portioned out the way it is in the picture, but that's kind of telling you what five food groups you should be trying to get every day in all your meals. And then there's also the recommendations of how much per food group you should be eating. So it's like three glasses of milk. So about three 8 ounce glasses of milk would be your total intake of dairy for the day. So if you have a glass of milk with breakfast, or if you use milk in your cereal, that counts. And then let's say you have a couple of slices of cheese with your sandwich at lunch. That works great. And then dinner can again be another glass of milk or some other dairy product that has that calcium, that we need.

Katie: Okay, and before they had different things like pyramid, I know they have that when I was younger. But this way, where it's a picture of the plate, I think this is more easier for people to understand looking at it.

Adim: Yes, definitely I remembered the, MyPyramid as well. I remember kind of trying to figure out and which way the pyramid was going. Was the bottom more important or was the top more important? And so the way it is now it's a plate, so it's a circle. So you know, it's kinda like going around in that kind of helps us understand that it's everything together, that there's not one group of foods that's kind of better than the other and we should eat, you know, just that if we want to be best health, but it's all of it together, works as a team to make our bodies work correctly.

Katie:  Mhm. Okay, so going into fruits and vegetables, can too much fruit be bad because of the sugar content?

Adim: I think the way I would put it is that it's good to stay close to the recommended amount because too much fruit could make your stomach sick or not feel so good. And it does have sugar in it. So if we're eating a lot of high sugar, fruits like apples and bananas, that could end up having too much sugar for us. But if we vary our fruit choices, like berries have less sugar content in them. So it's all about balance and about variety. So we don't want to just stick with one thing all the time because then we're also going to be missing out on the nutrients from other fruits.

Katie:  Okay, and why would you say that fruits and vegetables are so important, so much that they take up about half of the MyPlate?

Adim: They are super important because they give us a lot of the vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. So, vitamins and minerals are nutrients that the human body needs to be able to keep its functions going correctly, right? But our bodies don't make some of these nutrients that we need. That's why we need to eat the foods that we need from like the MyPlate to help us get those nutrients so that our bodies can work correctly. And fruits and vegetables are super important because a lot of those vitamins come from fruits and vegetables. For example, vitamin A, which is good for your eyes, which is good for your skin. That comes from fruits and vegetables, specifically carrots, right? Also, vitamin C. We know that vitamin C is super important for immune health, and just keeping our bodies doing the things it needs to do. And vitamin K is also very important because it helps our blood to clot. So that means that it helps your body not bleed out when you cut yourself. And so vitamin K can be found in dark leafy vegetables.

Katie: Since we get out of our vitamins and nutrients from these fruits and vegetables, If somebody says that, they just do not like fruits and vegetables and they would rather take a multivitamin. Do you think that would be equivalent to eating fruits and vegetables?

Adim: The best way to get our vitamins and minerals is from eating the actual whole fruit itself. Supplements and things like that, if we need them, those are things that our doctors can help us with. But a lot of the minerals and vitamins that we need, we can get from our fruits and vegetables. That's why the MyPlate is so important and so helpful because it gives us those recommended amounts that if we eat them, we can be rest assured that we are getting a really good amount if not all of the vitamins and minerals that we need for that day. So I think it would be good to kind of help us remember that as much as we can to include fruits and vegetables into our diet, even if it's not our favorite thing to eat, we can add it to something we like to eat. So if you're not a broccoli eater, you can put it in a casserole with some chicken and some cheese. And you're getting those nutrients, but you're not having to eat like raw broccoli or eat it on the side if it's not your favorite. Like me, I'm not a fan of tomatoes. So guess what I have, I will eat tomato sauce all day long with whole grain pasta or something like that. But I'm not going to go pop cherry tomatoes. But I'm still getting my nutrients from that tomato.

