Most of us know eating fruits and vegetables is an important part of a healthy diet, but did you know that more than 90 percent of adults and children do not eat the recommended amount? That's a terrible statistic because a person's well-being is linked to how many fruit and vegetables they eat. I hope that most people know that vegetables are essential for longevity and disease prevention due to their robust amount of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and more. Vegetables are also high in heart-healthy fiber, which helps you feel full, while also being low in calories, so you can eat to your heart's content without adding to your waistline.
Your mission? Five-to-seven servings of high-quality, preferably organic fruits and vegetables every day. Take these tips to heart and in time eating your daily dose of health-sustaining foods will become your default setting and one that’s all gain, no pain:
The recommended daily amount for most adults is 3 to 9 cups:
You want variety, however, giving your body the widest range of critical nutrients and micro-nutrients. So here are some guidelines for getting the most variety each day. Don't let this stop you from eating any vegetables. All choices to eat vegetables are a win. Just use this to help you build in more and more variety. Soon you won't even have to think about it if you're seeking variety each day.
- One or more servings a day of dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, peas and spinach
- At least one serving per day of garlic, onions and leeks
- One tablespoon or more per day of green herbs, such as basil, cilantro, peppermint and sage
- One or more servings a day of red vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers, red onions, and beets.
- One or more servings a day of yellow or orange vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, sqaush, and pumpkin
- One or more servings a day of other vegetables, such as artichokes, cucumber, green beans and sugar snap peas
Simple ways to eat more and enjoy!
1. Top Proteins with Sautéed Vegetables
Instead of topping cooked fish (or meat or poultry) with a sauce, use sautéed vegetables, such as peppers, onions and tomatoes. They’ll add plenty of flavor and nutrients—and at the same time, boost portion size without adding a lot of calories.
2. Use Lettuce Leaves As Your Wrap or Bread
The next time you make a sandwich, consider lettuce leaves as a virtually calorie-free alternative to a bread slice or wrap. Just about any filling works beautifully. Try tuna or chicken salad, a stir-fry, or even a burger.
3. Add Spinach
Add spinach to soups, stews and casseroles. It pumps up the volume—so you feel like you’re getting more—for virtually no additional calories or flavor, but adds plenty of extra nutrients.
4. Dress Up Your Vegetables
- Eating vegetables simply steamed—plain—gets old fast. Add just a little olive oil plus big, bold “no-calorie” flavoring (garlic, basil, tumeric, onion, sherry vinegar), and you’ve got delicious proof that healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring. You can do it forever with infinite spices to change things up! Spices themselves give your body nutrient support.
- Keep preserved veggies in stock for when fresh and frozen run low. Artichoke hearts, olives, and roasted peppers make a great snack, appetizer, or meal accompaniment. Always look for options that come in glass jars and BPA-free cans.
5. Try Green Smoothies
If you have 60 seconds, you have time to blend up a healthy fiber-packed smoothie. The first time may be slower, but you seriously can get to where you whip out smoothies in your sleep!
- Aim to make smoothies 70 percent green vegetables/vegetables and 30 percent fruit. This is a huge part of making a healthy smoothie. Too much fruit gives your body an unintended sugar rush.
- Smoothies help you eat far more greens/vegetables than you ordinarily could or want to. No chewing!
- Because blended greens and fruit are so easily digested, your body is able to absorb more of the vitamins and minerals without working so hard.
- Thanks to all its nutrients and fiber, smoothies are incredibly filling, so they keep you from reaching for that mid-morning second cup of coffee and that bagel you really didn't want to eat.
6. Make Homemade Soups
Especially during the winter months, warming foods are what our bodies crave. Throw a bunch of vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, celery, and spinach into a big pot, add stock and herbs, and then simmer until done. Blend with a little organic cream or coconut milk and you're done!
There are a lot of ways to get more vegetables into your diet. Just tackle one meal at a time!
Jennifer Klotz, MS, RDN, LDN