Want to know one of the best ways to lose weight, improve your health, and stay healthy for life? It’s simple, really: eat your fruits and veggies! And get plenty each day.
For our program, you’ll focus on eating 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies daily. Basically, that means trying to include them at any point you can, especially with each meal and snack. If you’re feeling a little discouraged at this point, don’t worry.
Even if you’re not used to eating fruits or veggies on a daily basis, it’s actually not as difficult as you’d think to make it to 5-9 servings. You just have to get a little creative and resourceful, and we’re here help you do that.
But first, let’s cover some important details:
Why Fruits and Veggies? With tons of antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, water, fiber, and good carbs, fruits and vegetables contain the nutrition our bodies need for prevention of the most common diseases like heart disease, obesity, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Plus, they contain a lot of fiber, fruits and vegetables help you stay full longer while providing your body with rich nutrition—the perfect formula for reaching a healthy weight. Plus, fruits and veggies don’t contain many things prevalent in the Standard American Diet, such as excess calories, sodium, cholesterol, and unhealthy fats.
That’s why eating an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies is the perfect healthy, long-term solution for keeping off the weight and having robust health for life.
Fruits and Vegetables are NOT the Same Although you want to eat both vegetables and fruits as part of a healthy diet, it’s important to note they aren’t quite created equal. Lumping together fruits and vegetables can be misleading since fruits are not vegetables, and vice versa.
They do totally different things to your body. Although they pretty much contain the same nutrients if you eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, veggies come out on top when it comes to full nutritional value.
Compared with fruits, vegetables are generally much higher in important vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins A, B, and C, and more. So, you’ll want to focus on slightly more veggies than fruits per day. Think around five servings of veggies and 3-4 servings of fruit as a general guide.
How Much is a Serving? The term “serving” can be confusing because most people don’t know exactly what that means, so here’s a guide. Each of these would be considered one serving:
- 1 medium pear
- 1 large peach
- 1 small apple
- 1 cup of cut-up fruit
- ½ cup of dried fruit
- 8 ounces of fruit juice (make sure it’s 100% juice)
- 1 cup cooked or raw vegetables
- 2 cups of leafy greens (like spinach, kale, or collard greens)
- 1 cup vegetable juice
Now that we have that covered, let’s talk about ways to easily get in your 5-9 servings per day.
Make It Convenient How do you develop a habit that lasts a lifetime? By making it accessible and convenient enough to stick to. Here are some pointers for make eating fruits and veggies simpler:
1. It doesn’t have to all be fresh. Yes, fresh produce in season might be best for flavor and your wallet, but remember that’s not the only option available. In fact, fruits or veggies that are canned (without syrup or without added salt) or that are flash-frozen can be just as healthy and useful as fresh, local produce. Plus, they’re more portable and require much less prep time. Don’t let lack of access to fresh foods keep you from getting your daily servings!
2. Buy pre-cut and pre-washed. You might be used to steering clear of the pre-prepared produce because it’s more pricey, but think about the advantages:
- you’ll save time you’d otherwise use washing, cutting, and throwing away stems
- the amount of waste you’d throw away anyway can make the price comparable for most veggies
- plus, the convenience of having the produce ready to eat and cooked right out of the bag might make the extra price worth it
3. Don’t worry about the details. If you spend too much time worrying about the “right” kind of fruit or veggie or how to prepare it, you’ll get overwhelmed and stuck in your tracks. So start by just focus on getting 5-9 servings each day—and feel free to get more if you can.
4. Stock up on frozen veggies. Frozen vegetables are great for when you’re low on produce and just need something to add to soups or other dishes. They can be quickly pulled out and microwaved for immediate use anytime.
5. Prep a little. After shopping, take a little time to chop up some veggies to have ready to go in the fridge during the week. Sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, zucchinis, and carrots are great to keep around for snacks or for dipping into hummus. You can also leave fruits like apples, oranges, pears, and bananas out in a bowl on the counter so they’re easy to grab as a snack at any time.
