The central piece of all diets promoting health unite at a large amount of plants, whether fruits, vegetables. Even the USDA food plate and the better version from the Harvard School of Public Health have at least 50% of every meal from vegetables and fruits. And how is the American public doing at achieving targets for plant food intake? Miserable. In a survey by the American Heart Association, under 1% of children achieved a healthy eating pattern and the number for adults was a shocking 1.5%. To win the war on chronic diseases, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and dementia, all nutrition camps must join hands to teach practical ways to get more and more plant based snacks and meals into daily routines. The need to focus on strategies to eat huge amounts of produce daily is more important than ever with data that 10, not 5, servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the goal for optimal health. Here are 18 ways to get more fruits and vegetables into your day. Use them for your children too.
1) Make the main dish a salad. Use dark leafy greens, edamame, chickpeas, cannellini beans, and seeds. Add anything else that makes your diet satisfying.
2) Have a large supply of frozen vegetables and fruits in the freezer, organic if possible, to use as side dishes, main dishes, smoothies and stir-fry’s.
3) Use fruit as the dessert. Frozen grapes and bananas are delicious. Mixed berries please so many. You can make frozen banana ice-cream in a blender or a dedicated kitchen appliance.
4). Grab a potato. The simple potato has been maligned but has propelled several stunning examples of weight loss and disease reversal. A baked potato topped with beans, salsa or greens is a fun meal for the whole family.
5) Break-fast with fruit. I would recommend that no bowl of cereal or oatmeal be without adornment by berries, dates, bananas or raisins. Although dried fruit needs to be used in moderations, children often will eat them over whole fruits. It’s a start.
6) Get a bowl. Putting brightly colored fruits on the counter and suddenly they will be gone in place of cookies and crackers. Plan 2 trips to the produce market to keep the fruit bowl refilled.
7). Salad color wheel. Although even limp iceberg tops French fries, a properly designed salad with orange peppers, mandarin orange slices, grape tomatoes, blueberries, and cauliflower florets will resemble a prism of colors and healthy results.
8). Pizza as a decoy. The base of a pizza is just an excuse for arugula, garlic, pine nuts, sun dried tomatoes, avocado slices, peppers, mushrooms and eggplant. Make pizza a pizza salad.
9). Smoothies: You knew this was coming. With enough blueberries or strawberries, even a sizeable handful of spinach or baby kale are hidden from a child’s view.
10). Veggie wrap. Need a fast meal. Take a steamed collard green or a 100% whole wheat tortilla and pack it with hummus, vegetables and salsa. I even add mustard. Kids love the collards and they hold up well as a sandwich.
11). Snacks. Planning ahead for lunches, trips, and school events with vegetables and fruits that are handy to eat is key. A bag of grapes, carrot sticks, celery, and broccoli florets can be winners.
12). Kabobs. Grilled vegetables kabobs are colorful and offer tremendous variety to introduce new foods like mushrooms.
13). Ask for lettuce. In most middle Eastern cafes, you can pass up on the pita and ask for romaine lettuce to dip in eggplant or chickpea dips like hummus.
14) Grill fruit. While grilled meat is known to be unhealthy, grilled pineapple, peaches, bananas, and even apples hold up well and open a new door to more servings of plants.
15) Grate them. You can take any dish like a lasagna or loaf and grate spinach, carrots, and squash into the prep to add the fiber and nutrients found only in plants.
16) Soup. Preparing a big pot of homemade vegetable or bean soup on a Sunday can power the whole week as a main course, lunch, or snack. Add in dark greens to get all the health benefits.
17) Sandwich. Make a rule, no sandwich, should be without a fruit or vegetable. Even a PB and J can have banana slices. Certainly a burger with a big lettuce leaf and a tomato is a far better burger of any kind.
18) Juice. It is easy to find cold-pressed vegetable juices in many stores and markets that are entirely or mainly vegetable. Some have been processed by HPP which gives them a few months of shelf time. Beware the brands that are pasteurized and mainly fruit. They are sugar bombs. Juice your vegetables and eat your fruit whole.
Eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, shooting for 10 servings, is the best insurance against falling prey to the illnesses and obesity that rob us of our wellness. Not only can cardiac disease including heart attack be prevented by produce, but lifespan itself is predicted by the number of servings a day we eat from the garden. Even the worst meal is made better when you add a plant to it.