Every so often, we need a checkup. When you visit the doctor for almost any appointment, it’s common to answer some questions about your health. They can range from the medications you’re taking to whether you’re feeling sad or depressed.

As fall approaches, it’s a good time to have a healthy eating checkup. There are two questions that can help assess how you’re doing.

» How often do you eat five or more serving of fruits and vegetables a day?

» How often do you consume sugary foods and drinks?

It seems too simple that healthy eating can be assessed with those two questions. But they tell a lot about where you’re at on the Agriculture Department’s two tables: MyPlate and Food Guide Pyramid.

That’s because if your daily plate is filled with cookies and soda, it often means you aren’t consuming more nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and water or milk.

And on the flip side, if you’re consistently eating five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, you aren’t hungry for other empty-calorie foods.

Many of us plan our meals beginning with the meat or protein. Try instead planning around a salad, vegetable or fruit. MyPlate recommends that half your plate is filled with fruits and vegetables. Five a day means at least two meals need a fruit and vegetable, or you can have a fruit or vegetable for a snack. Fruit can offer a great ending to a meal as well, to replace that sugary dessert.

Why focus on fruits and vegetables? They, along with whole grains, contain many of the nutrients your body needs.

When it comes to sugary foods, think about having a glass of water before you reach for a soda or energy drink (yep, most of them have sugar). Try a baked apple or grilled peach for dessert instead of a cookie or cupcake.

You’ll be surprised at how you can turn unhealthy eating into healthy eating with just these two goals.


Q: What are some of the benefits of vitamin C, and what foods are good sources?

A: Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin and is considered essential — meaning we have to consume it through foods or supplements because our body doesn’t make it on its own.

Vitamin C plays vital roles in the maintenance of skin health and producing collagen. It’s also needed for the production of certain neurotransmitters and is involved in protein metabolism. It assists in wound healing and is an important antioxidant, which is thought to help prevent certain cancers.

The recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C is 75 milligrams a day for women and 90 milligrams per day for men over 19. Good sources are citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, kiwi, broccoli, strawberries and fortified foods.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Black Bean Salad

I just made this wonderful salad for my family. It’s a great way to add a few more vegetables — and a boost of vitamin C from the lime juice — to your diet. By roasting the sweet potatoes, you bring out the flavor.


» 1 pound sweet potatoes

» 1 small red onion

» 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

» ¼ teaspoon salt

» Juice and zest from 1 lime

» 1 clove garlic, minced

» ½ teaspoon chili powder

» 1 cup cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if using canned

» ½ cup cilantro

» ¼ cup pepitas


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel sweet potatoes. Cut them into ¼-inch cubes, and place on a sheet tray. Chop onion into ¼-inch pieces, and add to the tray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil on top, and add ¼ teaspoon of salt. Toss until sweet potatoes are well coated. Spread into a single layer, and roast until sweet potatoes are tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, combine remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a jar with the lime juice, 1 teaspoon lime zest, minced garlic and chili powder. Shake well. When the sweet potatoes are done, transfer to a bowl. Add in the black beans, pepitas and cilantro.

Drizzle with the dressing, and toss until salad is combined.


Serves 4

Per serving: 303 calories; 8.5 grams protein; 37.8 grams carbohydrates; 14.5 grams fat; 5.9 grams total sugars; 8.6 grams fiber; 220.7 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.