Seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are from chronic diseases, according to the CDC, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of some of these, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.2
No single fruit or vegetable will supply all the nutrients you need every day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Variety is as important as quantity and according to the study you should try to get at least one serving per day from each of the following categories: dark green leafy vegetables; yellow or orange fruits and vegetables; red fruits and vegetables; legumes (beans) and peas; and citrus fruits.3
Your neighborhood supermarket is likely to offer selections from each of these categories. A popular alternative is farmers’ markets, where growers bring their fresh produce into urban centers during harvest season. You never know what might be available any given week! These markets can serve as a fun way to meet new people who love to talk about good food choices.
For the places where you might grab a snack or have a meal on the go (such as the car or at your desk), the CDC suggests that you make sure you have nutritious snacks available or at home that you can take with you. For example:
- “Grab-and-go” fruits: apples, oranges, bananas, canned fruit without added sugars, and raisins
- Washed and chopped fresh vegetables: celery, carrots, and cucumbers
- Low-fat and fat-free milk products: yogurt without added sugars, milk, and low-fat cheeses
- Whole-grain crackers and breads4
Strawberry yogurt smoothie
- 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
- 3/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 1 1/2 cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries
Add ingredients, in the order listed, to a blender. Blend at medium speed until thick and smooth.
Lunch and dinner
- Ask for more vegetable toppings like mushrooms, bell peppers, and onions on your pizza.
- Add broccoli, green beans, corn, or peas to a casserole or pasta.
Very vegetable lasagna
Take your favorite lasagna recipe and try adding some of your favorite vegetables. Layer in mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, onions or eggplant. Be creative.
- Choose vegetables such as mushrooms, tomatoes, cauliflower or bell peppers. Chop the vegetables into bite-sized pieces.
- Cook the vegetables in a skillet on the stovetop. Use a small amount of cooking oil or nonstick cooking spray. Cook until the vegetables are tender but still crisp.
- Toss with your favorite pasta and add garlic and basil to taste.
- Top with low-fat or fat-free Parmesan cheese.
- Enjoy hummus and whole-wheat pitas.
- Snack on vegetables like bell pepper strips and broccoli with a low-fat dip.
- Try baked tortilla chips with black bean and corn salsa.
- Stash bags of dried fruit at your desk for an easy snack.
- Keep a bowl of fruit on your desk or counter.
- Pick up ready-packed salad greens for a quick salad any time.
- Encourage your child to choose his or her own fruit when shopping.
- Store cleaned, cut-up vegetables in the fridge at eye level. Keep a low-fat or fat-free dip on hand.
Sweet potato fries
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Cut uncooked sweet potatoes into thin slices.
- Dip slices in a mixture of egg substitute and nutmeg.
- Spray a baking pan lightly with a nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the slices in a single layer on the baking pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until slices are tender.
Turn vegetables into a main meal event
Vegetables can easily become the star of any meal. Here are a few main dishes that offer ways to add 4 or more daily servings of vegetables. This is the amount recommended by the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid.3
Asparagus, tomato and red pepper French bread pizza
- Arrange French bread slices on a baking sheet.
- Add pizza sauce and a mixture of diced asparagus, Roma tomatoes, red bell peppers and minced garlic.
- Sprinkle lightly with mozzarella cheese.
- Bake at 400 F until the cheese is lightly browned and the vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Grilled vegetable kebabs
- Brush cherry tomatoes, button mushrooms, zucchini slices, red onions and bell peppers with Italian dressing.
- Place onto skewers and grill over medium heat.
- Turn often until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Fresh vegetable soup
- In a large pot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and chopped vegetables. Some ideas are onions, carrots, green beans and celery.
- Sauté until tender, about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, 3 cups water and sliced, peeled potatoes.
- Season with salt, pepper and parsley.
- Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Vegetable pita pockets
- In a small bowl, add cauliflower and broccoli florets, sliced green onions, diced tomatoes and cucumbers.
- Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of low-fat buttermilk or cucumber ranch salad dressing.
- Cut 1 whole-wheat pita bread in half.
- Fill each half with the vegetable mix and 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese.
- Warm in the microwave about 40 seconds.