As National Nutrition month winds down, it’s not too late to make some dietary changes. Even small changes in your daily eating habits can improve your overall health.
According to a 2015 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in ten Americans meet the recommended daily allowance of fruits and vegetables. Furthermore, the study found that less than nine percent of us eat between two and three cups of vegetables and only 13 percent eat between 1.5 and two cups of fruit a day.
If you’re not part of the 10 percent eating its fruits and vegetables, you’re probably missing out on several valuable nutrients, including vitamins A, C and K, potassium, fiber, and magnesium. Consuming fruits and vegetables is also associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, which can include eating fresh fruit, frozen fruit, dried fruit and fruit canned in 100 percent juice and eating fresh, frozen or canned vegetables either raw, steamed, sautéed or roasted. It’s best to choose a wide variety of green, red and orange vegetables along with legumes like beans and peas, starchy and leafy vegetables.
If you don’t typically make a point to work fruits and vegetables into your daily diet, wanting to make changes can seem intimidating. However, there are some simple ways to supplement your diet.
Here are some ideas from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- Use vegetables as pizza toppings. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini.
- Swap your morning coffee and bagel for a breakfast smoothie filled with fruit. Try strawberries, bananas, berries and more!
- Roll roasted vegetables and cheese into a flour tortilla to make a delicious veggie wrap.
- Grill brightly-colored kabobs with tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
- Enhance your salads by adding some variety. Try carrots, tomatoes, spinach, apples and mandarin oranges.
- Cut up snack-sized portions of fruits and vegetables for afternoon snacks, side dishes or lunches. Try red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas, or whole radishes.
- Set out a bowl of fresh fruit out on your kitchen counter or dining room table.
- Try preparing fruit sauces for other dishes. Try pureed apples, berries, peaches or pears to make a sweet sauce for grilled or broiled seafood or poultry or on pancakes, waffles or French toast.
- Incorporate more fruits and vegetables into breakfast. Try an omelet with cheese and broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms or onions. Or add fruit to your morning oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or waffle.
- Add more fruits and vegetables to sandwiches. Try sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as toppings.
- Spice up a baked potato with beans and salsa, broccoli and cheese.
- Use grated, shredded and chopped vegetables in dishes like meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice. Try zucchini, spinach and carrots.
- Turn fruit into a dessert. Try slicing a banana lengthwise and topping it with a slice of frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
- Steam or stir-fry frozen vegetables to make side dishes for dinner.
- Make fruit kabobs — grilled or raw. On the grill, cook fruit until it was hot and slightly golden. Try pineapple, peaches and banana.
Make small changes to improve your overall health on a daily basis and supplement your diet with more fruits and veggies.