Did you know that there is actually a day to celebrate eating Vegetables?! June 17th is National Eat Your Vegetables Day as part of Fruit and Vegetable Month. One morning on the radio, I heard the DJs bemoaning the fact that we’re supposed to eat 9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day and how hard that is to accomplish. While this seemed silly to me, it turns out that most Americans are in this camp.
In 2010, the CDC said that only 27% of adult Americans were getting the recommended number of servings of vegetables. And that was when the recommended number was only 5! Teenagers ate even less. Grains, sugar and meat make up most of Americans’ food consumption, much of it in the form of fast and processed foods.
Since 2010, even more studies have come out about the importance of adding more plants into your diet. Eating more vegetables and fruits can cut the risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer, arthritis, and obesity and all its associated health risks. Adding more fruits and vegetables slows down the aging of your cells, making you age slower. A plant-based diet can even lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.
All of these benefits are even more effective if you eat more than the recommended amount, hence moving from 5 servings a day to 9.
If that sounds daunting, fear not! 9 servings of fruit and vegetables a day is much easier than it sounds.
A serving is probably smaller than what you think. For fruit, approximately one cup equals a serving. With a lot of fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, grapefruits, and oranges, one piece is one serving. A mere 8 strawberries is a full serving. Half of a cucumber is one serving of fruit (32 years later and I just learned a cucumber is fruit!). Those amounts seem fairly reasonable.
Vegetables aren’t much different. In general, the same rule of one cup equals a serving. Green peas, green beans, and beans (yep, those count) fit the one cup to one serving rule. Leafy greens require a little more; 2 cups of chard, kale, and spinach are each a serving. It only takes 2 celery stalks for a serving too!
When you’re trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, take some time to prepare them ahead of time. If it’s easy to get to and easy to eat, you’ll be more likely to do it. Wash and cut up your produce ahead of time to increase your chances of success.
So here are 9 easy ways to up your fruit and vegetable intake.
1. Add fruit to your morning breakfast. Cereal, yogurt, granola, and pancakes can all be jazzed up with some fruit. This can be fresh, frozen or dried. Dried fruit only needs half the amount to equal a serving. Berries, bananas or peaches would be great here.
2. Add veggies to your eggs or smoothies. Do you already make scrambled eggs and cheese in the morning? Add some diced red and green peppers, onions, tomatoes and broccoli for a delicious scramble. Or if you’re more of a smoothie person, throw in a handful of fresh or frozen spinach or kale. It may change the color a little, but you’ll hardly notice with the taste. Half an avocado gives a smoothie a nice creamy texture and counts as another serving.
3. Pre make lunches of Mason Jar Salads. If you’ve ever come in to the office around 2:30, chances are you’ve seen me trying to polish one of these off quickly. Preparing lunches at the beginning of the week help ensures your success. On Sunday night, take a bunch of mason jars, chop up all your vegetables and assemble! Here are some tips on how to get started. The best thing about a salad at lunch is it knocks out a few of your servings in one meal. To make it a little more filling, I like to add eggs and avocados.
4. Opt for coleslaw or a side salad instead of fries. Even the best-laid plans can sometimes get derailed. If you’ve got your Mason jar salad in the fridge but decide to go out for lunch instead, that’s no problem! Order a salad or coleslaw for your side. While French fries technically come from a vegetable, frying them zaps most of the nutrition out and replaces it with saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.
5. Soup. Soup is a great way to get lots of servings of vegetables. Many soups start with a base of carrots, celery and onions. Don’t skimp on these! Then, depending on what kind of soup you’re making, you can add in zucchini, corn, tomatoes, beans—let your imagination run wild!
6. Add Veggies to pizza or other favorite dishes. Technically, pizza sauce counts as a serving, although you can do more! An easy way to add to that is topping your pizza with more tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, and, if you’re feeling really adventurous, spinach or broccoli. I’ve done it to freezer pizzas and it’s actually pretty tasty. It’s easy to add in more vegetables to things like lasagna, quesadillas, sandwiches, pasta dishes, tacos and really anything in my opinion.
7. Fruit Salad. Same idea as the Mason jar salads: make it ahead of time and make it easy. Berries, oranges, and grapes are all a great snack. If you use apples and bananas, try adding a squeeze of lemon to make it last longer and prevent browning..
8. 12 baby carrots or 2 celery sticks with hummus or Peanut butter. Here’s an easy one: only 12 baby carrots or 2 celery sticks counts toward your daily total. 3 heaping tablespoons of hummus counts as a serving too.
9. Applesauce. This is a great easy snack. When you buy it, just make sure to get the kind without any added sugar. Added sugars defeats the whole purpose here. Cinnamon applesauce is my favorite.
Getting your 9 servings of fruit and vegetables doesn’t have to be daunting. You don’t even need to do all 9 of these suggestions because many of them cover at least a couple of servings. Grab a friend, co-worker or family member and enroll them in joining you. A friendly competition and accountability can help get you to your goal. Your body will feel and function better in no time!
If you are ready to turn over a New Leaf of health, your friendly chiropractors right here in Longmont, CO, can help you achieve your health goals. Feels free to ask if you have any questions. We’re always here to help!
Do you have any secrets you use to get you to 9 a day? Share in the comments below! We’d love to hear them!