Katie:  Mhm, Yeah, those are great examples. And I think too that, well, from research that I've done, fruits and vegetables have more bioavailable nutrients. So when compared to supplement, when we take them, our body might not digest them and actually use those vitamins and minerals. But when we eat fruit, we have a better likelihood of actually getting the full impact of the vitamins and minerals that are included in the fruits and vegetables. So, that's a good thing to keep in mind as well.

Adim: Yeah, that's so correct because our bodies were designed to absorb nutrients from the foods we eat. So it takes a little bit for it to recognize a pill that you're putting into it. And not only that, when you think about it, if your body isn't absorbing it, but you're paying all that money for that extra supplement that's literally being flushed down the toilet, that doesn't do anyone any good. 

Katie:  Right. So what is the importance of eating a rainbow? We hear that term a lot or I have anyway.

Adim: Yes, I've heard that term as well. So when we're talking about eating a rainbow, it's talking about another way to say that is to vary your fruit and vegetables. So eat lots of different colors. Fruits and vegetables are the most diverse color wise of foods that we eat. And that's because each color category almost has different nutrients that it brings to the table. So if we only eat one type of fruit and vegetable, but we don't eat the others. We are missing out on those nutrients. So if we only eat carrots, are going to get all the vitamin A we need, but we may be missing out on vitamin C. We might be missing out on vitamin K. Let's say we don't eat potatoes or something like that. We're missing out on potassium, which is something our bodies need as well. So it's good to eat a rainbow. That's a great way to think about eating different fruits and vegetables. Make sure your plate reminds you of a rainbow. So that doesn't mean necessarily that you have to eat every color of every vegetable and fruit every day. Because that, that will drive us all crazy and stress us  out, but it means, you know, if you're going to have a red apple today, maybe have a green apple tomorrow, maybe have some raspberries the next day. There's seven days in a week. We can spread it out and kind of have fun, maybe choosing each day to have a different color vegetable or fruit and just have some fun with it, but to make sure we get all those different kinds.

Katie:  So does each color of fruits and vegetables represent a specific vitamin and nutrient that  comes with it, or is it just important to vary everything?

Adim: Well, each color does kind of have its own distinguished nutrients that it brings to the table, so to speak. So for example, orange fruits and vegetables kind of gave you that vitamin A. But I think it's also a particular category. So like for example, citrus fruits like oranges and lemons and grapefruit and things like that, will give you a higher percentage of vitamin C than, let's say leafy greens. On the other hand, leafy greens gives you a higher percentage of vitamin K than iceberg lettuce would give you. So it's things like that. And of course, we've talked about carrots, which they're orange and they give us a lot of vitamin A. And that's the same thing with like sweet potatoes ok, so  those kind of things, they can be classified by the types of fruits or vegetables they are, but also by the colors sometimes. So if you're thinking orange, you can think vitamin A. If you see oranges and lemons, you can think like vitamin C. You see leafy greens, you can think of vitamin K. And I just want to also help us remember that these aren't the only nutrients that we get from these foods. These are just the ones that are common that almost everybody has heard about. All these fruits and vegetables give us other things and more things, then we can talk about. 

Katie:  Can you get the same nutrients from a 100% fruit juice versus the whole fruit like orange juice or apple juice. Are you getting the same vitamins and minerals?

Adim: You're getting most of the same vitamins and minerals. The main difference between drinking apple juice versus eating an apple is that with the apple juice, you are missing out on the fiber. Which is a really important nutrient because it helps our bodies stay regular, it helps our bodies clean out toxins. So when we're just drinking juice all the time, our bodies not getting that help with clearing out the system. Just think about your digestive system like a pipe. If there's something blocking that pipe than the water or the liquid is not going to go through, it's gonna get stopped up. And fiber is that cleaner that comes and cleans out that pipe line and gets everything flowing the way it's supposed to be. So fiber is nature's drano. [Laughing] 

Katie: I like that. So how can incorporating more fruits and vegetables help our immune systems, especially during this time? Where it's important to have a good immune system. 

