Many people think that healthy eating is all about what you eliminate from your diet. Low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie, sugar-free, gluten-free, and low-sodium are terms that have become a part of our everyday vocabulary. But what if it is not about what you take away, as much as it is about what you add? Most people fail to consume the recommended minimum of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and important phytonutrients that help fight disease and keep us going at our best. Although squeezing in the recommended 5 servings can feel like a challenge, it can actually be relatively easy. Here are six tips to help you increase your fruit and vegetable intake without rearranging your entire lifestyle.
- Sip on a cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice. Juices are stripped down versions of fruits and vegetables. Through the juicing process the pulp and fiber content is removed, but a large amount of nutrients remains. Life can keep us busy and on the go, which makes juice a convenient way to knock out one fruit or vegetable serving per day. Just be sure to check the ingredient lists for added sugars. Only 100% juices count towards the 5 recommended servings. Our bodies depend on fiber to keep things moving smoothly through our digestive tracts, so be sure to substitute juice for only one serving of fruits or veggies per day and include whole foods for the rest.
- Add veggies to your pasta. Pasta is a great place to sneak in vegetables. Frozen or canned vegetables can be a particularly convenient option as you can mix them into your pasta during cooking, or pop them in the microwave and fold them in afterwards. Most sauces help to mask strong vegetable flavors making veggies and pasta an ideal meal for picky eaters. Mixing in vegetables also helps add fiber, which will help to fill you up and prevent you from overdoing it on the pasta.
- Have a salad topped with chicken or fish for lunch, or simply add a side salad to your meal. Salads are a super easy option. Many stores offer pre-washed, pre-cut veggies that simply need to be assembled at meal time. Toss them on a plate and top with your favorite dressing for an easy way to add a quick serving of vegetables to your day. Feeling adventurous? Toss in a handful of berries, a few nuts, and some goat cheese, then top with a vinaigrette for a tasty blend of flavors, a bonus fruit serving, and some healthy fat.
- Add fruit to your cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt. Cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt are go-to breakfast foods for many people. Not only are they fast and convenient, but they can easily be taken to-go when necessary. Although not all options on the market are ideal for our health, your breakfast food of choice can instantly be improved upon with a handful of fruit. Toss in some banana slices, a healthy helping of berries, or even consider adding dried fruit such as raisins or cranberries. Whole fruit adds an abundance of nutrients with the added benefit of fiber for a meal that will stick with you through those first few hours of the day.
- Opt for veggies and dip instead of chips. If you are looking for a side to add to your lunch, then veggies and dip should be it. Ditch the salty chips and choose carrot sticks, raw broccoli florets, sliced bell pepper, or bite sized cherry tomatoes instead. A simple handful of your favorite raw vegetable and a spoonful of dip is all you need to perk up your midday meal and provide your body with a little more oomph to help get you through that afternoon slump.
- Snack on a piece of fruit between meals. Snacking is not a bad thing as long as you choose your snack wisely. Don’t rely on sugary processed foods to fill you up between meals. Instead reach for fresh fruit that will help scratch that sugar itch without causing you to crash an hour later. Simply keep an apple, pear, banana, or orange at your desk at work. Nature has provided the perfect sweet treats in the most appropriate portion sizes. Take advantage of their ease and convenience to help fulfill one of those recommended fruit servings per day.