The question: I find it hard to eat seven servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Any tips to make it easier for me?
The answer: You might actually be doing better than you think when it comes to meeting the daily recommended seven to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables. Seven to 10 servings sounds like a lot, but a serving size isn't that large – one medium sized fruit, half cup of berries, three apricots, half cup cooked or raw vegetables, six asparagus spears and one cup of salad greens all count as one serving. You might be eating two servings when you think you're eating only one.
If you are below the daily fruit and vegetable target, the key is incorporating fruit and/or vegetables into all meals and snacks. Ensure your breakfast includes one or two fruit servings, add at least two vegetable servings to lunch and dinner, and reach for whole or dried fruit for midday snacks. When you do eat vegetables, increase your portion size to get you closer to seven to 10 daily servings.
If you find preparing fresh fruit and vegetables time consuming (e.g. washing, peeling, chopping), take advantage of convenient pre-perpared produce in the grocery store. You will find pre-washed salad greens, grated carrot, broccoli florets, chopped celery, chopped garlic, shredded cabbage, even cubed turnip and squash. When it comes to fruit, look for fresh fruit salad, peeled and cored fresh pineapple, canned fruit in its own juice and unsweetened applesauce.
To add more fruit and vegetables to your diet, try the following tips:
- Toss chopped banana into a bowl of whole grain cereal.
- Blend fresh or frozen berries with low fat milk or soy milk to make a fruit smoothie. Or make a green smoothie with kale or spinach.
- Add dried cherries, currants, cranberries and blueberries to muffin mixes.
- Drink a small glass (1/2 cup) of citrus juice – the vitamin C enhances iron absorption from whole grains.
- Fill half of a cantaloupe with low fat cottage cheese.
- Add diced tomatoes, red pepper and baby spinach to an egg white omelette.
- Add sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, grated carrot, and spinach leaves to sandwiches and wraps.
- Toss leftover grilled vegetables in a green salad.
- Add shredded cabbage mixed with low fat coleslaw dressing to a turkey sandwich.
- Have a bowl of vegetable soup with your sandwich.
- Drink low sodium vegetable or tomato juice with your meal.
- Use dark green lettuces such as Romaine in salads (they’ve got more beta-carotene).
- Add quick cooking greens such as spinach, kale, rapini or Swiss chard to soups.
- Fortify pasta sauces and casseroles with grated zucchini and carrot.
- Bake a sweet potato instead of a white potato – you’ll consume more beta-carotene and fibre.
- Serve strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar with a sprinkle of sugar for dessert.
- Carry fruit with you such as an apple, pear, plums or grapes.
- Pack single-serve cans of unsweetened fruit or applesauce into your briefcase.
- Prepare snack-size bags of dried apricots and nuts.
- Have raw vegetables ready for snacking. Try carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips, broccoli florets and mushroom caps with hummus (chickpea) dip.
- Eat slices of banana, apple, or pear with almond butter.
Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian, is the national director of nutrition at BodyScience Medical. She can be seen every Thursday at noon on CTV News Channel's Direct ( www.lesliebeck.com ).
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