There is a plethora of produce available in the United States, and yet most adults don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, dietary intake of several nutrients found in fruits and vegetables — including potassium and dietary fiber — is low enough to be a public-health concern for both adults and children.
Your goal is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Aim for a whole rainbow of colors, including dark green, red, orange, purple and white. Variety is vital to get all the different nutrients and their health benefits.
Try to buy fresh whole fruits and vegetables in season — they will be at their peak in flavor and at their lowest in price. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables can be healthy choices, too. Reach for low-sodium canned vegetables or canned fruits packed in their own juice or water, and avoid frozen vegetables with sauces, frozen fruits with added sugar and canned fruits packed in heavy syrup.
Make fruits and veggies the star of your daily diet with these ideas:
- Snack smart. Keep vegetables washed and cut in your refrigerator for quick snacks. Or reach for vegetables that require little preparation, such as baby carrots and cherry tomatoes. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter. Just be sure to limit your intake of dried fruits because they're not as filling as whole fruits and they have a lot more calories in a smaller volume of food. For example, 1⁄4 cup of raisins has the same number of calories — about 100 — as almost 2 cups of grapes.
- Experiment with new combinations. Try mango or peach slices on whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter and honey. Toss some mandarin orange or peach slices into a salad.
- Choose recipes that have vegetables or fruits as a main ingredient. Try pineapple-chicken stir-fry, tomato-basil pizza or vegetarian chili.
- Start your day with a fruit or vegetable. Sprinkle a handful of blueberries on your morning cereal or oatmeal. Saute red peppers, tomatoes or spinach into your scrambled eggs.
- Drink your fruits and vegetables. But don't reach for prepared fruit juice! Instead, turn whole fruits and vegetables into a refreshing drink. Make a smoothie with plain low-fat yogurt and your favorite frozen fruits. Or puree together banana, berries, lemon, mint, ice and 2 cups of fresh raw baby spinach — this green concoction may look odd, but it tastes delicious!
As you can see from these suggestions, sneaking more fruits and veggies into your diet can be easy, convenient — and fun!