Tips for Adding Fruits and Vegetables into Every Meal
Many of you have probably heard things like “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”, “Eat your vegetables!”, and “You are what you eat”. But you may still be wondering why it’s so important to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and
phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring compounds in plants such as fruits
and vegetables that contribute to their color, taste and smell and are beneficial
to health. Many phytochemicals act as antioxidants, meaning that they prevent
damage to cells from highly reactive unstable molecules called free radicals.
Free radicals can lead to cell damage which has been linked to a number of
chronic diseases. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the
risk of some diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and some
Since no single fruit or vegetable contains all of the nutrients
your body needs, it is important to eat a variety of them. In addition, fruits
and vegetables add color, flavor and texture to your meals. Plus fruits and
vegetables are low in calories and fat and help fill you up, making them a good
addition to your dietary patterns. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025
recommends that active adults eat 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables each
day. This is quite a bit of fruits and vegetables! Rather than measuring out
your fruits and vegetables, aiming for having half of your plate contain fruits
and vegetables (for both meals and snacks) will help you meet this recommended daily
Not sure how to eat this much fruits and veggies? Need some new ideas for what to do with fruits and veggies?
Here are some tips to add more fruits and vegetables to
- Top your cereal, oatmeal or yogurt with fruit, like fresh or frozen berries, grapes or chunks of apple.
- Add chopped veggies such as onions, peppers and mushrooms to your eggs.
- Place colorful fruit like apples, bananas, oranges and peaches where you can easily grab it for an on-the-go snack. Or have cut up/pre-peeled fruit in the refrigerator.
- Try crunchy vegetables like carrots, celery, cucumbers and bell peppers, instead of chips, with your favorite salad dressing or hummus for dipping. (An easy low-fat salad dressing: Beat together 1 cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice until smooth; mix in 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley and 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh chives).
- Spice up your sandwiches with sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber, tomato and spinach as fillings. Consider replacing half of the meat in your sandwich with fruits/vegetables.
- Make a veggie wrap with roasted veggies and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole wheat tortilla.
- Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, sides dishes, lunch box additions, or a quick nibble while waiting for/preparing dinner.
- Add fruit to your salads. Apples, raisins, strawberries, grapes and pears all taste great in salads!
- Grill colorful vegetable kabobs containing tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, summer squash and onions.
- Chop up some veggies and add in to quesadillas and pasta dishes. Try peppers, onions, mushrooms, carrots or broccoli.
- Replace half of your pasta with veggie noodles like zucchini or spaghetti squash. Top with pasta sauce that has added vegetables.
- Replace the pasta in soup with veggies.
- Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauces and brown rice.
- Make veggie enchiladas with black beans, brown rice, quinoa, green sauce and veggies like asparagus, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, sweet peppers, carrots, spinach, and onions. Add in some garlic and cumin.
- Add extra amounts of fruits and vegetables to recipes (if recipe calls for 1 red pepper, add in 2 red peppers, etc.).
- Have 2 or more types of vegetables and/or fruits with a meal or snack.
- Grill peaches, pineapple, bananas or kiwi for an easy and delicious dessert.
- Always have some canned and frozen fruits and vegetables on hand and some dried fruit just in case you can’t make it to the grocery store due to bad weather or a busy schedule.
- Pick a new fruit or vegetable to try each week. If you have kids at home have them help you pick one.
Information compiled from:
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 20 Ways to Enjoy More Fruits and Vegetables
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025
Harvard School of Public Health
Produce for Better Health Foundation