Adding More Fruits and Vegetables to Your Diet

New dietary guidelines have increased the recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings from five to nine. If you thought eating five a day was tough, you may feel overwhelmed by the increase. While the health benefits fruits and vegetables provide are undisputed, many Americans find it difficult to get enough of them. It doesn’t need to be this hard. Here are a few tips for adding more of nature’s best products into your diet.

In general, choose seasonal and fresh produce. This ensures variety, quality and the best prices. Invest in a few tools to help make eating fruits and vegetables easier such as an orange peeler, apple corer and slicer, melon baller and potato peeler.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and adding fruits and vegetables to this meal is probably the easiest tip of all. Ditch the donuts and muffins and instead go for some of these options:

  • Sneak pureed carrots into macaroni and cheese and into sauces such as spaghetti sauce.
  • Add shredded zucchini into meatloaf, breads, casseroles and muffins.
  • Use spinach in recipes such as lasagna, quiche and even tostadas.
  • Make your salads count. Instead of boring iceberg lettuce, try baby spinach leaves and load the salad up with a variety of vegetables.
  • Keep a container of sun dried tomatoes handy and use in all kinds of dishes. Chop them up and mix them in with couscous or rice, sprinkle on salads, top a quiche with them. They also make great snacks.
  • Try roasting vegetables instead of steaming or boiling them. Simply coat with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar and roast them in the oven or on the grill.
  • Sauté mushrooms and onions and serve over steak or burgers. It smells great and adds a nice touch.
  • Load up pizza with extra veggies such as mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, bell peppers and artichoke hearts.
  • When serving a Mexican meal, toss a banana or two in the oven until the peel turns black. Plantain bananas are more authentic but a regular banana works fine too. The warm, mushy banana taste makes a nice compliment to the meal.
  • Sweet potatoes and yams aren’t just for Thanksgiving. Eat them year round. Try mashing cooked sweet potatoes with a little butter and a can of crushed pineapples.

Dessert is the last chance of the day to reach your fruit and vegetable consumption goal:

  • Try a slice of angel food cake topped with fat free whipped cream and strawberries for a strawberry-shortcake like dessert.
  • Have a scoop of frozen yogurt with banana slices or your favorite type of berry.
  • Have a banana or zucchini muffin.
  • Remember the leftover smoothie you froze at breakfast? Have a smoothie popsicle.

Women are encouraged to shoot for seven servings a day and men should try to get nine servings. Head out to the farmer’s market and load up on your favorites. Try to get two to three servings at each meal and supplement with snacks. Your body will thank you.