Eat More Fruits and Veggies
You’ve heard it before… Americans just aren’t getting enough fruits and vegetables. And as the foundation of a healthy diet, consider fruits and vegetables your fountain of youth. Rich in vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, fiber, and water, it’s hard to understand how so many can resist that gorgeous nutritional profile. But the hard facts tell us that less than 30% of us – that’s seven out of every ten Americans – are failing to meet the recommended 5 A Day.
Enter in The 12 Healthy Habits. We’re not asking for a revolution. Just a few small and very simple changes to make you eat better, feel better, and create an overall new sense of well-being. Step one: Eat more Fruits & Veggies. Yes, we are actually asking you to eat more of something. How often do you get to hear that? Here are 12 simple ways to get you eating veggies and fruits today.
Tip 1: Boost Your Breakfast
The importance of eating breakfast is immeasurable. Not only does it break the fast and jumpstart your metabolism, but it also boosts your performance at work or school, helps with weight maintenance, and for the purposes of Healthy Habit #1, is the perfect time get in an extra fruit or vegetable serving for the day.
Stir berries (fresh or frozen), dried fruit, or banana slices into yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal. Our Overnight Maple-Raisin Oatmeal (shown here) boasts a full serving of fruit plus the benefits of oats. Every 1/2 cup of fruit you add is a serving.
• Make a smoothie. Combine some low fat milk or yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen berries and a banana for a super easy blended breakfast – and 2 entire fruit servings!
Boost Your Breakfast
• Have a glass of juice. Make sure it’s made from 100% fruit juice, and limit yourself to eight ounces per day to avoid too many added sugars.
• Don’t have time for breakfast? Whole fruits are quick, prep-free, on-the-go solution. Grab an apple, peach, banana, or orange and enjoy it on your way to work.
Tip 2. Double the Veggies
• Stir extra veggies into soups. Don’t be afraid to steer off the beaten recipe path just a bit. When it comes to something like soups, an overdose of chopped vegetables will not ruin the recipe. It will enhance the flavor, nutritional value, and your daily vegetable tally. A half cup of chopped vegetables and a whole cup of dark leafy greens is another serving. In White Bean Soup with Kale and Chorizo (shown), you can double the amount of kale or add chopped carrots, celery, red bell peppers, zucchini…the possibilities are endless.
Double the Veggies
• Cram them into casseroles. Cooking up a Mexican casserole? Add some extra peppers, mushrooms, and squash. Don’t be shy with topping with tomato- and veggie-heavy salsa, either. Eggplant Parmesan? Double the eggplant. Chicken Pot Pie? Double those peas and carrots. You’ve got the idea.
• Stuff them into sandwiches. A sandwich is another blank canvas just waiting to get stuffed with color. Take your routine turkey sandwich and jazz it up with sliced apples, cucumber, zucchini, sprouts, and spinach. A 1/2 cup of this colorful combination just scored you another serving.
Tip 3. Be a Sneaky Chef
• Grate your way to goodness. Shred or grate fruits and vegetables down, or puree them up and see how creative you can get with your favorite recipes. Grated zucchini and carrots do wonders for turkey burgers, meatloaf (like our Classic Meatloaf shown here), and meatballs, adding both moisture and nutrients to the dish.
• Puree cooked cauliflower, winter squash, or red peppers and stir them into sauces, mashed potatoes, pot pies, or even mac and cheese.
Be a Sneaky Chef
• Bribe yourself with baked goods. Both vegetables and fruits are healthy, delicious, and fabulous additions to breads, cakes, biscuits, and pies. Both savory and sweet, what better way to add a vegetable serving to your day?
Tip 4. Make-Ahead Meatless Mondays
• Choose a day convenient to you to leave meat out of your diet. Use this as a “day of preparation” for the entire week to assist your goal to increase your fruits and vegetables by three servings a day.
Make-Ahead Meatless Mondays
• As your main meatless Monday dish, make a couscous, wild rice, or other grain salad like this Quinoa Bibimbop Bowls packed with seasonal vegetables. Enjoy throughout the week in wraps, over a bed of spinach, or heated into omelets.
• Sauté or grill extra vegetables on your meatless Monday, and continue to use the leftovers later in the week in pasta dishes, soups, sandwiches, and salads.
• Make a large batch of fruit salad to have on hand for meals and snacks.
• Become a food processing pro – Use the shredding blade to grate squash, carrots, zucchini, turnips, onions, sweet potatoes, etc. Bag them up and keep them easily accessible in the refrigerator. Add them to sauces, soups, stir-fry, casseroles, pizzas.
Tip 5: Feature a Fresh New Vegetable Each Week
Try to experiment with a new seasonal vegetable (or fruit) each week. Don’t try a tomato in December. You are far more likely to fall in love with its lush, juicy, tangy taste in the height of summer.
• If there is a local farmer’s market nearby, support your community and pay them a visit. Get the whole family involved. Allow either yourself, or a family member to choose a new item from the produce section and add it to your meal.
• Cooking for one? Invite a friend or two over to try the new dish with you. Two heads are often better than one, and you can both learn together.
• Once spring is here, U-pick farms are a fun way to get up close and personal with your produce.
Feature a Fresh New Vegetable Each Week
• On a budget? Check the weekly specials at your local grocery store and choose one of the items on special that week. The specials often reflect the abundance of certain seasonal produce.
