Despite our parents’ pleas to “eat your fruits and veggies,” most Americans don’t consume the recommended amounts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adults should eat 1½-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables a day, and kids should eat 1-2 cups of fruit and 1-3 cups of vegetables a day—an easy rule to remember is that about half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. A diet filled with fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. But how do we add more fruits and vegetables to our diets? Check out these tips to get you started.
- Eat what you love. If you prefer certain fruits and vegetables, pack them into your diet. For those you don’t enjoy as much, sneak them into your favorite dishes. You’ll never notice the handful of spinach in your smoothie, and you won’t taste the broccoli when it’s mixed in with cheese along with your macaroni. Cauliflower can be used as a substitute in endless dishes from Buffalo wings to fried rice (replace just a portion of the meat or rice if you aren’t ready to commit to a full replacement).
- Prep ahead. Wash and cut vegetables and fruit over the weekend to have on-hand for snacks or lunches throughout the week. Often we turn to chips, cookies or other packaged foods because they are convenient; make vegetables and fruit just as easy to grab on the go.
- Make it fun. Make “Meatless Mondays” a family event by choosing a theme or cuisine, such as Mexican or Indian, to make dinner more exciting. Adding more fruit to your diet is a great excuse to eat dessert—just make fruit the main ingredient and add a small scoop of ice cream or yogurt!
- Discover new fruits and vegetables you might enjoy. At restaurants, look at the “side” options on menus. You may find something more exciting—and likely healthier—than French fries. Or if you need inspiration for home-cooked meals, check out your local farmers market to get inspired by what’s in season or try something new.