What if we told you that there was one eating strategy that could greatly reduce your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attacks
How motivated would you be to practice this strategy?
Evidence from major health organizations like the National Institute of Health, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, American Cancer Society, Harvard School of Public Health and the American Heart Association all agree that eating an abundance of vegetables and fruits is paramount to disease prevention.
What’s the magic? Along with providing vitamins, minerals and fiber, fruits and veggies have phytochemicals. Phytochemicals (otherwise known as antioxidants) give natural foods their color. Scientists believe the combination of vitamins/minerals and these natural chemicals are the key players in disease prevention.
But how much is enough?
A few years ago, the standard mantra was “5 a day.” Reality is, health benefits are mostly seen at an intake of closer to 8-10 servings per day, with a concentration on veggies over fruit. If this seems next to impossible, consider that a serving is only 1/2 cup of diced fruit or veggies, or 1 cup of leafy greens. A medium size piece of fruit is also equal to one serving. If you can aim for a cup at each meal and a couple of servings for snacks, you’ve already hit your mark.
Here are some of our favorite ways to include veggies into your daily meals/snacks. Add a couple pieces of fruit and you will have filled your quota for the day!
Keep your veggies in plain sight. Veggies that get stuffed and hidden away often end up mushy rotting at the bottom of your crisper drawer. Spot light them in the middle of your fridge for easy reminder.
Use some spare weekend time for prepping veggies. This could be peeling and slicing for eating raw (like carrots, celery, cucumbers, jicama, blanched cauliflower or broccoli, peppers). OR try roasting a whole bunch of vegetables, like beets, turnips, celeriac, celery, carrots, Brussels sprouts, etc and keep in fridge for easy side dish or eat cold as a salad.
Double the vegetables in your dishes. The easiest strategy is to take the everyday meals you already make and add twice the vegetables. Pre-washed greens can also be added to almost anything from chili to soup to omelets. Your plate should always be half filled with veggies!
Eat/drink vegetables for breakfast. Lots of breakfast dishes are better with vegetables. Think of omelets or frittatas. Smoothies are our favorite way to get veggies in. Along with your fruit, throw in a cup of Romaine or spinach, and/or add cucumbers, celery, carrots, fennel. Be creative!
Spruce up your salads. Buy bags of pre-washed greens (arugula, spinach, watercress) for easy, fast salads. Shred in some carrot or fennel; add diced apples, pears, or strawberries; toss in a small handful of walnuts, slivered almonds, pecans or pumpkin seeds. YUM. Homemade dressings are the BEST and make all the difference.
Substitute raw vegetables for crackers, pita, tortillas, and other breads. A big container of cut-up bell peppers, cucumbers, carrots, etc is fresher much healthier than chips/crackers. Use leafy greens as wraps for tacos, sandwiches, etc. instead of tortillas or pita. Lightly blanched collards are a perfect burrito substitute.
Don’t forget frozen vegetables. While we may idealize that box of fresh, leafy greens straight from the farm, don’t overlook the humble frozen veggie. They are often frozen right at the farm, picked at their peak. And they are always good for soups, smoothies, scrambles, chili.
Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or have a box of vegetables delivered weekly from an organic company. These regular deliveries encourage you to use up your weekly stash and also experiment with new recipes from what’s local and in season.
How many vegetables and fruits do you eat per day? What are your favorite ways to get in your greens? Share your ideas and thoughts with us!
Check out our super delicious Spring Watercress/Beet Salad below, which delivers 3 servings of veggies per serving. ENJOY!
Thanks for demystifying nutrition and giving good practical advice and encouragement. I like this approach that is not a drastic shift or all or nothing diet. I feel like I can slowly incorporate more veggies into my life and be successful
You are welcome Sue! We find that when people go too much “all or nothing” it is often short lived and they end up feeling frustrated. Keep us posted on your progress.