How To Eat With Color In Mind

When you look down at your plate at meal times, do you see a variety of colors? If the answer is yes, then you're most likely eating nutritious food.

Janet Brancato of The Valley Hospital.
Janet Brancato of The Valley Hospital. Photo Credit: The Valley Hospital

"All fruits and vegetables contain healthy fiber and natural chemicals known as phytonutrients that can help protect against heart disease, cancer and age-related cognitive decline, cataracts and macular degeneration," said Janet Brancato, a dietician at The Valley Hospital. Each of these fruits and vegetables are color coded, explaining the nutritional punch they each pack:


This color indicates the presence of lycopene, a phytonutrient that may help prevent cancer and maintain a healthy heart. Cooking actually concentrates the lycopene, so tomato sauce is rich in it. Other foods rich in lycopene are red peppers, watermelon, pink grapefruit, cherries, cranberries, pomegranate, red grapes, beets, red onion and red potatoes.


This color indicates the presence of Beta-Carotene, an antioxidant which is known to help prevent cancer and heart disease as well as help to promote healthy vision and immunity. Foods rich in Carotenes are carrots, yams, cantaloupes, oranges, apricots, mangos, papayas, peaches and pumpkins.


These foods are high in Carotenes as well as Limonene, which are important for cancer prevention and healthy vision. These include citrus fruits like lemons and grapefruits, corn, bell peppers, bananas and squash.


These foods contain the chemicals sulforaphane, isocyanine and indoles, all of which help to ward off cancer by inhibiting carcinogens. They include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Chinese cabbage, asparagus, green beans, leafy greens, kiwi, limes and avocado.


These colors indicate the presence of antioxidants and offer anti-aging benefits to protect memory, urinary tract health and reduced cancer risks. Include blueberries, blackberries, plums, raisins, eggplant and purple cabbage in your diet.


The onion family contains allicin, which has anti-tumor properties. These food choices also promote heart health and reduce cancer risks. They include brown pears, dates, white peaches, cauliflower, mushrooms, turnips, potatoes and white corn.

Experts agree that a minimum of five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is adequate, and nine servings are optimal for health maintenance. What constitutes a serving sizes is small: a small piece or one cup of chopped fruit or berries and one cup of raw or a half cup of cooked vegetables are all it takes. 

Hopefully, after reading this list, you are motivated to include a variety of colorful foods in your meals and snacks. Add some fruit to your breakfast and pack chopped carrots and peppers with a humus dip for an afternoon snack. Add a leafy green salad with tomatoes and avocado for dinner, along with a stir-fry of carrots, pea pods, garlic, onion, mushrooms and any other favorites. Finish off your dinner with a fresh piece of fruit for added benefits.

If you are interested in meeting with a nutrition coach to learn more about a wide range of personalized services including menu planning, refrigerator makeovers, supermarket shopping, advice about what to order in restaurants, personal chef referrals, lunch box ideas, collaborative cooking instruction and recipes, please contact Joe Juliano, DTR, Nutrition and Wellness Manager, The Valley Hospital, at 201-447-8093 or