You’ve obviously heard that it’s recommended that we all eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, yet how many of us actually do that? It’s so easy to forget about the nutritious fruits and vegetables and just be focused on somehow filling up our bellies as we rush through the day. This means we load up on less healthy foods and more of the unhealthy ones – usually with high added sugar and refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, and very little nutrients. But why should you care whether you eat more servings of fruits and vegetables and fewer servings of the other items on the menu? Research has shown that people who eat several servings of fruits and vegetables are healthier, have stronger immune systems and a diverse gut microbiome (good bacteria in the gut), have lower body weight, lower incidence of diseases such as cancer and heart disease than those who eat fewer servings a day.
So now that I’ve given you a few reasons to care about adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, how do you actually go about doing it? Don’ worry, I’ve got you covered. When you’re done reading this article, you’ll be raring to go shopping for fruits and veggies so you can begin to include them in your diet ASAP!
Here are my top tips for including more fruits and vegetables in your (and your family’s) diet:
- Start with a breakfast smoothie. Now all smoothies are not created equal and you might want to check out my article on what makes a smoothie healthy (the vast majority are unhealthy). So check out the article, and go ahead and make a healthy smoothie with vegetables, berries, some nuts and seeds and greek yogurt or soy milk. Oh, and don’t forget to get my free pdf with 45 healthy smoothie recipes HERE. You may want to add some protein powder if you’d like. Feel free to add lemon juice, a pinch of salt and other spices if you prefer, but skip adding any refined sugar. Use colourful berries and some frozen yogurt in the smoothie to make it more appealing for kids.
- Prefer cereal for breakfast? No problem. Add a bunch of antioxidant-rich berries and a sliced banana to your breakfast cereal. We don’t like refined, added sugar so choose a cereal that’s high on fibre and has little to no added sugar. The banana has a ton of natural sweetness, so you’re covered even if you have a sweet tooth 😉
- Dried fruit such as prunes, apricot, figs, goji berries, dates and raisins are nutritious and full of fibre and antioxidants which makes them an excellent alternative to sugary junk food. Studies have found that people who eat dry fruits have higher nutrient intakes and lower body weight than those who do not. Another study has found people who eat more dry fruits (along with vegetables, legumes and fruits) to have lower cases of non alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Make trail mixes with nuts and dry fruits. We’ve already seen how good dry fruits are as a snack on their own. Make trail mixes with nuts and seeds and dry fruits to add even more nutrients and healthy fats to your diet.
- Use guacamole instead of a spread. Make guacamole mild or spicy and enjoy it with your sandwich. Avocados are extremely nutritious and contain good fats and fibre and will help you meet your five-a-day (while tasting great).
- Load up your sandwiches with generous helpings of vegetables. Add extra helpings of green leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, kale etc as well as cucumber, and tomato to your sandwiches. Feel free to use some healthy avocado oil mayo and some hot sauce like habanero to make your sandwiches taste great. Or add some apple or banana slices to your peanut butter sandwich (but choose a peanut butter that has only roasted peanuts as its ingredient – no added sugar). Oh, and make sure you choose a high quality, whole grain bread and not white bread 🙂
- Veggies first! At lunch, fill at least half of your plate with vegetables before heading over to the carbs and protein. When you eat your vegetables before anything else, two great things happen. 1) you eat more veggies (that’s the main idea), and 2) you eat less of other items, especially if your usual diet includes refined carbs and too much meat.
- Have a large salad at dinner. Salads don’t have to be boring. Set out a variety of chopped vegetables, some feta cheese, olives, jalapenos, onion slices and a healthy oil such as olive or avocado. I do not recommend salad dressing because they usually contain sugar and additives. If you do choose to have salad dressings, make sure you use healthier versions with no added sugar and few additives and preservatives.
- Big on dessert? Make sure you top it with lots of fresh or frozen fruit. And choose a smaller serving of the dessert while you’re at it, because the fruit will fill you up with their fibre 🙂
- This is one of my favourites. Do you find yourself reaching for some ready-to-eat sugary or salty snack when you’re hungry (or think you’re hungry)? Most people confuse cravings for hunger. So here’s my tip: the next time you’re hungry, ask yourself if you’re hungry enough to eat an apple. If you answered no, then you’re not hungry and just want to eat something (probably because you’re bored? Or stressed.). But if you answered yes, then go ahead and eat the apple! Keep fruits and vegetables within your reach so that the next time you’re hungry, you can have them as snacks. Slice apples and top them with peanut or almond butter. Cut up some carrots and serve them with hummus. Spread some almond or peanut butter inside a celery stick and sprinkle some goji berries or raisins on it .
- Go fruit and vegetable shopping with your family. Get your children to pick their favourite fruits and vegetables or try new ones.
- Make vegetable soup or stew with lots of veggies. These can make for some great comfort food when the weather gets cold.
So there you have it. No excuses now, make a commitment to yourself to start eating more fruits and vegetables to your diet and reap their benefits! Which is your favourite way to include more fruits and veggies to your diet? Let me know in the comments!