By Dietitian Jill Place
Y’know … I used to tell people the benefits of every type of fruit and veggie. But now my message is infinitely easier … more and more fruits and veggies!
We all know the fruits and vegetables have GREAT health benefits. There are talked about in the almost 3000 citations at pubmed.gov … the place to go for any biotech info.
And … if you do go to the pubmed.gov page above … notice that research has skyrocketed in the last five years.
I’m not surprised … the more plastic-fantastic food that floods the market the sicker we get. And the sicker we get the more we clamor for solutions.
The solution seems to be … not surprisingly … a return to nature and natural foods. We’ve even gone there with natural fats after a vast bastardization of them that led to vast heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
There’s LOTS of proof that natural fats are the way to go as they don’t have trans or oxidized fats. Which study after study show CAUSE disease.
But the American Heart Association STILL doesn’t agree. Even after study after study shows that obesity, too many carbs, and less fruits and veggies are really the culprits.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommend you make one-half of your plate fruits and vegetables. Myplate.gov also supports that.
Fruits and veggies give you dietary fiber, which is touted to lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, cancer and obesity. They also supply vitamins and minerals and are unique sources of phytochemicals that serve as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and antiinflammatory agents.
Fruit and veggies protect us in ways we probably don’t even know about yet. Work on isolating Vitamin B12 … one of our most important as it participates in over 300 bodily processes … didn’t get a definitive Nobel Prize until the 1960s.
Food (and Fruits and Veggies) First
Look … my official title is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. I have a diploma and a wallet card that says so (along with a hefty renewal fee every year).
And … as a dietitian … I’m a huge advocate of food first. Which really fits into how I view healing.
Because … let’s face it … we eat crappy GMO-laced food cooked in oxidized fat these days. My sister and I often talk about it.
She just turned 82, is a two-time cancer survivor (her oncologist dubbed her that as she is over 10 years cancer-free), and is still slim and active. We talk about the times when we ate meat fresh from the Kosher butcher, veggies from the farm stand (our house was the first string of new ones in an area that was recently farms and estates), and full-fat milk products delivered daily to our door.
She still eats that way … and so do I. Real food with lots of fruit and veggies.
So … when I became a dietitian … I was thrilled that I could put this past way of eating … not to mention my stint as a salad chef … to good use.
And found that adding more fruit and veggies to most people’s diets was my biggest hurdle as a dietitian. And the one change that could bring to most health benefit.
Truth be told … only one 1 in 10 Americans eat the required amount of fruit and veggies … which is 5 to 9 servings a day. A serving is 1/2 cup of cooked veggies, cut-up fruit or juice, 1 cup of raw, and a medium fruit. Easy-peasy.
Why Don’t We Eat More Fruit and Veggies?
Well … truth be told too … we’re not set up for it. Most of us whiz by a fast-food or Starbucks window to pick up breakfast … lunch … or possibly dinner too. The only veggies in sight are limp lettuce and tomatoes.
We might drink juice (not my fave way to get Fs & Vs but if nothing else works!) but copious quantities of it (some goodness but mostly sugar). More than likely, we “gulp” a Big Gulp (no nutrients … ALL sugar … ALL artificial).
So … truth be told … this DOES take some planning. And a tiny bit of work (cut-up fruit DOES need to be cut up … but you CAN get it that way too).
So … instead of going on about health benefits, here are some PRACTICAL ways to get some more fruit and veggies into your life …
Gettin’ More Fruit and Veggies into Your Life
# ONE: Buy Cut-Up Fruit and Veggie Packages
This is the easiest way I know to get more in your life. And make them visible in the fridge; put the fruit bowls at eye level in the fridge. And put the cut-up veggies there too (I repackage them in a zip-loc bag), along with some hummus or other dip (I like Siete’s Cashew Queso).
Then stow things like chips and other goodies in bins or the pantry. We tend to grab the first thing we see when we open the fridge. So this is the best tip I know to cut crap snacking to a minimum and rack up those garden goodies!
