diet

Are you eating your fruits and veggies? In a recent informal poll by HealthyWomen, 42 percent of respondents answered that question with a resounding no, reporting only consuming 0-2 servings a day. A close second (40 percent) say they consume 3-5 servings, which is still lower than the American Heart Association’s suggested amount, which calls for eight servings.

The Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommend anywhere from 5 to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day depending on age, gender, physical activity and overall health.

Five-to-seven servings of high quality, preferably organic fruits and vegetables every day.

Take these tips to heart and in time, eating your daily dose of health-sustaining foods will become your default setting and one that’s all gain, no pain:

1. Start Your Day With A Fruit & Veggie Smoothie: Starting your day with a homemade smoothie is an easy way to get a jump start on your daily fruit and veggie intake. You can make smoothies even easier by prepping several single-use smoothie packs at once. Use in-season fruits and vegetables for a simple, affordable, and nutritious breakfast.

If you’re making a lot of smoothies, it may be worthwhile to invest in a high-powered blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix. They can break down frozen fruits and veggies in seconds, and they’re great for making soups, sauces, dips, and other foods, too!

2. Snack smart:

Instead of snacking on chips or cookies, make sure to have healthier alternatives on hand. Some great options include baby carrots and hummus, celery and peanut butter, sugar snap peas or a piece of fruit. Remember that a ½ cup of most raw fruits or veggies equals one serving.

3. Change your approach:

If you’re one of those people who has to fool themselves into eating more fruits and veggies, then make a game of it. Look at every meal or snack you eat and think about where you can sneak in an extra serving of fruits and veggies.  Think salads are a bit of a snooze? Then wake ‘em up by tossing in almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, apples, pears, oranges or even some dried cranberries into your salads.

4. Make soup:

Homemade soups can be super simple and a great way to increase your vegetable intake. Cook any amount of fresh or leftover vegetables (for example, carrots, onions, green beans, mushrooms, rutabagas, tomatoes and zucchini) until vegetables are tender and add them to a simple broth for an easy weekday meal. Throw in a can of beans and some leftover cooked brown rice or quinoa for a heartier soup.

5. Always include salad before or after dinner:

And this doesn’t have to mean just boring lettuce and tomato—try spicing it up, maybe with sautéed mushrooms or by making a chopped salad with fruit and nuts.

6. Add Flavor With Fresh Herbs And Spices:

Fresh herbs are delicious, and can add tons of flavor to your recipes without adding sodium or sugar. Buy them in bulk when they’re in season (which is also when they’ll be least expensive), and freeze them for later! Just rinse them, dry them thoroughly, then store them in a freezer bag. Just cut off what you need, and put them back in the freezer to use later.

7. Drink your vegetables:

Instead of buying processed, sugared veggie or fruit juices, experiment with whole fruits, veggies and nuts to see how many you can add to super-charge your fruit smoothies with nutrients. Among my favorite, easy-to-blend-in items: avocados, almonds, flax, chia seeds and nut butters, all of which add healthy fats, fiber and nutrients without overwhelming the fruity taste.

If you prefer a greener, vegetable taste, either for a smoothie or a power juice, then spinach, powdered greens, mint, carrots, kale, watercress and broccoli are great gifts from the earth that blend beautifully. Another great alternative is a powdered greens drink which will usually contain the equivalent of three or four servings of fruits and vegetables.

8. Cook creatively, dine differently:

Update a traditional recipe by tossing as many extra veggies as you can into soups and sauces. Most extra veggies added towards the end of the cooking process won’t change the taste of a dish, so add with abandon. Throw them into a recipe that doesn’t usually include them. For example, add broccoli, mushrooms and cauliflower to a chicken curry or chopped spinach and flax seeds to spaghetti sauce.

9. Leave fruit in obvious sight:

Passing by the kitchen? You’re more likely to grab a handful of grapes or cherries if they are sitting on the counter displayed in a nice bowl. Or perhaps, if they’re in your view, you’ll grab a banana or orange on the way out the door.

10. Sneak it in:

Picky eaters won’t even notice a layer of spinach in the lasagna or a cup of sautéed diced carrots in the tomato sauce. Making your own hummus? Blend in red peppers and avocado for added flavor and health benefits.

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