Throughout our childhood we probably often heard, “Eat your fruits and vegetables”; this is a statement that still remains true as a critical component of living a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of developing certain cancers and other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and stroke. Also, fruits and vegetables provide many of the essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other nutrients that a healthy body requires daily. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat, but still high in nutritional value, plus they are simply delicious, so why not add more to your everyday meals?
The amount of recommended intake of fruits and vegetables needed generally depends on your age, gender, and level of physical activity, but with our busy schedules, keeping track and calculating the exact amount may become a bit tedious. The American Heart Association recommends eating eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables every day. An average adult consuming 2,000 calories daily should aim for 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day. There is a large selection of foods that fall into these two food groups, so adding more fruits and vegetables in your meals throughout the day will allow you to consume the recommended amount without even realizing it!
The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll realize how easy adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet can be and you’ll begin to reap all the health benefits. You can get creative with how you add more fruits and vegetables to your diet! Below are some ideas to boost the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet:
- Add fruit and vegetables to foods you love. Try adding veggies on top of pizza and slices of fruits, such as bananas or strawberries, on top of breakfast cereals, oatmeal or low-fat yogurt.
- Mix them up. Mix vegetables in with pasta sauces, lasagnas, casseroles, soups and omelets. Mixing fresh or frozen berries into pancakes, waffles or muffins is another great idea.
- Make a fruit smoothie. Make a delicious smoothie by blending fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Try bananas, peaches, blueberries, strawberries, or other berries. You can also throw in some kale and/or spinach (you won’t even taste the difference).
- Keep a package of dried fruit in your desk or bag. Some fruits that are available dried include apricots, apples, pineapple, bananas, etc.
- Prepare for an easy, to-go snack. Prepare, store and refrigerate cut fruits and vegetables the night before a busy work day so finding a healthy snack for the day won’t become a hassle.
- Make it your dessert! Frozen grapes are a great sweet treat for after dinner or throughout the day. Apples with peanut butter also make a great dessert alternative for those who have a sweet tooth!
Sources: Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, The American Heart Association, United States Department of Agriculture, LifeWork Strategies EAP, and Adventist HealthCare.