Fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your diet -- at least five to nine servings every day. They're low in calories, which is good, and they are high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, which is even better.
Here's how to increase your fruit and vegetable intake:
Make them more convenient at home. Apples, pears, bananas, oranges and cherry tomatoes don't need refrigeration so you can keep them in plain view on your countertop or table. When snack time rolls around it will be easy to grab a piece of fruit or a handful of cherry tomatoes.
Stock up on frozen vegetables. They're quick and easy to prepare in the microwave or on the stovetop. You can choose single vegetables such as peas, carrots, green beans, or cauliflower, or you can try seasoned blends of vegetables.
Pre-cut and pre-washed salads-in-a-bag make meal time easy. Just don't assume that the pre-washed salad blends are really clean. Give them a good rinse before preparing your meal.
Take fruits and vegetables to work. Dehydrated fruits such as raisins, dates and dried cranberries keep nicely in plastic containers. Tuck a bag of raisins in your purse for an easy snack. Single serving packs of applesauce or fruit cups that don't need refrigeration can also be kept at your desk.
Pack sliced carrots and celery with your lunch for a nutritious afternoon snack. If you eat lunch at a restaurant, choose a side salad instead of French fries and drink 100-percent fruit juice instead of a soda. Order vegetarian sandwiches and wraps. They're usually low in calories and can give you two or three servings of vegetables with just one sandwich.
Serve fruits and vegetables as after school snacks. Avoid the bags of greasy chips, bowls of ice cream, and bottles of sugary sodas. Those snacks are high in calories and low in nutrition.
Replace them with:
- Freshly cut vegetables and dip.
- A mix of your favorite 100-percent fruit juices with club soda.
- A parfait made with yogurt, berries, and nuts or granola.
- A small bowl of whole grain cereal with fresh fruit slices or raisins and low-fat milk.
- Frozen seedless grapes.
Sandwiches, Salads and on the Side
Eating a salad as a meal can give you several servings of fruits and vegetables. Start with some lettuce and add sliced tomatoes, apples, pears, berries, celery, cucumbers, sprouts, raw green beans, broccoli or cauliflower. With so many combinations, you can eat a different salad every day.
Eat a salad as a meal once or twice each week.
When you make a sandwich, be sure to add lettuce and a couple of thick tomato slices. Take the rest of the tomato, slice it up and serve it on the side. Add extra vegetables to your soup and stew recipes, or even to canned soups.
Set a goal to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. If you need a little help, you can supplement with a fruit and vegetable beverage. Or use a juicing machine to make your own fruit and vegetable juices.
"Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005" Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), January 12, 2005.