Adim: Yes, it is. And it's again, the things we've already been talking about because these vitamins and minerals, they help keep our immune system strong. The really famous one that we know about is vitamin C, right? The other ones help as well, but that's the one that we really know about that when we get sick, we know we can like go to the store and buy those packets. That give us extra vitamin C. Well, maybe we wouldn't need those extra packets if we had this constantly in our diet. So that's why it's good to eat fruits and vegetables because it keeps our bodies up all the time and makes it stronger to fight against viruses and things that come against it, it just helps the body fight it better. It  doesn't mean you're not gonna get sick, but it could mean that you don't get as sick and that you don't and stay sick as long as you would otherwise.

Katie:  Mhm, yeah, those are great points. If someone has the opportunity to get a fruit or vegetable that they've never tried before, and they're nervous about that they're not going to like it, or they don't know how to eat, what do you suggest?

Adim: That's a great question. I suggest you give it a try. What I do is I am a very curious person, so if I see something I've never tried before, I will get it and I'll take it home and I'll cut it apart. Or I'll, I could figure it out myself or I could Google it and try to figure it out. The amazing thing is that we here, MSU Extension actually have some videos on YouTube on our MI Health Matters page that we are making videos of lots of different foods and recipes and things like that. I just saw one for star fruit. If you've never seen star fruit before, you could search it up, it's right there on our YouTube page and see how to cut it and see how it turns into that star shape. Because I gotta tell you in the store, it doesn't look like a star. So that's an example of what to do with fruit we've never seen before. Or pomegranates, I remember the first time I saw a pomegranate. I didn't really understand what it was, like how are you supposed to eat this, right? It wasn't until I did some research and found out, oh, you're supposed to eat those little bead like things, that it's full of. So it's just great to go exploring. If it's on sale, sometimes our grocery stores have like exotic fruits or different fruits on clearance or on sale. That's a great time to try something like that. Or if we are getting food from a food pantry and we see those beets over there. They just look weird and I don't know what that looks like, but let me grab that. Let me cut it open. Let me look it up on Google. Let me see how to cook it and try it out. No harm done. It's always good to find new flavors to eat with so that we're not always eating the same thing over and over again. That's a great way to find out if you like something and to get more nutrients into our bodies.

Katie: And you never know, that could be a new favorite fruit or vegetable that you've just been missing out on your whole life because you're too scared to try it.

Adim: Yep. Yeah. 

Katie:  And like you said to a lot of people get stuck in food ruts where they just eat the same things because they don't know what else to do. So this is a great way to spice it up. Just add something new. So when someone buys fresh fruits and vegetables and they start to go bad, or they know that they'll not be able to eat them on time. What are some tips on how to deal with this situation?

Adim: Okay, so the way to do this is it's time to preserve, right? So we can freeze them. We can cook them up right away, and that way sometimes just cooking a food helps it last longer than it staying fresh. But my favorite way and I think the most popular way is to just freeze it. So if you have like some celery that's gone limp in the refrigerator, you can wash it, cut it up into smaller pieces, plan a Ziploc bag and put in the freezer. It is going to keep its shape. It's going to keep its taste. And it's great to put into things like soups. I know it's summer right now, but winter is coming right around the corner. We could keep that for some soup or we can keep it even for cooking our meats. So if you have a roast that you want to cook, that celery is already pre-cut and ready to go. Dump it in there, it's going to give the roast a great taste. Same thing with your poultry, celery is really, you can use it all around for basically any meat. Freezers are great idea. I would suggest that you get a permanent marker and you write the date on the plastic bag so that you can remember when it was put in there and to use it within a good amount of time. Also, this is another great thing that we are also working on resources to help you out with this, and we have a lot of resources at MSU Extension to help with preserving fresh fruits and vegetables. Another option is canning. Now, canning is a lot more involved, so I can't talk too much about that one cuz I'm not an expert in it at all. I don't think I've ever done in my life, but I've kind of seen it done on cooking shows and things like that. But that's another great way to preserve fruits and vegetables. So if you are into trying new things like that, that's a great way.

