We learned about the food pyramid in seventh-grade health class. Our teacher stood in front of the classroom telling us the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables. Our pre-pubescent junior high selves didn’t pay attention, and it was hard to, as the aroma of pizza wafted down the hallway from the cafeteria. We memorized learning about healthy foods to pass our quizzes and tests and then subsequently tucked the information to the back far reaches of our minds. Fast forward 25 years, and we all have a few extra pounds we would like to shed. The pizza still smells good, but when we look down at our waistlines, we don’t feel very good.
Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. As we go back to our “tween” days, we start remembering there was something in the middle of the food pyramid and that’s where the fruits and vegetable categories plug-in.
If you’re like most Americans, you don’t want to eat boring handfuls of three to five servings of vegetables and another two to four servings of fruit a day. It might seem like a daunting amount to ingest, but with our delicious tips, you’ll be chopping vegetables and fruit, mixing them into your meals and creating healthful masterpieces in no time.
- Start with Breakfast – Breakfast breaks your body’s nighttime fast, jump starts your metabolism and gives you the necessary energy to conquer your day. If you eat yogurt, oatmeal or healthy whole-grain cereal for breakfast, opt for adding a handful of berries to give your morning a fruit-filled start. If you prefer a protein-filled breakfast of eggs, incorporate some delicious tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and onions to an omelet.
- Double Veggies – If you’re making a quick homemade soup, double the veggies! Soup is one way to add extra vegetables, and you won’t mess up the recipe. The extra helpings will even pack in extra nutrition and flavor. If you make homemade pizza, opt for veggie pizza. Cram extra veggies into casseroles, stuff them on sandwiches and be creative.
- Sneak Them In – A great way to get kids to eat more veggies is to sneak them into their meals. Grated carrots and zucchini work great in turkey burgers, meatloaf and even in meatballs. Add pureed winter squash, cauliflower and red peppers to sauces, pot pies, mashed potatoes or even macaroni and cheese. If you make a marinara sauce, make sure it’s packed with secret veggies, such as mushrooms, onions, eggplant, peppers, carrots and squash.
- Meatless Mondays – Opt to go vegetarian one day a week. As an added benefit, this can help reduce your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Opt for some fun vegetarian recipes that are full of protein, quick, delicious and packed with veggies.
- New Vegetables – It’s almost farmers market season so commit to supporting your local farmer’s market and trying a new local fruit or vegetable each week.
- Snacks – Healthy snacks can help curb hunger and resist the temptation to sneak out of your office and into your coworker’s candy bowl. Keep a bowl of fresh fruit accessible at times or buy pre-cut fruit and vegetables in snack-size bags for healthy snack options.
- Dessert – Instead of ice cream or unhealthy bites, opt for unsweetened yogurt piled with fruit and berries.
- Salads – Say yes to the salads, and you just might be in the home stretch for ingesting all your vegetable nutrients. Be creative with salads and load them up with crunchy toppings, fruits, vegetables and even some protein, such as eggs or bacon.
- Smoothies – A great way to get your full servings of vegetables is to opt for smoothies. Green smoothies that have little fruit and added calories are best for those looking to shrink their waistlines, but those with a few healthy fats are kid-friendly.
- Crisps – We all love potato chips, and they’re probably a staple in your home and office. Instead of eating these greasy-laden varieties, make your own by thinly slicing some favorite vegetables and baking them in the oven. Popular varieties include crisp kale, mustard greens and collard greens.
- Ditch the Bread – Instead of making a sandwich with bread, replace your bread and go in favor of a crunchy lettuce wrap.