Eating a large variety of fruits and vegetables as part of your diet provides your body with an abundance of essential vitamins and minerals. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help prevent a host of conditions including heart disease and stroke, some types of cancer, as well as diverticulitis.
Traditionally we’ve been told we should consume 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but that amount varies depending on a range on factors such as age, weight, and physical activity levels. The CDC has a useful fruits and vegetables calculator that lets you calculate how many servings of fruits and veggies you should be consuming each day. The USDA has set the serving size of vegetables to be approximately half a cup. The exception to this is leafy vegetables like spinach and lettuce, where a serving size is equivalent to 1 cup. For sliced fruit and berries, 1 serving is the equivalent to half a cup; however 1 whole piece of fruit, such as a banana or orange, counts as a single serving.
Aiming for 5 servings a day is a good place to start, but sometimes it can be hard to incorporate this into your diet. Here are 10 easy ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your everyday meals and snacks.
- Start your day with a smoothie: It’s easy to incorporate multiple servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet in just one smoothie. The Internet is full of delicious smoothie recipes, find one you like and switch it up by adding ingredients like spinach, kale, or blueberries.
- Add berries to your morning oatmeal: Instead of buying flavored oatmeal, buy the plain variety and add fruits to boost your intake of essential vitamins and minerals. We love blueberries and banana with a tsp. of maple syrup or honey.
- Veggies and eggs: Sautéed vegetables pair well with eggs. Add sautéed peppers, spinach, and mushrooms to an omelet or scrambled eggs to easily boost your vegetable intake.
- Add side salads to evening meals: Instead of just having your regular pasta or pizza for dinner, add a yummy side salad to your evening meals. Side salads will fill you up more quickly, meaning you eat less of the “bad stuff”, and they provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Side salads don’t have to be boring and can actually be a delicious addition to your meal. Try matching salads with the cuisine you are eating, if you’re having pizza or pasta, try lettuce leaves with tomatoes and balsamic dressing; if you’re having Chinese style noodles, and make a salad with shredded lettuce and cabbage and sesame vinaigrette.
- Spruce up your sandwich: Adding vegetables to sandwiches is an easy way to meet your recommended daily allowance. Some great sandwich additions that will help you to your 5 a day are tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, spinach, lettuce, hummus, and shredded carrot.
- Dice away: Chop vegetables very finely and add to pasta sauces, tacos, soups, or casseroles. By adding vegetables to your meals in this way, you easily boost the nutritional content and flavor of the original recipe.
- Ditch the cheese sauce: Swap your cheesy sauces for cauliflower sauce. Cauliflower is an extremely versatile vegetable and can be made into a delicious creamy sauce that rivals the best Alfredo. Get creative and add other vegetables to your sauce such as sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes, and onion. Here’s our favorite cauliflower sauce recipe.
- Almost guilt free chips and dip: Swap potato chips for vegetable crudités as your go to dipping snack. Dip isn’t healthy but you can find recipes for healthier versions online using Greek yogurt or hummus. Our favorite crudités are cucumber, red pepper, and carrots.
- Toast toppers: Instead of topping your toast with butter and jam, add vegetables instead. Yummy suggestions include sliced avocado with roasted pumpkin seeds, hummus with cucumber slices, and cheddar cheese with sliced tomato.
- All hail kale: Kale chips are surprisingly delicious and very easy to make. Make a large batch to snack on through the week and see how easy it is to increase your vegetable intake without even thinking about it. Here’s our favorite kale chip recipe.