Pause and ask yourself… “how many fruits and vegetables did I eat yesterday?”…If you are struggling to get a number, you aren’t alone. Only 1 in 10 Americans get their recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. While the consumption of fruits and veggies offers a multitude of health benefits, getting my clients to eat them daily poses quite the challenge.
Fruits and vegetables supply dietary fiber, and fiber intake is linked to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and obesity. Fruits and vegetables also supply vitamins and minerals to the diet and are sources of phytochemicals that function as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents and other protective mechanisms.
How much do I need?
Depending on your age, gender, and activity level, your recommended daily servings will vary. However, a rule of thumb is 5-10 servings combined of fruits and vegetables daily. One serving of veggies is ½ cup raw or cooked veggies, or 1 cup raw leafy veggies. One serving of fruit is ½ cup cooked, canned, or container fruit or one small-medium raw fruit.
How can I increase my daily level to receive health benefits?
- Strive to eat a fruit AND vegetable at each meal.
- Put berries on top of your yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal.
- Add spinach or kale to your fruit smoothies.
- Make a large batch of fruit salad and portion for the week. Tip! Incorporate some sort of citrus fruit-the acidity will prevent oxidation of the other fruit and prevent browning.
- Eat a large dark leafy green salad every other day.
- Roast a large batch of mixed veggies (squash, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, and broccoli) and meal prep for the whole week. These can be enjoyed cold or hot.
- Add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms or onions to your eggs for a delicious omelet.
- In soups, salads, pastas, sandwiches, pizzas, and casseroles, most recipes call for a certain amount of vegetables. My advice? Double the amount called for in the original recipe.
- Grate zucchini and carrots in turkey burgers or meatloaf.
- In addition to your traditional tomato sauce base, use any combination of chopped mushrooms, eggplant, onions, peppers, squash, and carrots. Spoon it over noodles, mix it into lasagna, start it as a soup base, spread it over pizza crust, or use it as a dipping sauce.
- Add sautéed veggies to your quinoa. My favorites are red pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, and zucchini.
- Try to experiment with a new seasonal vegetable (or fruit) each week. Seasonal fruits and veggies tastes better.
- Keep dried fruit in your car or purse for busy days when a breather is just not an option.
- Pack pre-cut fruit and veggies into snack-size bags for perfectly-portioned munchies. Keep them eye level in the fridge for easy access.
- Swap up your afternoon soda for 1/2 cup of 100% juice to squeeze in an extra serving.
Eating more fruits and vegetables is a great way to improve your nutrition. As with many things in life, the key is to take baby steps. If you currently eat 1-2 servings a day, aim for 3 servings consistently. Then gradually work up to USDA guidelines. Take these tips to heart and in time, eating your daily dose of nutrients will be easy. All gain, no pain.