4 Tips to Increase Fruit & Veggie Intake
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.
Ask Cheryl: Quinoa, Cleanses, & Fiber
Another roundup of your burning nutrition questions from our weekly Facebook chats, courtesy of American Pistachios! Each week I host a live Q&A session on Tuesdays at 8pm EST, following Monday night’s newest The Biggest Loser episode. Make sure to join in for a chance to win prizes, this week’s winners won Lodge Cast Iron cookware!
Question: I finally found a exercise video that nudged my weight loss to start again. I am also drinking a weight loss drink once a day. Do you think weight loss drinks are OK for short term?
Answer: I think that SOME shakes are ok once in awhile, but they need to have really clean ingredients – no artificial sweeteners or sugar
Question: I always though quinoa was a protein, then read somewhere that it is more carbohydrate. Which is right?
Answer: Quinoa is a whole grain that has both protein and complex carbs. It a really great source of plant protein and very versatile to use
Question: Hi, wondering if any supplements are recommended to assist with weight loss. Not diet pills, just good things to have enough of in order to facilitate losing
Answer: my answer would be no. I believe that supplements are supplemental and you should be able to find the nutrients you need in whole foods. That said, many women could benefit from a Calcium supplements, a multiple vitamin is ok to cover any deficits and I am also a big fan of high quality Omega 3 supplements, especially for those who don’t enjoy eating omega 3-rich fish
Question: What are your thoughts on doing a cleanse to jump start weight loss and curb cravings?
Answer: Not a fan of cleanses – if you eat a good amount of fresh produce and whole grains you will have plenty of fiber in your diet which will help keep things moving through!
Question: How much fiber should i have daily?
Answer: You should aim for a range of 25 to 35 grams per day
Question: What do you think about low carb diets? Is it the way to go to lose weight?
Answer: Very low carb diets will not provide long term success as they are not sustainable. We use a modified low carb eating plan The Biggest Loser and it’s much easier to stick with!
Question: I love rice. What one is healthier brown rice or wild rice?
Answer: They are both great choices because they’re whole grain. Personally I favor wild rice – I grew up in Minnesota and we had that a lot growing up. Just be sure that you’re portion sizes aren’t too large. Many people tend to go overboard with rice!
Question: What are your top lean choices for protein?
Answer: I love egg whites, edamame, lean dairy, lean beef, pork, bison as well as the white meat of poutry and of course fish!
Ask Cheryl: Curbing Craving, Roasting Veggies, & The Dreaded “Brussels Sprouts Smell”
Wow! It seems like yesterday we were gearing up for our weekly Twitter chats but now we are we are about to enter Week 5 of The Biggest Loser. Last week’s chat was another one for the records and I am always so glad to answer your nutrition questions. Keep joining in for chances to win weekly prizes, not to mention the prize of better health!
Here’s a recap of this week’s questions:
Question: I keep seeing that coconut oil is supposed to be much better for you than even olive oil. Is this factual?
Answer: Not in my opinion. I think coconut oil is a nice option for occasional use but I favor grapeseed and olive oil
Question: What are the best foods to help beat the “I’m hungry” feeling all the time?
Answer: The important thing is to not snack on carbs alone – they will satisfy your hunger for a limited time and you’ll be hunger again. Be sure to have a balance of carb lean protein and good fat.
Question: I’m trying to curb my sweet tooth, what tips do you have for me?
Answer: If you really have a bad prob with sugar you may need to go cold turkey for awhile and eliminate it – it’s very addictive for some people. Try to enjoy the sweetness of a bowl of fresh berries : )
Question: What are some creative roasted vegetables recipes?
Answer: I love Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, fennel, root vegetables. All you need is a hot oven, a little oil and your favorite seasonings. Be sure they are cut uniformly so they will cook uniformly : )
Question: Is there a way to cook brussels sprouts without getting the smell in the house? I absolutely love brussels sprouts but my husband hates the smell makes when I cook them
Answer: Unfortunately that comes with the territory of cruciferous veggies. If I have a lingering cooking smell in the house, I boil water and add cinnamon and sweet spices to infuse the air. You might also want to close the kitchen door if you can to contain the smells in the kitchen area : )
Question: How many times do you recommend eating eggs for breakfast? I’ve seen in health news that they’ve increased the recommendations for how often it is okay to eat them during the week.
Answer: If you don’t have issues with your cholesterol, it’s ok to have an egg every day. I am blessed with wonderful chickens and I very often start my day with two delicious poached eggs L: )
Question: It always seems like I do a good job for like the first week of eating better and exercising…any tips on how to keep pushing through and not get so discouraged when something throws you off course?
Answer: Excellent question ! first of all, write your exercise down on your calendar just like a conference call or business meeting and stick to it!! Also plan ahead and you may find you need to prepare all of your meals and snacks for the day the night before.
Tune in to The Biggest Loser on Mondays at 9/8 Central
Join me on Facebook for a Nutrition Q & A on Tuesday at 9/8 Central for a chance to win prizes!
Thanks to American Pistachio Growers!