As a returned Peace Corps volunteer and an occasional world traveler (emphasis on occasional), I am very much aware of the blessings I have in America in the abundance of food choices I have every day. When I examine just the amount of produce I can choose from in any grocery store, I am in awe of my blessings here and just how easy it is to have access to foods that nourish my body in all seasons. I am tremendously thankful for the bounty of food I experience in America, and I think eating healthy can be one way I show my gratitude.
Another way I can show my gratitude is to pass along to you some tips on how to increase your own intake of fruits and vegetables.
Most of us have no trouble eating grains, protein sources, healthy fat, and so on. But what most of us don’t eat enough of are our fruits and vegetables, and what we are probably lacking most in our diets are vegetables.
We are learning more and more in the media that these foods are so very good for us, and not only do they have the ability to keep us healthy, they also have the ability to make us healthier. Also, the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the less room we’ll have for the junk food that is hurting us.
So, listed below are 10 tips I’ve learned on my plant-based eating journey about how to eat more fruits and vegetables. Next week, I’ll provide you with 10 more! If you have any suggestions, let me know them in the comments below, and you may be mentioned in next week’s post.
- Try to eat one pound of raw veggies and one pound of cooked veggies a day (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). This will ensure you receive the diversity of nutrients that come only when the vegetable is eaten raw and only when it is eaten cooked. Just for guidance four to five raw carrots weighs a pound and often store-bought, frozen vegetables are sold in pound-sized packages.
- Try to eat one large salad a day topped with a healthy low-fat or non-fat dressing (Dr. Joel Fuhrman). And by large, I mean at least four to six ounces of greens. That amount would probably fit the size of a medium bag of popcorn you get at a theater. Top your chosen salad greens with more veggies, about a cup of a legume or combination of legumes of your choice (flavored tofu, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, or other beans), and a tablespoon or two of raw nuts.
- Experiment with cooked veggies (and yes, they can be cold!) as a topping for your salad.
- Try to eat three pieces of fruit a day. And one of those fruits should be a banana. They are amazingly good for you and help your mood.
- Don’t discount smoothies that are full of veggies and fruit as part of your plan to eat more fruits and veggies. But don’t rest totally on smoothies to try and take in more fruits and veggies either. (See my Super Easy Blended Salad.)
- Don’t get weighed down by buying the “perfect” food item. There are some rules that may be non-negotiable for your family, but try and keep them simple and try not to have too many. Buying organic can be expensive, especially when the produce you are buying isn’t in season locally. So, if your family likes cherries, and the organic ones are just too cost prohibitive at this time, buy the non-organic and enjoy them—after a diligent rinsing, of course.
- Don’t use any sweeteners to sweeten your oatmeal/morning cereal. Instead, use raisins or other dried fruit, frozen berries (I prefer blueberries!), sweet apples, cut in cubes, or any other sweet fruit. That way you’re not only sweetening your breakfast, but you’re adding more fiber and nutrition to your meal, as well as working toward your fruit requirement.
- Have a dessert salad for your after-dinner sweet tooth. My favorite is lettuce topped with granny smith apple slices, drizzled lightly with a sweet, no-fat dressing.
- When making a pasta salad, halve the amount of pasta the recipe calls for and double the veggies. (And raw zucchini is an amazing added vegetable to almost any pasta salad.) (This tip could be applied to my Savory ‘Herb d’Vour’ Pasta Salad recipe.)
- Don’t be afraid of corn or peas. I know they get a bad rap as “starchy” vegetables, but they are better to eat than no vegetables at all. Besides, these sweeter veggies may be easier for kids to enjoy as you transition them to eating more vegetables.