How many times have you heard about the importance of eating fruits and veggies every day? This advice is pretty much the cornerstone of basic nutrition – everyone knows about it! However, the average American tends to eat only two to four servings of fruits and veggies a day. The recommendation is to get nine to 13 servings. Why is it so hard (and boring!) to eat those fruits and veggies? Let’s explore some reasons why you should be excited about adding some color to your plate.
- You may not see or feel instant results, but fruit and veggie phytonutrients are working overtime for you. Phytonutrients are natural compounds within plants that protect them from environmental threats and also protect us from threats like cancerous cells, toxins, and free radicals. There are thousands of phytonutrient compounds that we know of thus far. The color of the fruit or veggie is an indicator of what phytonutrients it contains. Getting several different colors of fruits and veggies each day ensures that you are getting a wide array of phytonutrients. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a quick and dirty guide for what colors contain which phytonutrients. We will be exploring this topic later in the month, so stay tuned to the blog!
- Want to lose weight but not starve yourself in the process? Make a point to fill half your plate with veggies at mealtimes. The fiber in veggies takes longer to digest in your stomach, and therefore makes you feel full. The fiber also slows down the digestion of starch into sugar and helps prevent dramatic (and unwanted) spikes in blood sugar after meals. Dramatic blood sugar spikes can leave you feeling lethargic and hungrier. Fruits also can help with weight loss. Yes, fruits contain more sugar than veggies, but they also have a lot of fiber. Two servings of fruit fit very nicely into a good weight loss plan. I like to pair a piece of fruit or a 1/2 cup of fruit with a protein like 3/4 cup plain greek yogurt or 1-2 tbsp nut butter for a filling snack.
- There are more than two ways to eat veggies (and fruits). When you picture yourself eating veggies and fruits, an image of steaming broccoli or eating raw carrot sticks may come to mind. While eating steamed and raw veggies are definitely great ways to consume the roughage, it can get really boring. Think about when you eat veggies while dining out – they are usually presented in interesting ways that make you want to eat them! Us home cooks need something simple and effective to help make us want to cook up a side of veg to eat with our protein. Have you ever roasted vegetables? Roasted veggies give you the “crispy on the outside, soft on the inside” texture that we often miss with steamed or raw veggies. Roasting the veg caramelizes the skin and brings out the natural sweetness, while the inside is cooked to perfection. See below for a basic roasting recipe.
- 2 cups vegetables of your choice, chopped into large, bite-sized pieces
- 1-2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper as desired
- Preheat oven to 425.
- Place vegetables on cookie sheet.
- Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper until evenly covered. Arrange pieces in a single layer.
- Roast for 15-20 minutes, or until outside of vegetable is slightly caramelized.
- Does eating 9-13 servings of fruits and veggies daily make you feel like a rabbit? I get it – this sounds like a crazy amount of produce. The definition of a serving is less than what you probably think, so nine to 13 servings per day is in the realm of possibility. The definition of a serving of fruits or veggies is the following:
- 1/2 cup cooked veggies
- 1 cup raw leafy veggies
- medium sized piece of fruit
- 1/2 cup raw fruit
This is 4 servings of fruit and veggies.You can eat at least this much in a day, no problem!
- I take a multivitamin! Why do I need to bother with eating fruits and veggies? Let’s get real. Multivitamins sit on the shelves of your medicine cabinet and the pharmacy for months, if not years. Vitamins and minerals are supposed to be bioactive compounds! How can you expect an old pill to protect your vision, rid the body of free radicals, and keep your immune system functioning? Bottom line – you can’t! Think of your multivitamin as an insurance policy. It will provide a little boost if you need it, but you need the vast majority of the vitamins and minerals to get in your body through your food. The protein, carbs, fat, phytonutrients, fiber, and other compounds support the proper digestion and use of the vitamins and minerals in your body.
At the beginning of each month, I will put forth a nutrition challenge. Just like exercise, it is helpful to have goals for your diet that will help you create good habits, break bad practices, and become the best possible version of YOU.
OCTOBER CHALLENGE: Eat more fruits and veggies than you do right now, and eat them every day!
Maybe you often eat one or two fruits or veggies daily. Maybe there are days when you don’t eat any. Are you a person that is good about eating fruits or veggies with most meals, but find yourself eating the same four or five things?
Think about where you stand. To make this goal pertinent for you, ask yourself these questions:
- What is my personal version of this goal?
- How many times a day will I eat a fruit or veggie?
- Is this goal truly attainable (if you currently average 2 servings of fruits and veggies daily, don’t ask yourself to eat 13 servings tomorrow!)
- Is this something that will help me become a healthier person?
- Will I be able to make this into a habit?
Every Monday, I will check in with you on the blog to give you tips and tricks to get those fruits and veggies on the plate. Stay tuned the CTOWN blog for fun facts, new recipes and answers to those confusing nutrition concepts that seem to be all around us.