Are you squeezing enough fruits and vegetable into your daily diet? Research has long proven that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. And since fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in fiber and low in calories, they are a great fit for anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight. You can calculate the amount of fruits and vegetables you need in your diet based on age and activity levels using this calculator created by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are seven easy ways to sneak more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.
1. Add a side of fruit and vegetables to your breakfast. At breakfast most of us crave carb-loaded treats like pancakes, waffles, and cereals. Make a point of adding a serving of fruit for dessert at breakfast: fresh peaches and a dollop of cottage cheese, pineapple slices sprinkled with coconut, or freshly sliced apples with a dash of cinnamon. Or go the savory route and whip up an omelet, making sure to add diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, or a sliced avocado drizzled with olive oil on the side.
2. Whip up a smoothie with fresh fruit (and sneak in some veggies, too!). A smoothie is one of the easiest ways to create a fast, healthy breakfast to take on the go. For an easy smoothie recipe that features a full serving of fruit and vegetables add 1 banana, 1 cup of chopped kale (you’ll barely even taste it!), 1 cup of skim milk, and a tablespoon of pure maple syrup to your blender; blend and enjoy with the knowledge that you’re starting your day with a mega dose of vitamins and minerals.
3. Add pumpkin or carrot puree to your tomato sauce. Whether you’ve made your own tomato sauce or you’re relying on the store-bought version, add a cup of pumpkin or carrot puree for every five cups of sauce. Not only will you be adding more vitamins, minerals and fiber to your sauce, you’ll end up with a richer tasting sauce. Just steam cubed pumpkin or carrots and blend in your food processor or high-powered blender, add to your tomato sauce, and use as a topping for pasta or homemade pizza.
4. Start your meals with veggie based soups. Research proves that eating a pre-meal, low-calorie vegetable soup will help you lose weight by filling you up, so you won’t be craving main course seconds or dessert. Make soup as an appetizer part of your daily dinner routine.
5. Add cauliflower to your mashed potatoes. Did you know that cauliflower is an excellent source of Vitamin C, folate and beneficial phytochemicals? Chop one head of cauliflower and 2 pounds of peeled potatoes, boil in the same pot of water until tender, then puree in your food processor, adding 4 TBS of butter and a cup of skim milk for a lower carb version of the family favorite.
6. Add finely chopped mushrooms to ground beef based dishes. Mushrooms are low in calories, rich in fiber, and are a good source of B vitamins and essential minerals. The next time you’re preparing ground beef to add to a casserole or even tacos, add a cup of finely chopped mushrooms.
7. Make a point of filling half your plate with fruits or veggies at every meal. Focus on serving a rainbow throughout your day – red cherries, oranges, blueberries, yellow squash, green peas, purple cauliflower – so you can be assured that your diet is rich in a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Load half your plate with vegetables or fruit at every meal. You’re bound to go above and beyond your daily intake requirements, while maintaining your health and weight along the way.