With a New Year comes many resolutions: Exercise more. Stress less. Lose Weight. Manage debt.
Eat more fruits and vegetables.
No, that last one did not make it to the top of the “Most Popular New Year’s Resolutions” lists, but it should be an important goal for all of us. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables, which are critical for good health. Sadly, three out of four of us are failing to eat them at least three times daily. The recommendations vary according to your weight, gender and activity level, but most of us should consume at least five (if not more) cups of fruits and vegetables each day.
Maybe you think they’re time-consuming, expensive, boring or inconvenient. Perhaps you just don’t remember, or you feel like you have no time or creative ideas on how to do it.
Read on for some easy ways to bring the healthy stuff into your life.
In just a few minutes, you can cut up some carrots, celery, apples and other finger-food types of produce. Store them in individual zip-top plastic bags and grab them on your way out the door, before you sit down to watch television, or when you need to add a handful of veggies to a soup or stew.
Don’t Sweat the Calories
Are you watching your weight? Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories and they’re surprisingly filling. Some examples of how you can eat 100 calories or less: one medium apple, one cup of steamed green beans, one cup of blueberries or grapes, one medium banana, one cup of carrots, broccoli or bell peppers (you can dip them into two tablespoons of hummus for an additional 46 calories!)
Sandwich Them In
Lettuce is good in a sandwich, but it doesn’t have to end there. Why not try adding in flavorful, healthful things like sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes as well?
Frozen can be just as healthy, even more so than fresh. Why? Produce that’s going to be frozen is picked at its peak ripeness when the flavor and nutrients are strongest. Then it’s flash-frozen to lock in those nutrients. This differs from fruits and vegetables that are destined for the produce aisle and shipped fresh. Typically, they’re picked before they’re ripe (as a result, the vitamins and minerals don’t have a chance to fully develop), and the long haul to the supermarket, plus the heat and light, can degrade some nutrients even further.
Dress Up Your Salad
No, don’t pour on the high-fat salad dressings, but enhance your salad’s look and texture with colorful, flavorful things like mandarin oranges, baby carrots, beets and grape tomatoes.
Make it more interesting and vary the way you eat your produce – it doesn’t have to be eaten whole. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears to create a natural and sweet sauce to use on broiled seafood or poultry. Or, spoon it on top of breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles or French toast.
Everyday foods like scrambled eggs or baked potatoes can suddenly take on a more exciting vibe when things like chopped tomatoes, spinach or diced broccoli are added to them. Freezing grapes is a fun way to turn a regular snack into a special treat.
Breakfast is a perfect time to get your fruit. Make room for diced bananas, peaches or strawberries in your cereal bowl by cutting back on the amount of your cereal or oatmeal.
Look at Your Plate
At dinnertime, vegetables, fruits and whole grains should take up the largest portion of your plate. If they don’t, you can reduce your total calories without reducing the amount of food you’re eating by replacing some of the meat, cheese, pasta or rice with things like legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, greens or another favorite vegetable.
Avoid the Vending Machines
Most of them contain high-calorie snacks, which don’t do your body any favors. Bring some cut-up fruit or veggies from home and you’ll enjoy a satisfying snack with fewer calories, less guilt and a higher nutritional punch.