# TWO: Make One Meal a Salad Meal
This is a great way to get three to five servings in right off the bat! And don’t make it boring … load up on crunchies like tortilla chips (Siete has grain-free ones) or Gluten Free croutons.
As well as different veggies (now that in-store salad bars are back, I load a small container with what I call “guts” … a melange of stuff like olives, heart of palm, artichoke hearts … whatever floats your boat) and then get separately whatever bag of greens makes you happy.
I make my own dressing (I used to do that for a living … and now have lots of different recipes for them on the website … including Unbelievable Dairy Free Blue Cheese Dressing.) But you can buy good ones too … I like Cardini’s and Follow Your Heart among others.
And there’s always plain vinegar and olive oil … I get interesting infused ones at my farmer’s market.
There’s tons of salad ideas in my recipe, Salad in Five … Minutes. Making them ahead of time ensures you’ll have them when you want them. Eye level helps too!
# THREE: More Fruit and Veggie Tips
Here are some other fast ideas for getting more in your life …
- Drink 100% fruit and veggie juice. Not my fave because you’re missing all that fiber and mystery nutrients we don’t know about yet. But … when all else fails … do me … and yourself … a favor however and get the fresh-squeezed stuff in plastic bottles. The stuff in glass is cooked and therefore has few nutrients!
- Top desserts with fruit. I love to make berry compotes! Paleo Blueberry Compote is one of my faves. And I wouldn’t pass up a splash of fruit liqueur like Calvados or Grand Marinier.
- Have dried fruit. Again … not my fave … but they ARE full of fiber. Make sure they’re sulfite-free however. They make look like leather but taste just the same.
- Keep frozen veggies on hand … to toss into soups or casseroles. I always have Chinese veggies in the freezer for my Oh-So-Easy Fried (or Cauliflower [veggies already]) Rice.
- Top your morning bowl of cold cereal, oatmeal or yogurt with dried or fresh fruit. Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, grapes, raisins, dried cranberries, dates, and figs are all delicious.
- Try topping your pancakes … with berries, warm apple compote, or applesauce instead of syrup.
- Add diced onions, peppers, mushrooms and/or tomatoes … to your scrambled eggs or omelets
- Keep a bowl or basket of fruit on your kitchen counter and on your office desk. You are bound to turn to fruit when you’re hungry if it’s the first thing you see.
- When eating out make it a habit … to begin with a simple green salad.
# Four: More and More Fruit and Veggie Tips
- Add fruit to your green salads. Apple slices, halved grapes, sliced strawberries, raisins, dried cranberries, ripe juicy pear chunks, and orange or grapefruit sections all make delicious additions.
- See how many veggies you can add to your sandwich. Thin slices of cucumber, sprouts, grated carrots, avocado, roasted peppers, and baby spinach are delicious options. I also love veggie-filled wraps with Paleo “crunchies” or things like BBQ onions … a trick I learned from Fit for Life.
- Add vegetables to tuna or other meat salads. Chopped celery, green onions, red onion, red bell pepper, apples, sliced grapes, and dried cranberries are some of my favorites.
- Add extra veggies to your pasta. Add some chopped broccoli to your pasta water during the last few minutes of cooking or stir in a handful of spinach, mushrooms or zucchini into your favorite pasta sauce.
- Grill vegetables to go with your grilled meats when you fire up the barbecue. Asparagus, eggplant, zucchini and red bell peppers are all delicious grilled.
- Snack on baby carrots or celery sticks. Keep them, along with a small container of your favorite dip in your fridge at home and in the office.
- Freeze grapes and eat them while they’re still frozen.
- Grilled fruit makes a simple yet delicious dessert. Try slices of pineapple or peach halves served with a little Dairy Free frozen yogurt or ice cream.
- Try a fruit-filled smoothie for dessert, a snack, or healthy meal on the run.
Yes … this does take some planning. Lifestyle change always does. But the benefits are AWESOME! So go for it!
More health tips: Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Get plenty of rest. And learn to duck. ~ Charles Schultz