The benefits of fruits and vegetables
- Promoting long-term maintenance of a health body weight
- Providing essential vitamins and minerals that your body need to function every day
- Giving you fiber that keeps your digestive tract healthy and helps protect against diseases such as diverticulosis
- Possibly preventing some types of cancer and chronic diseases, including coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, cataract formation, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
These health benefits are even more pronounced when consuming a wide variety of produce, in particular, dark, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, citrus fruits, and deep-yellow-orange fruits and vegetables. While some people are happy to have a salad and a few pieces of fruit every day, you may prefer to integrate fruits and vegetables into your usual meals. Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner, it is always possible to add more fruits and vegetables.
The following is the same as 1 C of fruits or vegetables:
- One piece of fruit
- 2 cups of raw leafy greens
- 1 cup of other chopped fruit or raw/cooked vegetables
The size of your fist or a baseball is approximately 1 cup. According to the USDA, this is about 12 baby carrots or 32 grapes.
Here are some tips for integrating fruits or vegetables into your meals and snacks.
- Include a piece of fruit in the morning, along with your toast w/peanut butter and coffee/tea.
- Add two handfuls of berries to your morning cereal.
- Add chopped vegetables, such as tomato, mushrooms, onion, spinach, or peppers to your scrambled eggs or omelette.
- Add fresh fruit, such as banana or berries to your pancakes or french toast recipe. Tope with sliced apples and fresh plain or Greek yogurt.
- Make your own fresh-fruit smoothie with some skim milk or yogurt or ice. Add some vegetables as well such as cucumber, cilantro, or tomato for a mild flavor and extra nutrients.
- If you drink juice, make sure it is 100% juice without added sugars or fillers.
- Top your sandwiches with lots of fresh vegetables, such as romaine lettuce or spinach, tomato, onions, sprouts, mushrooms, or fresh red pepper. These add fresh flavor and a nice crunch.
- Choose soups loaded with vegetables such as minestrone, chicken with vegetables, or carrot ginger. Add a handful of spinach and/or broccoli for an added boost and texture.
- Bring along a handful of baby carrots, celery spears with peanut butter, or a piece of fruit to much on with your lunch.
- Consider adding fruit to your salads, such as apples, pears or oranges for a sweet and fresh taste!
- Add some chopped vegetables such as carrots, mushrooms, or peppers to your baked sweet potato. Garnish with a sprinkle of reduced fat Cabot cheddar cheese. Yum!
- Buy a bag of spinach and throw a handful on top of any of your dinners as a colorful garnish. The heat of the food will wilt the spinach so it blends into your food and becomes a healthy additon with little extra effort.
- Roast vegetables while you cook. Slice some vegetables such as eggplant, peppers, onions, and sweet potatoes, rub them with a little olive oil and spices, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes, depedning on thickness, while you cook the rest of your meal.
- The 7-minute potato: Poke a bunch of holes in a sweet potato with a fork. Place it in the microwave on high for 6-7 minutes, turning the potato once halfway through cooking. Cut it open and top with some cinnamon and non-fat Greek yogurt.
- If you are in the mood for pizza, buy one slice loaded with vegetables instead of two or three plain slices. Have a salad on the side.
- If you're in the mood for Chinese, chooose an option that has "mixed vegetables" or "broccolie" in the name.
- If you're in the mood for mexican, make sure to add beans, peppers, onions, and any other extra vegetables that you have such as tomato, cilantro or fresh salsa.
The simple act of integrating fruits and vegetables into meals can help you to become more satisfied with less amounts of food and stay fuller longer. This is due to the fiber, water, and high-nutrient content of the fruits and vegetables. By gradually making these additions each day, you'll be amazed at what even the smallest dietary changes can do to positively improve your health. Do yourself a favor today and choose one meal to add fruits and vegetables. You'll be glad you did!
Alissa Robertson, MS, RD