Kick-start the good stuff in your diet with these suggestions
When it comes to eating healthier, we tend to think about what we’d have to give up: sweets, snacks, and fatty foods. But a better strategy is looking for ways to add in more vitamin- and fiber-charged foods like fruits and vegetables. And there’s no time like the present—September is Fruits and Veggies: More Matters month, a great time to renew your commitment to taking better care of yourself. We’ve got some suggestions for ways to integrate these tasty foods into your routine.
Start with the basics
How to begin? Start by keeping more fruits and veggies on hand, so you can easily treat yourself—whether you’re at home, at the office during an afternoon slump, or stuck in traffic in your car or the bus. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table (or another high-traffic area near your kitchen) and you’re more likely to reach for it as you’re passing by or on your way out. When your body cries out for comfort food, have a couple of servings of these colorful and tasty treats in your purse, backpack, or briefcase. An apple is easy to throw in a bag. A Ziploc bag or Tupperware container of grapes can be surprisingly satisfying.
Make it economical
If time or money is an issue, then planning ahead is key.
- Produce tends to be less expensive when you buy it at larger food markets, so add it to the list for your biggest shopping trip of the week.
- Worried that you won’t be able to get through the fresh produce before it goes bad? Start out by buying a handful of portions, and then add on in following weeks until you strike the right balance.
- Frozen fruits and veggies last longer. You can buy them frozen or freeze them yourself at home, as a way to cut down on spoilage. Perfect for smoothies!
- Canned fruits and veggies are also a healthy and tasty option, but make sure they’re packaged in water or natural juices (without added sugar or salt).
Keep it simple
Add in fruits and veggies to the dishes you’re already in the habit of making. Toss some frozen peas in a stir fry or rice dish. Add berries and a handful of baby spinach to a smoothie. When you go for that after-dinner snack, have a serving of fruit—maybe with a dollop of vanilla yogurt—before you move on to the processed or sugary stuff. You might be surprised how much it can satisfy your sweet tooth.
Go for the (locally grown) rainbow
As you look for fun, tasty ways to introduce more fruit and vegetables into your diet, focus on choices that represent colors from across the rainbow. This is a good way to ensure you’re getting a wide range of vitamins. Also focus on produce that’s in season locally—maybe even support local growers by purchasing from a farmer’s market.
Focus on the benefits
If the good taste and convenience of fruits and veggies aren’t enough to allure you, here are some facts about their health benefits:
- You may know fruits and vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, but also phytonutrients, which are thought to decrease inflammation and reduce blood pressure.
- They’re low in calories as well as saturated fat.
- Fruits like apricots, bananas, and avocados (yes, also a fruit!) are rich in potassium, which counteracts the effects of sodium and helps maintain a balance between acids and bases in your system.
- The fiber in fruits and veggies can help make you feel full, which makes it easier to avoid overeating and promoting weight loss. Ordering a salad to munch on while you wait for your entrée is a great way to squeeze in some fiber and can make portion control more manageable.
- Some vegetables are even a good source protein, including lima beans, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, and broccoli raab. Working one of these into your diet each week is a great way to help your body to build and repair tissue and build bones, skin, blood, cartilage, and muscle. And these veggies are a gentler protein source, so your body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down as with meat or dairy products.
- Fruits and veggies are a powerful force in building your body’s immunity from disease, by supporting detoxification and fighting inflammation and infection.
So, do more for your body by adding fruits and vegetables into your daily cuisine! You’re likely to feel better and be more hydrated—always good things, given the demanding lives we all lead.
This article is part of the weekly blog of the American College for Medical Careers in Orlando, FL. For more about all of our various professional training programs, visit us online.