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Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of any healthy diet. The dietary guidelines recommend all men and women consume between 3 ½ and 5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. A way to ensure you’re getting enough is to make sure most of your meals and snacks include a fruit and/or a vegetable.
There are many health benefits for increasing your fruit and vegetable intake including decreasing risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. They are low in fat and calories, and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Increasing fruits and vegetables in your diet is an easy way to reach your goal of eating healthier. A serving of fruit or vegetables is quantified as one cup raw, one whole fruit, ½ cup cooked and two cups of greens. These are the amounts to aim for at any meal. Here are a few tips for how you can increase your intake every day!
For breakfast: Set a goal of including fruit as part of your daily breakfast. Try including it in your breakfast on top of cereal or in your oatmeal; on the side: try either cut up fruit, or an apple or banana; or try a fruit smoothie with low fat yogurt and frozen berries.
For Lunch: Make sure a vegetable finds its way into your lunch. This can be as simple as bringing baby carrots as a side with your lunch. Have a big salad loaded with veggies and topped with protein and light dressing. Bring leftover veggies from the night before. I usually cut up veggies at the beginning of the week and take some every day and dip them in hummus or low fat dressing. As a bonus, have an apple to cleanse your pallet after lunch to keep you going for the rest of your afternoon.
For Dinner: Make half of your plate veggies. If you use this as a general rule, not only are you ensuring veggies are incorporated into your meal, but you’re also automatically increasing the nutritional value of your meal. The veggies can be anything you like, think about experimenting with some new veggies you haven’t used before to increase the variety in your diet.
For snacks: Try and make sure that at least one snack in your day contains either a fruit and/or a vegetable. This can be an apple or banana with peanut butter, a light yogurt w/ berries, veggies and dip, celery and peanut butter or a fruit or vegetable on its own.
Check out choosemyplate.gov for some other tips as well as some recipes to try that include fruits and veggies!