“Five [fruits or vegetables] a day for better health.” This is what was engrained in my head from kindergarten on. As a picky eater, I didn’t listen then, and although I have a much more diverse palate at 25, I still struggle to fit enough produce into my diet.
The government recommends two to four cups of veggies a day for adults. However, recent research shows that most of us don’t even come close. According to an American Heart Association survey released this month, approximately 80 percent of adults admit that it’s a challenge to fit produce into their diets, missing out on positive health effects, like weight management and a lowered risk cancer and heart disease. Here are a few easier ways to get them in.
Juice it up
Since I’ve always had a big sweet tooth, I’ve always enjoyed snacking on berries, peaches and the like more than any type of vegetable. It is possible to drink the nutrients of vegetables—to an extent. Most juices are empty calories, because although they contain nutrients, they don’t provide the fiber of whole fruit, which make you feel full faster. If you make your own by using a juicer, making sure to include the nutritious skin and pulp, it can be a more beneficial choice. To get in even more servings of produce, you can start your day with a “green juice” made from veggies like spinach, beets, carrots, and even an apple, can provide an extra boost of nutrients.
Pop a vitamin
Experts have mixed opinions on whether multivitamins are as effective as the real thing in preventing disease and fitting in your nutrients. They certainly do to a degree, but it’s a two-way street—you can’t exactly sustain yourself on sugar and fast food and expect a pill to work wonders. And it certainly won’t help keep unwanted pounds away. Take your daily vitamin alongside your oatmeal and fruit or your veggie sandwich.
Try something new
One reason I have a hard time fitting veggies into my diet is that I get bored with repetition. Take a moment to examine the wide range of lesser-known produce available at your local grocery store or farmer’s market, or you can even consider growing your own. Don’t be afraid to try one of the following:
- Celeriac – This root veggie is filled with fiber and Vitamins A and C, as well as potassium and almost a day’s worth of Vitamin K.
- Jicama – This flesh-colored, fat-free fruit is rich in fiber and Vitamin C, as well as prebiotic inulin, which promotes the growth of good bacteria in the stomach.
- Juneberries – This bright purple fruit contains high levels of protein, calcium, iron and antioxidants that may help you reduce cancer, heart disease and inflammation risk.
Nervous that you won’t know what to do with a new fruit or veggie? For more advice on how to buy and prepare your produce, check out the Department of Agriculture’s www.choosemyplate.gov.