Wild Card Wednesday: 10 ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

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Life is busy.  I get it.  But, if you want to be around to enjoy life later, when it’s presumably not quite so busy (sweet sweet retirement),  you need to make your health a priority today. Chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes and hypertension don’t show up overnight.  Yes, there is a genetic component but for the most part, they are caused by unhealthy eating and lack of activity.  The easiest thing you can do to help ward off chronic conditions and take care of yourself is to eat more fruits and vegetables.  As most of you probably already know, fruits and veggies contain a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and more.   These nutrients are CRUCIAL to fighting off illness, disease, and cancer. They help maintain healthy organs, aid in tissue repair, and promote healthy digestion. So stop making excuses, take care of yourself and try any (or all) of these tips TODAY.

  1. Add fruit to your (hot or cold) cereal.  Throw a handful of sliced bananas, berries, peaches or whatever (fresh or dried) fruit you like into your cereal or oatmeal.  Bonus: it will add burst of sweetness to a bowl of unsweetened or low sugar whole grain cereal or oatmeal.
  2. Load up your sandwich.  My sandwiches aren’t complete without SOME kind of veggie (or fruit) on them.  The crunch of romaine lettuce, the spice of red onions or arugula, sweet tomato slices and a shmear of creamy avocado takes a mundane turkey sandwich to a whole new level.
  3. Smoothies. Throw fruit and veggies (such as spinach or kale) into a blender with water, milk or a little juice.  Make it more substantial by adding nut butter, whole nuts or seeds, or plain yogurt.  And if you are craving chocolate, toss a few dark chocolate chips or cocoa powder in for an extra boost of antioxidants and flavor.  (I use this Magic Bullet Nutribullet.  It’s awesome and makes smoothie making a snap!)
  4. Think ahead.  We may have good intentions when buying produce for the week.  But buying produce is only half the battle. If your schedule is uncertain, buy fruits and veggies that are hardy and won’t spoil quickly.  My favorite are whole rainbow carrots, broccoli crowns, whole heads of romaine lettuce, apples, pears, clementines and pink grapefruit. Alternatively, you can buy them frozen so they are there when you need them.
  5. Dress them up. For veggies: grate a little Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon on top or put dip on the side.  For fruit: add a shmear of peanut butter or cream cheese or serve them over a bowl of plain or low sugar yogurt.
  6. Roast your veggies.  Roasting veggies brings out their sweetness.  They become caramelized and crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  Bonus: Roasted veggies are delicious and incredibly easy to make.  Here’s how: Toss a sheet pan (lined with parchment) full of bite-size veggies in a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil, sprinkle them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roast at 400 degrees.  Tender veggies like broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, or peppers cook in 10-20 minutes.  Hardier veggies like carrots, potatoes, or squash will take longer (30-45 minutes). Just remember to pat them dry and toss them halfway through for even browning.
  7. Keep them handy.  You are much more likely to eat more if you have them around.  Fruits and veggies are a perfect on-the-go snack.  Snack on baby carrots or cherry tomatoes while making dinner, a piece of fruit or bowl of berries at work or grab a banana before or after a workout (this includes running after children all day).
  8. Spiralize.  There are TONS of recipes out there for spiralized veggies, most often as a pasta substitute. You can spiralize squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, cucumbers and more.  If you aren’t satisfied using them as a pasta substitute, simply add them to your favorite (whole grain) pasta or make them as a stand-alone side dish or salad.  Gina over at the Skinnytaste blog has a ton of recipes. Check them out here.
  9. Grab some unsweetened, unsulfured dried fruit.  Dried fruit provides a good dose of fiber, vitamins and minerals and it will keep you fuller longer than say, a handful of crackers or chips. Buyer beware: many dried fruit brands use added sugar to sweeten and sulfur dioxide to preserve the fruit. We don’t need the added sugar and unless you are sensitive to sulfites or are eating it in large amounts, it’s probably safe.  BUT, it’s not necessary and there are healthier alternatives out there, particularly at Trader Joe’s.  My family’s favorites are the mango and coconut but they also have unsweetened, unsulfured dried bananas, pineapples, apples, apricots and more. (No Trader Joe’s nearby?  No prob!  Other brands like Made in Nature and Peeled Snacks offer the same thing.  I’ve seen both of them at Target or you can get them on Amazon here and here.)
  10. Buy in season and local (if possible). You are more likely to eat a fruit or veggie if it’s perfectly ripe and tastes good. Here in the US, we can get most any fruit or veggie year round.  This isn’t necessarily a good thing.  A lot of the produce is picked prematurely (aka, under ripe and tasteless) so it can withstand the trek across the world.  Check out your local farmers market,  health food store, or your average grocery stores’ “local” section. Or, for even less effort, join a CSA.

And last but not least…what’s a serving and how much should you actually eat?  Here’s a handy guide from the USDA (If you are viewing this on your phone you may have to rotate your phone to view this entire chart):

Food Type
1,600 calories
2,000 calories
Examples of one serving
Vegetables
3-4 servings/day
4-5 servings/day
*1 cup raw, leafy veggies                  *1/2 cup raw cut-up or              cooked veggies                                *1/2 cup veggie juice
Fruits
4 servings/day
4-5 servings/day
*1 medium fruit (size of a baseball)                                                  *1/4 cup dried fruit                             *1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit                                                               *1/2 cup 100% fruit juice

4 thoughts on “Wild Card Wednesday: 10 ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

  1. Stephanie Dische

    Guess who got her daughter to snack on roasted carrots, red onion and zucchini today? THIS GIRL! Thanks for the roasting idea, Danielle! Addie especially loved the carrots, and said she felt good eating a snack that was healthy for her. 😉 Let’s see if she continues with this!

    Liked by 1 person

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