Just when you have begun to settle in to eating at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day I decide to step it up a bit. Did you know that many dietary experts recommend 9 servings and some recommend 12 servings every day of fruits and vegetables? Oh my gosh how can that be possible?
And yes you have probably guessed it. I am going to challenge you this week to step it up to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables. For every day you eat 9 servings of fruit or vegetables you earn the daily 5 bonus points.
I’ve been going way too easy on you. According to the latest recommendation released by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Nine servings translate to about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.
We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us, but how do we go about getting nine servings every day? Most of us had a hard time working in five.
And what about people who don't even like veggies? Many of us can even picture our mothers urging us to "eat our vegetables" at the family dinner table -- or even refusing to let us leave the table until we choked those veggies down. (In fact, some researchers believe that bad experiences with vegetables from our past can affect how we feel about these vegetables now, says Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition consultant to the American Institute for Cancer Research.)
If this sounds like you, eating 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day probably sounds next to impossible. But it's a goal that's so important for your health.
The best nutrition minds in the country made these recommendations after studying the research that show fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and high blood pressure," says Christine Filardo, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. "Fruits and vegetables can also help fight the obesity epidemic."
For those of you that are LDS fruits and vegetables are the “herbs” referred to in the Word of Wisdom that we are to partake of with prudence (actions to be done) and thanksgiving.
According to Filardo, the most common reasons people give for not eating more fruits and vegetables are that they often aren't convenient, and people don't know how to prepare them.
So what does it take to get into the nine-a-day habit? According to experts:
• It takes constantly reminding yourself to eat fruits and vegetables.
• It takes having fruit and veggies available at every turn -- at work, at home, in restaurants.
• It takes making it easy for yourself, because most people today are beyond busy.
With all this in mind, here are 17 surefire ways to get you on the road to enjoying fruits and vegetables several times a day.
1. Make fruit salad.
Fruit is much more appealing if it is cut, washed, and assembled into a colorful salad. A couple of times a week, clean out your produce bin and make a beautiful fruit salad.
2. Make a bowl of fruit part of your decor.
Wash whatever fresh fruit you have at the moment and set a big bowl of it on your table or desk. As you pass by or talk on the phone, you'll find yourself munching on this awesome snack food.
3. Toss some fruit into your breakfast.
Throw some fresh, frozen, or dried fruit into your breakfast, whether you're having a smoothie, pancakes, French toast, or hot or cold cereal.
4. Throw some veggies in the skillet.
Making an omelet or frittata? Fill it with chopped tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, chili peppers, broccoli florets, or whatever you have on hand. Any or all of these veggies can also be tossed into any potato skillet dish.
5. Crunch on a green salad.
Eat a crisp, green salad every day. It's a cool and refreshing way to work veggies into your lunch, dinner or snack. Load your salads up with as many raw veggies as you can: cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, broccoli florets, green beans, onions, radishes, jicama, tomato, etc. And try using high-nutrient raw spinach or romaine instead of iceberg lettuce. For a sweet twist, add fruit to your green salads. Strawberries, pears, grapes, orange segments, mango, and papaya all work well.
6. Pair fruit with protein
Enjoy some fresh fruit with cheese or nut butter for a nice (and portable) dessert, picnic, or snack. I was surprised my favorite gas station (Go WAWA) sells a little snack pack of celery and carrots with peanut butter-mmmmm.
7. Munch on dried fruit.
Dried fruits make great snacks! They don't go bad or get bruised, and you can carry them in your briefcase or car (or store them in your desk) for a pick-me-up any time of day. Try dried apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, prunes, raisins, dates, cherries, blueberries, and more.
8. Add veggies you like to dishes you love.
Spaghetti is one example of a dish that can be secretly supplemented with veggies. Just add finely chopped zucchini, mushroom, onions, eggplant, or yellow squash to a flavorful spaghetti sauce. The smaller you chop the veggies, the less likely you are to notice they're there.
A few more examples:
• Layer zucchini slices into your lasagna (my daughter makes this yum!)
• Stir broccoli florets into macaroni and cheese.
• Toss a few chopped vegetables into an omelet.
• Slide some veggies into a cheese quesadilla.
• Serve spaghetti squash INSTEAD of noodles with your favorite red sauce
9. Spoon up some soup.
Have soup as a snack or with a meal, at home or in a restaurant. Choose soups that are bursting with vegetables. You can embellish canned soups with extra veggies, too. Just stir them in while you're heating or cooking the soup.
10. Drink your vegetables (and fruits).
Some people are just more likely to drink their fruits and vegetables. V-8 or carrot juice equals a serving of vegetables. Or try blending some carrot juice with a fruit juice you enjoy (maybe orange or tangerine juice) and you've got a fruit AND a vegetable serving.
11. Vegi-fy your pizza.
If you like pizza, top it with some vegetables. Try any combination of tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini, and artichoke hearts.
12. Toss some on the grill or roast them in the oven
After you take your meat or fish off the grill, don't waste the hot coals. Throw some fruits and/or veggies on the grill while you're at it. You might be surprised at how great they taste!
Often, you can use the same marinade you're using for your meat. (Just marinate your fruits or veggies separately from the meat or baste them with marinade that hasn't touched the meat, so they're not exposed to raw meat juices.)
You can make a veggie kabob with chunks of vegetables (eggplant, carrot, bell pepper, mushrooms, zucchini and other squash). Soft vegetables won't need precooking, but firm vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, or broccoli, will benefit from steam or microwave cooking before they hit the grill. And veggies roasted in the oven are not your mama’s veggies- much much yummier!
13. Get them at the drive-through or service station
These days you can get your vegetables at many fast-food chains. Wendy's, for example, offers a Caesar side salad (with 70 calories and 4 grams of fat, not including dressing) or a side salad (35 calories, 0 grams fat, not including dressing). Ask for the fat-free French, low-fat honey mustard, or reduced-fat creamy ranch dressing. Use half the packet and you'll add around 50 calories and from 0-4 grams of fat, depending on which dressing you choose. Or skip the dressing all together. I often order a side salad and eat it without salad dressing and with my fingers while driving as you would French fries. And as I mentioned earlier a lot of convenience store and even gas stations are now offering fresh fruits and vegetables for snacking.
14. Dress up your dinner plate with fruit. Borrow a trick from restaurants, and add a beautiful fruit garnish to your dinner plate. It adds color and texture to your meal. Try orange wheels or wedges, sliced kiwi, a small branch of grapes, a wedge of melon or a roasted tomato ½.
15. Drizzle on some cheese sauce.
Pour a little cheese sauce or grated cheese over a pile of broccoli spears or cauliflower, and suddenly it's a whole different ballgame. You can make a lower-fat cheese sauce using reduced-fat cheese, fat-free half-and-half, and no butter or margarine.
16. Serve your veggies raw.
Raw vegetables are sometimes more appealing than their cooked counterparts. When you have a platter of assorted raw vegetables and some delicious low-fat dip in front of you, the vegetables just seem to disappear! Try raw cauliflower or broccoli florets, cabbage, or spinach, along with the usual carrots and celery. Use a light ranch or Italian dressing as a dip, or make your own and keep it ready to go in your refrigerator.
17. Have prepared fruits and veggies ready to go in the fridge.
I don’t know about you but as soon as I get home from the store, I rinse all the fruit and prepare it for eating. I like to cut my grape stems into small sections with kitchen shears and rinse and store them in a colander. I like to have the fruit washed, clean prepared and near the front middle of my fridge so it becomes the easiest thing to grab in a rush.