As National 5-A-Day Month is upon us, now is the perfect opportunity to kick-start the fall and winter off with a healthy focus and a new motivation to take your fruit and vegetable intake up a notch. If you feel overwhelmed by the thought of incorporating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, following is a list of five tips to make this as easy as possible.
Know What You’re Aiming For
It’s easier to accomplish a goal if you know what you’re aiming for, thus knowing what exactly quantifies as a serving is crucial. For starters, a serving itself is generally much smaller than you might think. Good examples include carrots: it takes just 12 baby carrots to get a serving in. 1 small apple is another. Other easy ways to get in a serving: 8 large strawberries, 2 large stalks of celery, 1 bell pepper or 2 large plums. And, if you want to break up your servings into half servings, it gets even more manageable. Consider these good options: 6 carrots, 1 snack container (4 oz) of applesauce, or just 16 grapes. If you ate 6 carrots with your morning snack and 6 more in the afternoon, that’s already one of your five out of the way.
The second part of accomplishing this is to be well planned. If you’ve planned where your fruits and veggies will appear in your meals throughout the day, there won’t be room to miss them. Try a week at a time for awhile. Organize your meals and snacks and include your fruits and veggies, something like:
Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal with 1 cup blueberries (Serving 1)
Mid-morning snack: 1 granola bar, 1 small apple (Serving 2)
Lunch: Grilled chicken, small salad, 12 carrots (Servings 3 and 4)
Mid afternoon snack: Free!
Dinner: Salmon, wild rice, ½ sweet potato, ½ cup green beans (Serving 5)
Preparation is Key
Having fruits and vegetables already prepared and ready to grab will transform your eating habits. A great way to start your week is with a fruit/veggie prep every Sunday. Wash and chop lettuce and store away in glass Tupperware. Then you can throw on some baby tomatoes, some grilled chicken and voila, lunch ready in 2 minutes! Prepare small snack size baggies with single servings of washed and sliced fruit and veggies. When it’s handy and convenient, it won’t even take effort or thought to fit them into your diet. You’ll be able to pull out a snack bag of raisins to fight that afternoon hunger attack and won’t have to think twice about the vending machine down the hall.
Always Aim for Variety
After awhile, plain carrots and single apples can get tedious and boring, and when that happens, you’ll be tempted to give it up. This makes variety in your selection key. Aim to eat as many different options as you can. Make it your goal to try two vegetables a week that you’ve never had until you exhaust your options. Don’t make a habit of eating the same things two days in a row. So, if you have carrots, apples, peaches and green beans today, don’t eat any of those tomorrow.
Explore New Ways to Eat & Enjoy
Finally, prepare and mix in fruits and veggies in new, exciting ways. Put some veggies in your morning omelet. Have a fruit smoothie for breakfast or a filling afternoon snack. Cook your vegetables different ways: grill/sauté/broil/steam/bake, etc. Grill your plums on the barbecue. Include vegetables into your meatloaf and applesauce into your muffins. Add extra helpings of vegetable to your chicken soup. Enjoy ice cream with warm blueberries for dessert. The options are endless, so have some fun with it!
About the Author
Freelance writer Jocelyn loves to write about healthy eating within the family. Her favorite thing to eat is whole wheat pancakes, which she often tops with peaches (and whipped topping, but don’t tell!). When not writing about food she writes for an online green home heater retailer.