26 Sep 8 Easy-to-Follow Tips to Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Consumption:
When I create an individualized meal plan for my clients, oftentimes they’re shocked, and intimidated, by how many fruits and vegetables they should be eating. Most Americans eat way less than what’s recommended. In general, the American diet includes too many processed foods and too few fruits and vegetables.
But going from zero to at least half a plate chock-full of fruits and/or vegetables EACH MEAL can be overwhelming. Also, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. (Broccoli … again?)
In September (and year ‘round) #MoreMatters. It’s a month to bring awareness of the deficit of fruits and vegetables in most people’s diet. Today, I want to dedicate the blog to how you can increase your fruit and vegetable consumption with these 8 easy-to-follow tips. As a registered dietitian, it’s my job to help you make the healthy choice the easy choice.
- Start with one. One apple, one pear, a plate of carrot sticks each meal. Just one addition is a great start to increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Add at least one fruit and/or vegetable each meal, or, better yet, add one fruit and one vegetable each meal. For fresher fruits and vegetables, find out what’s in season and shop accordingly. This keeps things interesting and these in-season choices are usually less expensive.
- You don’t have to see it … for it to be there. Call it the Sixth Sense Vegetable trick! Add shredded carrots, pumpkin, and zucchini to your spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, and stews. Stick broccoli and cauliflower in the blender to thicken your sauces as well. Blend up your favorite in-season fruits with yogurt for a smart, and delicious, breakfast smoothie. Make frozen fruit pops for an early fall treat. And there’s still time for watermelon slush (Kids especially love anything food item that is called “slush”.)
- Get cauliflower creative! Some new trends are cauliflower crust pizzas and substituting rice and potatoes for this cruciferous favorite. Or, try a creamy cauliflower sauce instead of sour cream. What can cauliflower not do? Well, be green. But that’s okay. It’s lighter than our carb favorites and packs a high-fiber, high antioxidant punch.
- Frozen works! Frozen fruits and vegetables have just as many nutrients as fresh fruits and vegetables. Research has found that there’s not a discernable difference between fresh and frozen corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries. Though I always recommend to buy in-season, satisfying that berry craving in winter isn’t out of the question. Plus, it can keep your palate motivated to bulk up on fruits and vegetables. No excuses!
- Start the day with berries or fruit on cereal or in your oatmeal. Make a habit of having fruit first thing in the morning – a cut-up banana or handful of berries.
- Keep it easy! Save time and prepare things ahead of time, keeping cut up fruit and vegetables in the fridge for a quick snack – making it just as easy to snack on fruits and raw vegetables as potato chips. Have hummus, yogurt, peanut butter, or guacamole on hand for a dipping treat.
- Think in colors! Variety is the spice of life, and the key to good health. Make sure you get the colors you need: purple, green, orange, red, blue, yellow … and lots of them in your meals. The more variety, the healthier you will be! Plus, they add pizazz to an otherwise boring plate. Add crunchy red cabbage to an arugula and strawberry salad. Add chunky bits of mango or frozen strawberries to your favorite spinach salad. Mix and match and make the colors pop!
- Shop smart. Stay away from those inner aisles in the grocery store. They’ll suck you in with dazzling packaging and health promises. The healthiest way to shop is the parameter of the store. If you buy canned vegetables, rinse them out a couple of times because of the high salt content. Nutrition label literacy is key to making healthier choices.
Increasing your fruit and vegetable intake doesn’t have to break the bank or turn your eating habits upside down. These 8 easy-to-follow tips can help you get healthier and help get you to make smart snack and meal decisions (one vegetable, one fruit at a time!)