Eating more fruits and vegetables is a strong foundation of a healthy diet. It can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, increase flexibility, strengthen bones, and improves the function of the eyes, brain, and digestive system. Despite the widely accepted health benefits, many people struggle to get the recommended five or more, emphasis on more, daily servings.
Often, the expense is cited as to why people don’t consume more fresh fruit and vegetables. But that’s not really true. You can purchase three servings of leafy vegetables for well under $2 a day, based on a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is a modest expense when you consider the mental, physical, and emotional expense of heart failure, stroke, chronic illness, diabetes, osteoporosis, or vision loss.
Meal planning time and old habits also create barriers to eating a more plant-based diet. Here are a chef’s recommendations for setting aside these concerns and learning to embrace more plant-based recipes.
Know what you need. For the average 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, it is suggested that at least two cups at a minimum should be fruit or vegetables.
Set a goal. If leafy greens are rarely on the menu, try adding one fruit or vegetable to your diet a day. Once you get into that habit, try adding another. As you create new habits, you’ll also be increasing your fruit and vegetable intake.
Be sneaky. Adding finely ground carrots or zucchini to pasta sauce, meat, soup, or a stew is one approach to getting an additional serving of vegetables. Cookbooks like Deceptively Delicious or The Sneaky Chef offer approaches to slip vegetables and organic products into a wide range of recipes.
Try something new. If you’re tired of apples, bananas, and grapes try kiwi, mango, or pineapple. Explore the produce section at your local market and try something new.
Mix it up. A smoothie can be a delicious way to begin the day or even tide you over between meals. Start with a base of a half a banana and add a half cup of yogurt, fresh berries, and even some flax for extra omega-3s.
Take a dip. If your normal carrots, celery, or broccoli just aren’t doing the trick, try dipping them in hummus or another bean spread, spiced yogurt, or even Ranch dressing. You can even use nut spread like peanut or almond on a banana or slices of apples.
Spread it on thick. Avocado dip with diced onions or tomatoes can be used as a sandwich spread. Just add spinach, tomatoes, and a slice of cheese.
Start strong. Dump your morning sweets and upgrade to an omelet packed with veggies. Top it with some salsa for a fresh spin or mix up your morning oats with strawberries, bananas, or other fresh or dried fruit.
Drink up. A mere 6-ounces low-sodium vegetable juice counts as a serving of vegetables.
Make it hot. Roasting vegetables is simple and flavorful. Chop up whatever you have available (like carrots, onions, etc), cover them with olive oil, add a splash of balsamic vinegar, and cook at 350° until tender. Grilling is another way to draw out the flavor of vegetables. Add grilled vegetables as a side dish, put them on sandwiches, or throw them in a leafy salad.
Let someone else do the work. If chopping fruit and vegetables just isn’t your thing, food prep services offer everything from delivering fresh prepared produce to salads, smoothies, and full prepared meals.