Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fruits & Vegetables

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables Every Day

By Shereen Jegtvig, Health's Disease and Condition content is reviewed by our Medical Review Board

Cut Fruits and VegetablesPhoto © Peggy Greb

Fruits and vegetables should make up a large portion of your diet. They are low in calories, which is good, and they are high in vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber, which is even better. Experts suggest that you eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

Eating the suggested amount of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis is difficult for many people. Busy schedules, eating on the run, and the temptation of junk foods are all barriers to getting enough fruits and vegetables into your diet.

Do you need some help getting more fruits and vegetables into your diet? Here are some tips:

Make Fruits and Vegetables Convenient at Home

Apples, pears, bananas, oranges and cherry tomatoes don't need any refrigeration. Keep your fruits and vegetables in plain view on your countertop or table. When snack time rolls around it will be easy to grab a piece of fruit or a handful of cherry tomatoes. With this idea in mind, make sure you keep the cookie jar and the candy bars out of sight.

Frozen vegetables are quick and easy: Heat them quickly on the stove or in the microwave. You can choose single vegetables such as peas, carrots, green beans, and cauliflower, or you can try seasoned blends of vegetables.

Pre-cut vegetables and fruit are convenient, but don't buy them with the idea that they will last a long time. Fruit may begin to spoil within a day or two after cutting, however some fruits can be purchased in frozen or canned forms that last much longer.

The pre-cut and pre-washed salads-in-a-bag make meal time easy too. Just don't assume that the pre-washed salad blends are really clean. Give them a good rinse before preparing your meal.

Make Fruits and Vegetables Convenient at Work

Dehydrated fruits such as raisins, dates and dried cranberries keep well in plastic bags. Tuck a bag of raisins in your purse or bag for an easy snack. Single serving packs of apple sauce or fruit cups that don't need refrigeration can also be kept at your desk. Pack sliced carrots and celery with your lunch for a nutritious afternoon snack.

Eating away from home can be difficult, but with some thought you can still get enough fruits and vegetables into your diet. At lunch, choose a side salad instead of French fries and drink juice instead of a soda. Order vegetarian sandwiches and wraps. They are usually low in calories and can give you two or three servings of vegetables with just that one sandwich.

Fruits and Vegetables as Snacks

After school snacks or nighttime snacks often mean bags of greasy chips, bowls of ice cream or bottles of sugary sodas. Those snacks are high in calories and low in nutrition. Here are some great snack ideas instead:
  • Freshly cut vegetables are absolutely delicious with your favorite dip. Eat them at snack time instead of potato chips or tortilla chips. Choose low-fat ranch, dill or French onion dip or make your own low fat spinach dip.
  • Drink juice instead of soda. Mix your favorite 100 percent fruit juices with club soda if you miss the fizz.
  • Make a delicious parfait instead of scooping up high calorie ice cream. Layer fresh or frozen berries with vanilla yogurt and nuts or granola.
  • Eat a chocolate-covered strawberry instead of a candy bar. Choose dark chocolate for the extra antioxidants.
  • Instead of milk and cookies, have a small bowl of whole grain cereal with sliced fruit or raisins and low-fat milk.
  • Keep seedless grapes in the freezer instead of popsicles and ice cream bars.

Add Fruits and Vegetables to Sandwiches, Salads and on the Side

Eating a salad can give you several servings of fruits and vegetables. Start with some lettuce and add sliced tomatoes, apples, pears, berries, celery, cucumbers, sprouts, raw green beans, broccoli or cauliflower. With so many combinations, you can eat a different salad every day. Eat a salad as a meal once or twice each week.

When you make a sandwich, be sure to add lettuce and a couple of thick tomato slices. Take the rest of the tomato, slice it up and serve it on the side. Add extra vegetables to your soup and stew recipes. If you choose canned soups and stews, add extra frozen vegetables when you heat them.

Set a goal to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day. If you need a little help, you can add a delicious fruit and vegetable supplement beverage. Or buy a juicing machine to make your own fruit and vegetable juices.


"Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005" Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), January 12, 2005.

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