It’s spring time! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and nature is waking up again after it’s winter hibernation. We are on the cusp of summer and the grocery stores and markets are filled with beautiful new fruits and veggies. It’s the best time to jump back on track if you let your health slide over the winter.
Most people are aware that you should consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, but did you know that studies show only 20% of Americans are meeting this goal? Fresh produce is at its peak right now and the gorgeous, colorful harvest will be available through the fall so it’s the perfect time to make a goal for yourself to consume more plants.
One of the first recommendations I have for clients wanting to lose weight and gain health is to increase their fruit and vegetable intake. Not only are plant foods packed with nutrients and antioxidants but that they are also packed with fiber–which plays an important role in digestive health and can even lower cholesterol. Many people that are trying to start living a healthier lifestyle tell me they don’t know where to start and my answer is always this: eat more plants!
So how can you increase your intake? Here are 4 tips for packing your plate with fruits and vegetables.
- Add 1 serving to every meal. One rule of thumb to increase your fruit and vegetable intake is to add one serving to each meal. Are you a carbohydrate-heavy breakfast eater? Add berries to your oatmeal or smash a banana on toast (and don’t forget the protein to keep you full!). Do you eat sandwiches for lunch? Add slices of tomato and onion or a handful of spinach to your plate. Have a small side salad of arugula with dinner and you’ve increased your plant intake by three servings for the entire day!
- Make a smoothie. Making a vegetable and fruit smoothie is an awesome way to max out your intake for the day. Add together greens, fruit, and a nut milk for a morning on the run or for a post workout snack. Check out my post on building your own smoothie.
- Try one new vegetable or fruit each week. You have your favorite vegetables on rotation but it’s good to branch out and try something new. We can easily get in a rut when trying to eat healthy, but it’s important to get a variety of fruits and vegetables because each offers different benefits. One rule of thumb is to “eat the rainbow,” or try to eat fruits and vegetables of different colors. Aim for greens every day and add in reds (bell peppers, strawberries), oranges (carrots, peaches), blues/purples (blueberries, eggplant), and whites (cauliflower, mushrooms).
- Eat seasonally. Have you ever tasted strawberries in the winter and they just didn’t have that ‘fresh from the bush’ spring taste? We are lucky in the United States to have fruit available to us year round, but eating seasonally and from our geographic location can not only make for better tasting produce but can also be better for the environment (less fuel to carry produce to stores). Frequenting farmer’s markets and keeping an eye (and tastebuds) on when produce is in season will make for tastier meals and will keep you more in tune with mother nature and where your food is coming from. Which in turn will make for better health all around!
Want to learn more about fruit and its impact on health and aging? Check out my book Positively Ageless for this and more tips on living a healthier and happier life.