Eat fresh produce for optimal benefits.

“Eat your fruits and vegetables.” You’ve likely heard this statement since childhood. There is a reason we have heard this so often. That’s because they are really good for our health. These important foods have many vitamins, minerals and other natural substances that help you stay healthy and help your children grow healthy and strong!

Research also shows why it is good advice:

  • Healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
  • Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and other substances that are important for good health.
  • Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and are filling.

12 Ways to Eat More Vegetables and Fruit:

(Thanks to Cooking Light Magazine)

Eating more fresh produce is great for our health, the environment, our economy and our family.

  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 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. 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!
  2. Double the veggies. In soups, salads, pastas, sandwiches, pizzas and casseroles, most recipes call for a certain amount of vegetables. Our advice? Double the amount called for in the original recipe. You are already doing the prep work; so a little extra chopping can go a long way for your vegetable intake.
    • 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.
  3. Be a sneaky chef. Sometimes, it’s okay to be sneaky in the kitchen. Try these tips to sneak in one or two extra servings into your day. An added bonus? You’ll be adding a new twist to an old favorite recipe.
    • 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 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.
  4. Make ahead Meatless Mondays. The campaign for “Meatless Monday” is gaining popularity. The concept is simple: one day a week, cut out the meat. (And Monday seems to be a good day to try.) It’s a great way to eat more fruit and vegetables. By eliminating meat once a week, you may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, support sustainability, and even come out saving a buck or two. To make your goal even more attainable, use your Meatless Monday as a make-ahead day to prepare extra fruits and vegetables for the week.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  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. But a ruby red grapefruit in the winter when it is in season might be the ticket.
    • If there is a local farmers 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.
    • 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.
  6. Salute the snack. Snacks have gotten a bad rap. A healthy snack can help you curb hunger throughout the day and provide energy and important nutrients. Make all of your snacks revolve around fruits and vegetables. Stock countertops, pantries, refrigerators (at home and work), desk, car and purse with some form of fruit or veggie.
    • 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.
  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.
    • 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.
  8. Say yes to salads. Salads have the potential to be a healthy habit gold mine, rich in fruits, vegetables and nutritional value. But we’re not talking about salads with a leaf of iceberg, and loads of bacon, cheese and ranch. We’re talking dark green leafy beds with colorful, crunchy toppings.
    • 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.
    • Supersize your salad. Just think of the possibilities of an entrée-sized salad. One cup of leafy greens is a serving; pile on healthy toppings, and every 1/2 cup of chopped fruits and vegetables is another serving. You can easily get half your daily fruits and vegetables packed into one glorious salad.
    • 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.
  9. Take a smoothie break. The great thing about a smoothie is the open invitation to creativity. You are your own mixologist. Try something new, like mango, papaya or even cucumber. You can knock out all three of your added fruits and vegetables with one push of the pulse button. The key here is not to confuse a smoothie with a milkshake. When you make your own, you are the artist in control of the color palette of fresh fruits.
    • 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.
    • Whirl up some low-fat milk or yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen fruit and a banana for a super delicious smoothie – and 2 entire fruit servings!
    • 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.
  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.
  11. Recreate the chip. As America’s all-time favorite snack – the potato chip (deep fried in oil, over salted, and overly enjoyed by many) – has become the lunch time side dish and snack time staple. There is something about that salty, crunchy satisfaction that is difficult to deny. So don’t deny yourself; instead, continue with the chip concept, but make them yourself. The trick: oven-bake them, and be open to giving the potato a rest. You can make your own vegetable crisps that end up cheaper, healthier and quite possibly the most fun way to eat your fruits and vegetables. Bag them for your own on-the-go snack, use them as dippers or munch on them with your next meal.
  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 serving of bread 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.
    • 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.

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