10 Easy Ways to Sneak More Fruits and Veggies into Your Diet
It seems like every day there’s a new study about the value of plant foods in warding off illnesses and maintaining health. People like to focus on one “superfood” at a time, binging on acai one week and kale the next. A better strategy is to fit a wide variety of fruits and vegetables into your daily life, so you’re benefitting from last year’s superfoods and the ones that haven’t been discovered yet. Here are some tactics to painlessly raise your total count of fruits and veggies each day.
Start at Breakfast
Fill a martini glass with a little cut-up fruit and a dollop of yogurt to serve alongside your regular breakfast of eggs or cereal. It doesn’t have to be a large serving, just a few chunks of melon, a couple of blueberries and one sliced strawberry will do the trick. It only takes two minutes to prepare a fancy little fruit cup that you’ll find yourself looking forward to each day.
In Sight, In Mind
This is the opposite of “out of sight, out of mind.” Keep a big bowl of bananas, oranges, apples and pears on your breakfast bar or dining table to tempt you whenever you’re a little bit hungry. Round it out with seasonal fruits that don’t need refrigeration, like mangoes and cherries.
Add Color To Your Lunch
If you pack your lunches, keep some sliced tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, and washed lettuce in the fridge so you can quickly brighten them up with vegetables. If you usually eat out, ask if you can substitute a side salad or cup of vegetable soup for your french fries. Can’t give up fries? Get the soup on the side.
Tote a Snack
When your brain asks for an afternoon pick-me-up, do you stumble to the vending machine like a zombie? Most of us do, even if we don’t really want chips or candy. Your body is craving sugar, so fruit is a natural, but some protein alongside it will do your body good. What if you had a mango and a handful of almonds available? A sliced peach and half a cup of Greek yogurt? An apple and some peanut butter? Figure out what tempts you and make sure you have it on hand at snacktime.
Mix it Up
At dinnertime, we tend to give a lot of attention to the meat dish or entree, but when we add the side dishes we’re just opening a bag of frozen vegetables. A healthier approach is to keep the entree simple (grilled salmon or chicken breast with a little fruit salsa, maybe) and spend more time on the veggies. Adding a few delicious vegetable mixtures to your repertoire will help you pack more nutrition into a single dish. Try this ratatouille recipe from Emeril Lagasse, or an oven roasted blend of root vegetables.
A fun way to introduce vegetables to your dinner table is to stuff them. Squash are built for stuffing. Zucchini filled with a savory sausage mixture is a delicious option. Stuffed tomatoes are another favorite. The possibilities are endless.
Add a Soup Course
Tired of coming up with salad ideas that your family only ignores? Switch gears by offering a soup course instead. There’s something very elegant about a bowl of soup coming before the main meal, and if you have a hand blender or food processor, you can puree up a delicious fresh grilled tomato or butternut squash soup right in the pot. Asparagus soup is a great way to use up woody stems. Throw together a classic vegetable soup in your crock pot and let it simmer all day while you work.
Keep Crudités on Hand
Everything, including raw vegetable pieces, sounds fancier if you give it a French name. If you don’t have time to tear lettuce for a salad or make soup, just fill a plate with cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, mini carrots and olives and set it on the table. Want more? Broccoli or cauliflower florets, edamame, sliced cucumbers, red pepper strips, or pea pods are a great addition.
Looking for an evening snack to go with your favorite TV show? Grab your leftover crudités from dinner and a dab of hummus. Or make a vegetable-based dip, like baba ganoush, a delicious hummus substitute made from roasted eggplant that is as tasty to eat as it is fun to say. Or whip up a refreshing tzatziki dip out of cucumber and yogurt.
Make Shopping Fun or Easy
Burned out on running to the store for fresh asparagus or celery? Your local farmer’s market might offer a weekly or monthly assortment box for either delivery or pickup. Try an internet search with your city’s name along with the words “fresh produce box” to see what’s available. Another option is to incorporate a weekly trip to the farmer’s market into your life as a social event. Meet a friend for coffee and shop together on Saturday mornings, or make it a solo ritual if you prefer.
Making changes is always difficult, but if you can incorporate one or two of these ideas into your daily life, you’ll be rewarded with tastier meals and more robust health.