Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Easy Way to Eat All Your Fruits and Veggies (And How Much You Need)

Fruits and vegetables make up a very important part of our diets. They provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber in addition to carbohydrate--our body's preferred source of fuel. I've found that many people find it difficult to eat the number of servings recommended in their meal plan. Here's how many servings we should be aiming for per day, based on calorie level:

Calorie Level
Vegetables (in cups)
Fruits (in cups)

*Your dietitian can calculate an appropriate calorie level for you to follow to meet your health goals.*

The key is planning ahead! Use these tips to make sure you hit your goal:
  • Make sure fruits and vegetables are planned into your daily menu at meals and snacks.
  • Make sure fruits and vegetables are on your shopping list.
  • Pick a day to chop and prepare fruits and vegetables you have purchased so they are easy to grab. Buy produce that is already prepared if you don't have the time to do it yourself.
  • Keep dried and frozen fruits on hand for when the fresh stuff runs out.
  • Keep frozen and low-sodium canned vegetables on hand. 
  • Try to include at least one vegetable with lunch and dinner.
  • Eat a fruit with breakfast and at at least one snack or for dessert.
  • Add a veggie to your afternoon snack to make it more filling. One of my faves is an apple, natural peanut butter and baby carrots.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables visible so you remember to eat them instead of something else.
  • Try to eat a variety of fruits and veggies so you don't get bored. By shopping for seasonal produce, you'll be eating the freshest, tastiest options and won't get stuck in a rut.
  • Maintain limited supplies of other snack foods. If there are fewer tempting options around, you're more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • Got kids? Turn it into a game! Give your kids a sticker to add to the calendar or a "fruits and veggies" chart when they eat one serving. 
If you are packing a lunch and snacks for the day, try the following method. Fill a 4-5 cup container with the amount of fruits and vegetables you need to eat during the day. You'll know you have the right amount of produce and will be able to see when you've eaten enough! In the end, it will help ensure you've eaten all your servings of fruits and veggies. Make sure you select a variety (not all the same one) so that you're getting a variety of nutrients. If they can't share the same space, just pack them separately. Here's what I brought for my lunch and snacks the other day.

Beautiful, isn't it? Spring mix for my sandwich, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers and cucumbers for lunch, apple and carrots (they're under there) for afternoon snack with peanut butter. You're seeing these filling a 5 cup container. Great way to save those little zipper-top plastic baggies too! It might look like a lot of work, but I slice my peppers and cucumbers in advance (P.S. those cucumbers are from my garden!) and store them in a container in the fridge. When it's time to pack lunch--the night before--I just grab them. Cherry tomatoes and baby carrots are super easy because they require no prep. I purchase the spring mix in bulk at Sam's, so there's no prep there either. Shortcuts count :)

Give it a try and post your pics to my Facebook page!