• Check out our “What’s in Season” guide to find out what produce is in season right now, recipe suggestions, and prep tips.
See More: Season's Best videos
Tip 6: Salute the Snack
• Keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter at home or on your desk for a healthy (and eye-appealing) quick fix.
• Keep dried fruit in your car or purse for busy days when a breather is just not an option.
• Pack pre-cut fruit and veggies into snack-size bags for perfectly-portioned munchies. Keep them eye level in the fridge for easy access.
• Swap up your afternoon soda for 1/2 cup of 100% juice to squeeze in an extra serving.
Tip 7: Don't Skip Dessert
Desserts tend to be regarded as a sweet treat for special occasions only. But a fruit-based dessert has the ability to offer a light, refreshing, naturally-sweet ending to a satisfying meal, with the added bonus of an extra fruit serving.
• Take those plain old bananas and grapes to a whole new level with a freezing frenzy. Freeze grapes and bananas for a super satisfying, pop-able delight. For an added yum-factor, dip half a banana in a small amount of antioxidant-rich dark chocolate.
Don't Skip Dessert
• Blend up some fresh fruit with 1/2 cup low fat yogurt or 100% fruit juice for delightfully refreshing fruit popsicles.
• Eating ice cream or frozen yogurt? Pile on 1/2 cup of fresh peaches, mangos or berries for a serving of fruit.
• Cut out the crust. Our favorite fruit pie recipes get placed on the “special occasions” list for one reason only: the buttery, fat-laden crust. The solution? Get rid of it. Place the filling of your favorite fruit (or pumpkin, as shown) pie recipe in individual ramekins. Bake until set and enjoy a serving of warm, satisfying fruit pie without the rich crust.
Tip 8: Say Yes to Salads
• Start one meal a day with a small salad. Get creative. One cup of leafy greens + 1/2 cup of fruit or veggie toppings = 2 servings.
• Alternate your greens from the normal Romaine or iceberg… for general rule of thumb, the darker the greens the more nutrient rich they are.
Say Yes to Salads
• Don’t cheat yourself on the dressing. Be moderate, but be tasteful. A lot of the fat-free and low-fat dressings out there are full of sugar and sodium and are completely deprived on flavor. A few splashes of a good, heart-healthy canola- or olive-oil based dressings can do wonders to that bed of greens. Try making your own with our Easy Herb Vinaigrette (shown). Make a batch to keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Tip 9: Smoothie Break
Make sure that fruit is the base of your creation—too much fruit juice can rapidly add calories without providing any of the heart-healthy and digestive-friendly fiber that you get from the fruit itself. Enjoy for breakfast, as part of a balanced lunch, snack, or even dessert.
• Blend up a large batch and freeze in single portions for an easy on-the-go breakfast or snack.
• Surprisingly, some vegetables make great fiber-filling smoothie additions. Try carrots, a 1/2 cup of creamy canned pumpkin, or cooked sweet potato for a tasty addition. Try our Cucumber, Apple, and Mint Cooler (shown) for a refreshing, low-calorie smoothie that banks 1 serving of vegetables.
Tip 10. Dig the Dip
Do fresh fruits and veggies sound boring? Whip up a delicious dip and turn those healthy crudités into party food.
• Go savory. We get it. Not everyone gets excited when they look at a plate of raw vegetables. But pair them with a nutty hummus, zesty ranch, creamy avocado, and fiery salsa and now we’re talking. Crunchy crudités take on a whole new life with just a smidge of extra punch from a flavor-packed dip, like our creamy Zesty Green Goddess Dip (shown).
Dig the Dip
• We did the work for you in our 2010 Taste Test. We chose Tribe Classic as our grand-prize winner for its fresh flavor, with just the right hint of sesame, cumin, and garlic. Our Taste Test Award went to Athenos Original, perfect for garlic lovers. Both are just the right accompaniment to a bowlful of veggies.
Read More: See all our 2010 Taste Test Award Winners.
Tip 11. Recreate the Chip
• Makeover the classic with our Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dip (shown). Use a mandoline to cut the potato for the best results; hand-cutting is less likely to produce sufficiently thin and uniform slices. If you have any leftover chips, store them in an airtight container for up to a week.
Recreate the Chip
• Go bananas. For a sweet treat, slice up moderately ripe bananas or plantains (like the Plantain Chips shown here) and either slow roast them or lightly sauté them for a crispy exterior and fruity flavor.
Tip 12: Bag the Bread
We’re not playing nutrition police on the bread group. Carbohydrates are an essential energy-boosting part of a healthy diet. Let’s just say most of us do not struggle to get enough of our daily bread. Try replacing one bread serving a day with a fruit or vegetable, and you’ll be a step ahead.
• Love the lettuce wrap. Instead of bread or tortillas, make your next sandwich or wrap inside a leafy green. Stack 2 or 3 large, leafy greens such as Bibb lettuce, romaine, red lettuce, cabbage, or radicchio and pile on the fixings. Enjoy the added crunch factor.
Bag the Bread
• Flip the chip and dip. Swap those chips for fresh crunchy crudités such as broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, snow peas or endive lettuce.
• Nix the Noodles. Try spaghetti squash. The name says it all with this veggie varietal. Once baked, spaghetti squash can be flaked with a fork to reveal spaghetti like strands to offer the perfect bed for your favorite pasta sauce.