How many vegetables and fruits do you eat a day?
Health experts agree that a diet rich in vegetables and fruits is important to maintain and even improve your health. Fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients – vitamins, minerals and fiber – and they may help reduce your risk for cancer and other chronic diseases.
But federal statistics show Americans aren’t eating enough.
The 2009 State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables (the most recent study available) shows that only 32 percent of American adults eat two or more servings of fruit a day and only 27 percent of adults eat 3 or more servings of vegetables a day. (Fourteen percent of American adults do both.)
Federal dietary guidelines urge Americans to eat more healthy foods, including vegetables and fruit. But how?
Make vegetables convenient
Research recently published in the journal Public Health Nutrition shed light on why people aren’t eating vegetables – convenience was a major factor.
One of the best ways to eat more vegetables is to make sure they’re readily available.
1. Keep vegetables where you can see them
You can keep apples, bananas, pears, oranges and cherry tomatoes on the kitchen counter. They don’t need refrigeration. Plus putting produce where you can see it makes it more enticing.
For vegetables that need refrigeration, think outside the crisper. Baby carrots, peppers, broccoli florets and cucumbers can be kept front and center as long as they’re bagged properly, and they will be easy to grab them when it’s snack time.
2. Let someone else do the work
Think it takes too long to peel, cut and chop? Why not let food companies and grocers take care of that for you?
Many grocery stores have prepared produce available, including bags of baby carrots, washed salad greens, and peeled and cut fruit. They cost a little extra, but they make snacks and meal preparation very convenient.
Just be careful to eat fresh, pre-cut produce within a few days, because it may begin to spoil. Don’t assume that pre-washed salad mixes are clean. Plan to give them an extra rinse before your meal.
3. Stock frozen vegetables and fruit
Frozen vegetables are incredibly quick and easy, and they are often frozen at the peak of freshness, so they’re healthy, too!
You can heat frozen vegetables quickly on the stove or in the microwave. Look for single vegetable varieties, like broccoli, cauliflower and peas. Grocery stores also carry vegetable mixes so you can whip up meals in minutes without chopping anything.
4. Pre-package vegetable snacks yourself
OK, it’s true that this one takes a little preparation, but it makes snacks easy on-the-go.
Put single servings of baby carrots, cut peppers, or other vegetables in plastic bags in your fridge, that way you can easily grab healthy snacks when you leave the house.
Keep dehydrated vegetables or dried fruit on hand for snacks that won’t need refrigeration and can be kept in your desk, bag or car.
5. Drink your veggies
You can get a full serving of vegetables in a glass! Instead of soda, reach for a can or bottle of low-sodium vegetable juice. You’ll avoid extra sugar and still be eating healthy.
Or invest in a juicer and create your own vegetable juices.
Eating more vegetables doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of extra time in the kitchen. With a little planning and thought before you head to the grocery store, you can add more servings of vegetables into your diet.