Did you know there's a single thing you can do to help you lose weight, lower your blood pressure and lessen your risk for heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes? According to the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services, you can do all those things by eating nine servings (the recommended amount) of fruits and vegetables a day. That means you should eat about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.
If that seems like a lot more than what you're consuming now, don't be surprised. Even though we all know that fruits and vegetables are essential to our health, it can be tough to work them into our daily diets—tough, but not impossible. If you think the only way to get your daily servings in is by eating fruits and veggies raw, think again. We've got ten ways you can incorporate them into your meals—and perhaps even learn to enjoy eating them.
Swap starchy carbs with vegetables. Vegetables work well as replacements for high-carb foods like bread and potatoes. Take care of your veggie quota by switching out bread, buns, tortillas or taco shells with a big bed of leafy greens. If you're a pasta lover, zucchini and eggplant “noodles” are a great alternative choice. Mash florets of cauliflower instead of potatoes or rice, and you’ll be surprised at how similar they taste!
Spice things up! We've got good news if you're a salsa lover. Salsa is a great low-calorie topping that is packed with nutrients and easy to make. Make big batches of it and put it on tacos, sauteéd veggies quesadillas and more.
Be smart with your spinach. Two great things about this vegetable: it's full of nutrients, and easy to add to a number of dishes without altering the taste or caloric load. Toss it in your casseroles, stews and soups and no one will be the wiser.
Blend in. If you or a family member is truly averse to fruits or veggies, smoothies are the answer. They're a great way to start the day and get your daily fruit and vegetable intake taken care of. Try fruit smoothies, green smoothies, kale smoothies and more. With hundreds of recipes available online, you're sure to find one that works.
Start with a salad. If you know you'll be making dinner at home for yourself or your family, make salad the first course. If you have kids, presenting it to them while they're hungry means they're more likely to eat it. Plus, it means they'll fill up on the good, healthy stuff and be less likely to overeat things they shouldn't.
Mix up your salads. Salads don't have to consist of just greens and veggies. Simply cut, wash and combine various fruits to make a cheerful, tasty fruit salad.
Get decorative. Put a beautiful bowl of your favorite fruits on the kitchen table. It'll look nice, plus it'll make it easier to snack on something delicious and healthy.
Warm up with some soup. Soup is filling, nourishing and often packed with nutrient-rich vegetables. Available at most restaurants and easy to find in the grocery store, soup is a quick, simple and delicious meal solution.
Get grilling. Steaks, chicken, fish and burgers aren't the only delicious foods you can make on the grill. Peppers, mushrooms, squash, eggplants and carrots taste great when marinated and grilled, and can even make a great vegetable kabob.
Get smart about fast food. Just because you're in a hurry doesn't mean you can't make smart food choices. Many fast food chains offer healthy salads and fruit cups. Just make sure to be sparing with the salad dressing.
If you want to learn more about healthy eating, sign up for a nutrition and/or weight loss program at Goshen Health.