So now that you know how many servings of fruits and vegetables you need each day, what now? If you have a very low intake, it may seem like a huge change to meet the recommendations. As with everything I recommend, lots of small changes can make a large challenge manageable. Here are my favorite ways to add produce into your daily routine.
This is probably my most used method of controlling what I eat. When I do get too busy or just forget to bring lunch with me, I am reminded that my alternatives are so sub par. At my job I can pretty much get a burger, sandwich, pizza or other equally less healthy option. I can drive to the grocery store for the salad bar, but am inundated with mac and cheese, fried chicken, more pizza, and other high calorie options. Not only is buying a lunch typically lead to more calories and end up costing more, but 90% of the options don’t include a full serving of fruit or vegetable (no that slice of tomato doesn’t count). For some guidance, check out my previous post here. Include 1 fruit and 1 vegetable and you are almost halfway there for the day!
Where ever you are, have a serving handy. This means at work, at home or in your car. One way to do this is to pick up a bag of apples, baby carrots and hummus or a basket of clementines and keep them in the work fridge. When I need a snack or need to round out my lunch, I can just grab one. Easy peas-y. You can also use more portable options like individual applesauce or fruit cups/pouches as well as dried fruit like raisins or apricots and keep them in your car. When you hit a batch of traffic and the roadside fast food starts looking tempting, you will have a healthful option at your fingertips. And honestly, it has been so cold in the New England area, that you could probably leave fresh produce in the car too (obviously not a year round option). You also may want to keep a fruit basket on the counter at home. It makes the fruit visible and appealing.
Shift your Thinking
Traditionally, we think about building our meals around the protein source. Chicken for dinner! Steak for dinner! Fish for dinner! There is so much emphasis on these foods that everything else seems secondary. Try putting the focus on the vegetable and plan around that. Decide that tonight you want cauliflower for dinner. Pick a recipe and then select what goes best with it. This will make sure the vegetable is never forgotten. It will also make you more likely to try preparing your vegetables in an exciting way that will make them more appealing in the future. For example you can make mashed cauliflower, cauliflower tots, curried cauliflower, Parmesan roasted cauliflower, buffalo cauliflower…you get the point. they don’t just have to be steamed or boiled. Make them exciting.
Every time you Eat is an Opportunity
Each meal, each snack has the potential to get a serving in. If you shoot to have a fruit or vegetable every time you eat, even if you don’t always succeed, you are making great progress. Add berries to your morning yogurt or include spinach and mushrooms with your eggs. Homemade kale chips or a bunch of grapes make a great snack. Having a salad with both fruit and vegetables can be a satisfying lunch as an entree or side. Experiment with fun vegetable recipes for dinner and have some cherries with a dollop of whipped cream for dessert.
Try adopting 1 or 2 changes at a time and see how it can be so easy to have all your fruit and vegetable servings if you pay attention to your intake and have a little planning.