Fruits and Veggies: Yes, More Matters!

We have heard it time and time again, “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” The non-profit, Produce for Better Health, sums it up in their campaign, “Fruits & Veggies More Matters.” The potential benefits of including these nutrient packed superstars in your diet extend beyond this blog post (but click here for a previous post), but to mention a few here: a reduced risk of certain cancers, reduced risk for heart disease, lower body mass index (BMI), and more vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants to fend off free-radical damage and carcinogens from our environment and processed foods.

Many of us as children were forced to eat our veggies in order to get dessert. This set the stage for some of nature’s most delicious foods to be viewed as tasteless, plate space-wasters that were often fed to the dog. We know we should be eating the recommended 7-11 servings per day, but we often think that is an impossible number to meet so we don’t bother trying. I’m here to let you know that it is easier than you think. Also, as much as I’d like to say you will eat them and enjoy the taste right off the bat, I know that it may take some time to determine how to prepare each one to your liking and at times you may wish to sneak them into one of your already favorites dishes to mask the flavor. Either way, you reap the benefits of the various colors of the produce.
For some tips on how to sneak some nutrition into your child’s diet, check out either The Sneaky Chef: Simple Strategies for Hiding Healthy Foods in Kids’ Favorite Meals, a book written by Missy Chase Lapine or Jessica Seinfeld’s 2008 book, Deceptively Delicious. I do think sneaking fruits and veggies into your child’s food is a temporary solution because we do want them to eventually enjoy the natural flavors of the produce and eat it at their own will. However, for those picky eaters, this may be a start for them to dab into the wonderful world of colorful fruits and vegetables!

Now for some ideas on how You can meet your quota for the day!
  • Top your cereal with fresh, frozen or dried berries and a sliced banana
  • Make a parfait with Greek style or soy yogurt and top it with a low fat granola and some fresh fruit
  • Top your waffles or pancakes with fresh strawberries, banana, or any of your favorite fruits
  • Instead of jelly or preserves on your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, slice bananas or use sliced strawberries or real fresh blueberries or mango
  • Build your turkey or chicken sandwich with as many fresh vegetables as you can think of (lettuce, spinach, sprouts, cucumber, olives, tomato, mushrooms, roasted red peppers) OR just have a vegetable sandwich with some hummus as a spread
  • Stir in some steamed frozen or fresh vegetables into your stir fry or pasta dish
  • Top your baked sweet potato with salsa and black beans (yes, salsa counts as a veggie!)
  • Use cut up vegetables in place of chips or crackers with a low-fat dip
  • Have easy to carry fruit such as apples, oranges, pears, bananas, tangerines, or peaches as a snack on the run or pre-cut fruits and veggies to throw in your sack lunch
  • Extend your turkey burger with some roasted red peppers and some green onions or mix in some corn and black beans for a southwest flavor
  • Make a huge pot of vegetable soup or vegetarian chili and serve it with a side of warm corn bread
  • Make a smoothie using your favorite fruit (fresh or frozen) and add in some leafy greens such as spinach or kale (the sweet fruit will mask the taste of leafy greens)
  • Puree heathy eats such as spinach, green beans, fruits and sweet potatoes into recipes like mac ‘n cheese, soups or muffins and breads
What are some of your favorites ways to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your meal plan?
Krista L. Haynes, R.D.