Katie:  There's also like drying which I haven't done this either, or dehydrating. You put your fruit or vegetable in the oven at a really, really low temperature, I think like a 100 degrees and you do it for an extended period of time and then you can have like chips or, you know, dried fruits. Again, I haven't done that, but I'm sure there's a lot of great resources online if that's something that people are interested in. But, I noticed that sometimes when you freeze fresh fruits, it can have a different taste if you just thaw it out. So what would you suggest? Some recipes for like frozen fruit or like spinach, that would be weird if you just thawed it out. Sometimes. 

Adim: The perfect recipe for frozen fruits and spinach is a  smoothie. Put it in a smoothie and it'll be the best thing ever.

Katie:  Mm-hm.

Adim: Yep, that's definitely a great way. Another way to preserve fruits is to just put them into a smoothie. So, yeah. So and because that way the taste, you're not trying to bite into it. So its like, oh, that's a weird taste. Yeah, because once you freeze fruit, especially, it's not going to be the same. If you thaw it... it's just... smoothies are the best way to go there.

Katie:  I agree.

Adim: Same thing with spinach. You can put spinach in the smoothie. That's a great way to get your vegetables. If you're trying to get vegetables in, but you just can't bring yourself to eat it by itself. Put it in a smoothie, it's a great way to hide it and get those nutrients. Now if you are going to cook the spinach after it's been frozen, cook it  from frozen, whether it's spinach or broccoli, cook it from frozen. I know that sounds like the opposite of what we should do. But trust me, it looks a lot better if you cook it from frozen rather than trying to thaw it, and then it looks all limp, and it looks, it changes color and it's not as pretty.

Katie:  Mhm. Yeah. I agree. Do you have any other advice that you'd like to share?

[Adim] I encourage everyone to try new foods. Try new fruits and vegetables. You won't go wrong just trying it once. And it's also good if we're trying to encourage children, younger children to eat those as well, to start them off younger so that they're used to those tastes, right? But they won't do it if they don't see us doing it. So if we're going to insist that the little ones eat carrots, they need to see us eating carrots instead of cheese puffs, right? Those are very good things that look really close together. So swap out the cheese puffs for carrot sticks and you can eat it together with some nut butter or some low fat ranch. And that's a great way to swap that out, and you're getting something that's still giving you the crunch that you want, but is a lot healthier for you. So that would just be my advice to try something new and to just eat a rainbow.

Katie:  And what's the main idea that you want people to remember and take away from this conversation?

Adim: I think I want us to take away from here that we can get the nutrients we need from our food. It's not about popping supplements. That there's a place for that if necessary, but that's something we need to talk about with our medical people. But we can start with what we eat. That food can be medicine. It should be our first medicine. So that's my idea.

Katie:  Yeah, great. Well, thank you very much for your expertise. I think we covered a lot of great and helpful topics today.

Adim: Yes. Thank you so much for inviting me. I had a lot of fun with this.

Katie:  Thank you for joining us for this episode of neighborhood nutrition. We hope you tune in for our next episode. Funding for this podcast comes from the US Department of Agriculture Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP and the expanded food and nutrition education program, also known as EFNEP, and is from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Music used on this podcast is Champ de tournesol by Komiku, and was accessed from MSU is an affirmative action equal opportunity employer committed to achieving excellence through diverse workforce and inclusive culture that encourages all people to reach their full potential. Michigan State University Extension programs and the materials are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion, age, height, weight, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, marital status, family status or veteran status issued in furtherance of MSU Extension work acts of May 8th and June 30th, 1914 in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture, Jeffrey W Dwyer, Director of MSU Extension, East Lansing, Michigan 48824 this information is for educational purposes only. Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by MSU Extension or biased against those not mentioned.

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