Finding Fruits and Vegetables You Like Whether you’re picky or have been eating a variety of produce for years, it’s great to experiment with new types or versions of fruits and vegetables. You’ll improve your palate and prevent yourself from becoming bored with the same ol’ thing.
Here are some ways to do that:
Try something you didn’t like in the past. Your taste buds change over time. If you’re used to saying, “oh, I don’t like [insert fruit or veggie],” consider how long you’ve been saying that without giving it another try. Just because you didn’t like something as a child or a decade ago doesn’t mean you won’t change your mind in adulthood or in a few years… or even if you try the fruit or vegetable cooked or prepared a different way. You might just find a new favorite you didn’t know you had!
Try grilling. Adding vegetables, and even some fruits, to the grill makes them taste sweeter and brings out the flavor more. You might find some vegetables you don’t care for raw are delicious to you when prepared on the grill!
Freeze fruits. If you’ve never had a frozen grape as a treat, you’ve been missing out. Try adding a bunch to the freezer and popping them in your mouth after a few hours. You can do the same with bananas, or even blend them up to make a clean and delicious banana “nice” cream!
Getting Creative Be sneaky! Whether you love fruits and vegetables or are still getting used to eating them, there are ways to add extras to your meals without even really noticing they’re there.
Here are some ideas:
Blend them. Cooked and pureed veggies are great to use as thickeners for stews, soups, casseroles, or gravies. Think butternut squash, potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli, or mushrooms. Some can even be added to baking recipes, such as pureed sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Smoothies are another great option. There are tons of options for fruit smoothies, and you can easily make it a green smoothie by tossing in some spinach or kale. With the right recipe, you won’t taste the greens at all and you’ll love the sweetness of the smoothie!
Chop, dice, or shred them. Cutting up veggies into small pieces makes it easy to throw them into stews, casseroles, or even meatloaf or lasagna dishes. You can do this with onions, tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, and more. This method is great for those with kids who want to sneak in extra veggies, or if you want to “trick” yourself into eating veggies you aren’t (yet) crazy about. For breakfast, you can cut up fruit, such as bananas or strawberries, to add to pancakes, muffins, yogurt, or cereals.
Garnish. If you want to get fancy, add edible garnishes to dinner plates. Good examples could be red pepper strips, cucumbers, or slices of strawberries or cantaloupe.
Bumping it Up If you’re new to eating 5-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day, just focus on getting them in your diet each day in any way you can. However, if you’re a more seasoned produce eater, there are some extra ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of your daily fruits and vegetables. Here are some tips:
- Replace white potatoes with sweet potatoes. You’ll increase your intake of beta carotene, potassium, and fiber.
- Increase your amount of dark, leafy greens. These are the true nutritional powerhouses!
- Work on getting a rainbow of colors from your produce each day
- Eat a big salad for lunch or dinner with a variety of veggies and fruits.
- At least once a week, have a vegetarian meal and really focus on tons of veggies. Examples could be big salads, soups, or stir-fries.
- Try to visit your farmer’s market each weekend, and buy more organic when possible.
Still feeling stumped about meals to make? Don’t overcomplicate it. Think simple, delicious, and healthy with a balance of healthy carbs, fats, and proteins.
- Green smoothie with frozen fruit and a big handful of leafy greens. Add some nut butter for healthy fats and protein.
- Cooked oatmeal Greek yogurt and berries.
- Chopped mixed fruit and an egg-white veggie omelet.
Lunch or Dinner Ideas
- Big raw salad with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Add a healthy protein like tempeh, beans, or lean meat and a healthy fat like avocado.
- Vegetable rice minestrone soup.
- Roasted chicken with steamed broccoli and baked sweet potato.
- Raw veggie sticks with hummus.
- Whole grain muffin baked with raisins, mashed banana, and pureed pumpkin.
- Fruit salad with yogurt.
Get your daily dose of 5-9 fruits and vegetables each day, and you’ll notice a difference in how you feel almost immediately. And of course, don’t forget to continue practicing eating slowly and stopping at 80% full!