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Six Week Diet Turnaround: Add Fruits and Vegetables

Week Three


Updated February 04, 2014

Adding more fruits and vegetables is easy. First you need to know how many fruits and vegetables you normally eat every day, so take a look at your food diary. Count the servings of fruits and vegetables you eat, not counting items like French fries, apple strudel, pumpkin pie, etc. They may contain fruit as ingredients, but they don't count toward your daily servings here.

If you look at your daily total and you see more than five servings every day, then congratulations, you're doing a great job, especially if you're eating more than seven or eight servings every day. If your daily total is less than five servings, then you're going to focus on adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet this week. You can add some berries to your breakfast cereal, have a big salad for lunch, or serve two side dishes at dinner.

If you're not used to eating many fruits or vegetables every day, you could probably use a few tips to get you started. You might want to focus on some of the healthy fruits and berries, which are sweet and delicious (and perfect timing after cutting all that extra sugar out of your diet in week 2).

  • Serve fresh berries for dessert instead of ice cream.
  • Mix 100-percent fruit juice with club soda for a healthy soft drink.
  • Buy fresh fruit instead of cookies and pastries.
  • Make your own smoothies at home with bananas, berries and a little non-fat milk.
  • Add raisins or other dried fruits to your oatmeal.
  • Serve applesauce as a side dish at dinner.
  • Freeze grapes and eat them as a snack instead of frozen ice cream treats.
  • Serve apple slices with peanut butter.
Don't forget about your vegetables. If you're a picky eater, start with the vegetables that aren't so bitter such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and sweet corn. But don't give up on the green and other colorful vegetables. Here are some tips:
  • Serve raw sliced vegetables with vegetable dip instead of tortilla or potato chips.
  • Add one-half cup salsa to a baked potato instead of cheese or sour cream.
  • Add extra tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and broccoli florets to your salad.
  • Making soup from a can for dinner? While it's cooking, add extra frozen vegetables like carrots and peas.
  • Buy frozen vegetable blends that you steam in your microwave oven for quick side dishes.
  • Going for pizza? Top it with spinach, peppers, olives and tomatoes instead of pepperoni and sausage.
Fruits and vegetables contain the most nutrients when they're fresh. Once they're peeled, sliced, or cooked, they lose some of their nutritional value. That doesn't mean cooked fruits and vegetables are bad for you, just not optimum.

There are some differences in cooking methods that can impact how you can retain the most nutrients. In general, cooking methods that use the least amount of heat exposure (both time and temperature) retain the most nutrients. For example, steaming vegetables retains more nutrients than boiling, and stir-frying is better than roasting, pan-frying or slow-cooking. Not all nutrients are lost during cooking. Usually vitamin C and some of the B vitamins are the biggest victims. Interestingly, some of the phytochemicals like lycopene in tomatoes and anthocyanins in blueberries actually become more concentrated when cooked. Here are some tips:

  • Don't peel or cut your fresh fruits or vegetables until you are ready to eat or cook them.
  • Steam vegetables with a steamer basket in a large saucepan or an electric vegetable/rice steamer.
  • If you boil your vegetables, use the remaining broth in a sauce or soup.
  • Microwave your vegetables in microwave-safe dishes or special packaging meant for microwave steaming.
  • Don't overcook your vegetables. For example, asparagus, broccoli, carrots, and green beans are best when they are "crisp-tender," not mushy.
You should also pay attention to any extra sauces or toppings you add to your fruits and vegetables, especially if you are concerned about losing weight. Many sauces contain added sugar or unhealthy fats. It's OK to use a little sauce to add flavor, but don't overdo it. You can also season your vegetables with herbs and spices.

Your Assignments This Week

Time to eat more fruits and vegetables, so choose a goal similar to one of these:

I will eat a piece of fresh fruit instead of a candy bar at least three days this week (or four days or all week).

I will eat a green vegetable with dinner and lunch three days this week (or four or five days).

Continue to use your food diary. It will help you keep track of how you are progressing.

Your next lesson will help you understand fats -- which ones are good and which ones are bad.

Fruits and Vegetables Quiz

Ready to test your knowledge on added sugar? Take this quiz before moving on to lesson 4 next week.

Related Reading

Here are some articles to help keep you motivated and learning.

How to Get More Fruits and Vegetables Into Your Diet

Wash Fruits and Vegetables


Kuhnau J. "The flavonoids. A class of semi-essential food components: their role in human nutrition." World Rev Nutr Diet. 1976;24:117-191.

Sampson L, Rimm E, Hollman PC, de Vries JH, Katan MB. "Flavonol and flavone intakes in US health professionals." J Am Diet Assoc. 2002;102(10):1414-1420.

Scalbert A, Williamson G. "Dietary intake and bioavailability of polyphenols." J Nutr. 2000;130(8S Suppl):2073S-2085S.

"United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference." USDA Agricultural Research Service. March 20, 2007.

"Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids." Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. September 05, 2002.

Gropper SS, Smith JL, Groff JL. "Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism." Fourth Edition. Belmont, CA. Wadsworth Pub Co. 2005.

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