How to include more fruits and vegetables into your diet... and love every bite
When it comes to health, we often get conflicting advice: some studies tout the advantages of foods like dark chocolate, coffee, red wine while others warn against them. There is one thing that everyone agrees on: most Americans should be consuming a lot more fruits and vegetables.
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In their Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that fruits and vegetables should fill half our plate at every meal -- making these the foods we should eat most often.
The arguments in favor of fruits and vegetables are impressive. These foods:
- are loaded in nutrition, yet generally low in fats. And by eating a variety of differently colored fruits and vegetables, we're getting a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals.
- are a good source of fiber. This helps keep our digestive system healthy and makes us feel fuller faster, so we're less tempted to fill up on foods that are higher in fats, sweeteners, carbohydrates and calories.
- come in an almost endless variety to choose from.
- are attractive on the plate and taste delicious, when prepared and served properly.
- can be served as a main course, side dish, snack or even dessert.
- can be the fastest and easiest to prepare. And since we can choose from canned, frozen, fresh, dried or juice form they can be very convenient. Note: Be sure to avoid canned fruits with added sugar, syrups or canned veggies with added salt, butter or sauces. And make certain that your fruit juices are 100% juice. Also, since fruit juices often contain less dietary fiber, juices should not be your primary source of fruits or vegetables.)
Still not completely convinced? Did you know that, statistically, the people who consume more fruits and vegetables have lower rates of obesity, stroke, high blood pressure or heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancers?
How to sneak more fruits and vegetables into every meal
- scramble mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers or onions into your eggs.
- top your hot or cold cereal with berries, grapes, banana, apple, peach or orange slices.
- place sliced fruit on top of your toast.
- drink 100% juice in place of coffee.
- add lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes or avocado to sandwiches.
- load up soups with corn, green beans, onions, peppers or mushrooms.
- garnish pizza slices with artichokes, avocado, asparagus, broccoli, corn, garlic, onions, mushrooms, pineapple, peppers, spinach, zucchini, tomato or even carrots.
- add peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, onions or avocado to tacos or tuna salad sandwich.
- load up on salads, cole slaw or fruit salads when eating at fast food restaurants.
- drain and combine canned wax beans, garbanzo beans, green beans and kidney beans with vinaigrette dressing for a quick, tasty bean salad.
- saute onions, peppers, parsley, mushrooms or shredded carrots into your spaghetti sauce.
- stuff spinach, onions, peppers or mushrooms in every layer of lasagne.
- include almost any vegetable (broccoli, carrots, yams, onions, squash, collards) in the skillet or oven along with your main dish.
- include mashed or chopped bananas, apples, carrots, or peaches into the recipe when baking breads or muffins.
- investigate asian recipes which may often allow for bean sprouts, Brussels sprouts, exotic mushrooms, carrots or broccoli.
- slice yams into chips or cut into fries, toss lightly with olive oil and seasoning, and bake until tender inside and crispy outside.
- reach for an apple, banana (fresh or dried slices) or carrot or celery sticks instead of chips or sweats.
- top yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit.
- blend fruits and veggies (such as carrot) into smoothies.
Creative ways of nudging children into choosing fruits and vegetables
Here are just a few of the more novel ways that researchers have found for influencing kids into make healthy food choices:
- Kids are more likely to choose healthy foods if served with a smile (British Journal of Developmental Psychology)
- Guiding child's food choices through use of pictures (University of Minnesota)
- Making healthy foods more fun with cartoon stickers (Cornell University)
To learn much more about the importance of eating more fruits and vegetables, along with nutritious, easy to prepare recipes, visit: