Aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
Because of their many health promoting benefits nutrition professionals recommend filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables!
Why eat fruits and vegetables?
- Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients including potassium, fiber, and vitamins A, C, & K.
- What if I take a multivitamin/mineral supplement? A supplement can provide “insurance” to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies; however, there are additional benefits to eating fruits and vegetables.
- In addition to containing essential nutrients, fruits and vegetables contain special compounds called phytochemicals, or “plant” chemicals that protect the plant when it is growing. These compounds are often responsible for the bright, rich colors of produce. Research shows that these compounds, many of which function as antioxidants, may have health benefits for us as well, including protecting our cells from damage and fighting cancer causing substances in our bodies. Researchers are looking at how these compounds may interact with vitamins and minerals to ward off disease.
- Have you heard “eat the rainbow,” or “make a colorful plate?” The idea behind this age-old advice is that adding an assortment of colorful fruits and vegetables to your plate can ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals – which can promote health.
Tips to Eat More Fruits and Veggies
- Make fruits and vegetables more visible.
- Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter or table.
- Store fruits and vegetables ready to eat on the top shelf of the refrigerator.
- Add fruit or juice in the morning.
- Drink a cup of 100% juice.
- Slice a banana or put berries in your cereal.
- Top waffles or pancakes with yogurt, fruit or applesauce.
- Grab a piece of fruit or a canned fruit cup as you head out the door.
- Snack on veggies or fruit anytime - try carrots, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes or kiwi.
- Microwave a cup of vegetables while making your sandwich at lunchtime.
- Have a little peanut butter with an apple or banana for a high-energy snack.
- Replenish your carbs after a workout with fruit or 100% juice.
- Steam broccoli for 5 minutes and sprinkle with lemon juice.
- Stir fry thin slices of zucchini and yellow squash for 1 minute in a little vegetable oil; sprinkle with parmesan or Asiago cheese.
- Pierce a medium sweet potato with a fork; microwave on high 4-5 minutes.
Grocery Shopping and Cooking Tips
- Try vegetables steamed, grilled, stir-fried, raw, or roasted. Choose fresh, frozen, or canned (choose low-sodium or drain and rinse to reduce sodium).
- Try fruits fresh, dried, frozen, or canned (in light syrup or juice).
- Budget friendly tips: choose fruits and vegetables that are in season (i.e., yellow squash in the summer) or stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables when on sale. Buy fruits and vegetables in their less processed form. Purchasing pre-chopped veggies can save time, but they often cost more. Try buying them in their original form, wash, chop and store in the fridge so they are ready to grab on-the-go.
- Weary about trying vegetables? Try adding them to your favorite dishes – pasta with marinara sauce, quesadillas, omelets, soups, or use as toppings on a whole wheat pita pizza.
For More Information:
Fruits & Veggies More Matters
ChooseMyPlate.gov – Vegetables
ChooseMyPlate.gov - Fruits
Produce for Better Health Foundation
10 Tips to Add More Vegetables to Your Day
1. Why is it important to eat vegetables? USDA Choosemyplate.gov website. http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables-why.html ; Accessed December 9, 2014.
2. Schaeffer J. Color Me Healthy – Eating for a Rainbow of Benefits. Today’s Dietitian. 2008; 10(11):34. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110308p34.shtml