Nutrition is an essential part of health and wellness. Approximately 117 million people in the United States have ≥1 preventable chronic diseases, which may be attributed to poor nutrition and physical inactivity.1 Diets high in fruits and vegetables have been linked to decreased risk for many chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.2 The US Department of Agriculture recommends filling half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. The following tips may be useful for incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet3,4:
- Always Have Fruits and Vegetables on Hand
Stock up on fruits that are fresh, dried, frozen, and canned (in water or 100% juice), so they are always easily accessible. Purchase prewashed or frozen vegetables for quick and easy preparation.
- Make Your Favorite Dishes Healthier
Substituting fruits or vegetables for certain ingredients in your dishes will add more volume and flavor to your meal, but with fewer calories. Replace the cheese slices or eggs that would normally go in your sandwiches or omelets with vegetables (eg, spinach, onions, or tomatoes), and use pieces of fruit (eg, bananas, peaches, or strawberries) to replace some of the cereal in your bowl.
- Be a Smart Snacker
With the majority of healthy eating plans, you can have 1 or 2 small snacks daily. Instead of high-calorie vending machine snacks, opt for ≤100-calorie nibbles consisting of fruits or vegetables, such as a medium-sized banana, 1 cup of grapes, or 1 cup of carrots or bell peppers with 2 tablespoons of hummus.
- Use Fruits and Vegetables to Give Your Meals Pizzazz
Add some color to your salads with baby carrots, shredded red cabbage, or spinach leaves, and use vegetable slices to decorate plates or serving dishes. Try combining fruits of different textures to give them more appeal (eg, crunchy apples, smooth bananas). Blend fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit to make colorful fruit smoothies.
- Keep Preparation Simple
Vegetables and fruits can be eaten raw, but if you prefer to cook with them, use techniques that are fat-free or low in fat (eg, steaming vegetables and using low-fat dressings or herbs and spices). Avoid techniques that will significantly increase the calories and fat in a dish (eg, frying).
- US Department of Health & Human Services; US Department of Agriculture. 2015-2020 dietary guidelines for Americans. http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/full/. Published December 2015. Accessed January 29, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC guide to strategies to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. www.cdc.gov/obesity/downloads/fandv_2011_web_tag508.pdf.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cutting calories. www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/fruits_vegetables.html. Updated November 9, 2015. Accessed January 29, 2016.
- US Department of Agriculture. Tips to help you eat vegetables. www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-tips. Updated January 12, 2016. Accessed January 29, 2016.