The kids are back in school and cooler temperatures and fall colors are just around the corner! As you change up your closet – swapping shorts for sweaters, remember to change up your plate, too.
Swap summer melons, berries and tomatoes for fall apples, pears, grapes, butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and pumpkin.
Current dietary guidelines remind us to fill half of our plate with colorful fruits and vegetables at meals. Snacking on produce (snap peas and string cheese) and enjoying fruit for dessert (baked apple with walnuts) are two simple steps to boost your daily produce quota.
Why the focus on fruits and veggies? Those who eat more produce (in combo with an already healthy diet!) may be at reduced risk for some chronic diseases, such as heart disease, certain cancers and diabetes.
And, because they are fiber-rich and low in calories, fruits and vegetables help to “fill us up, without filling us out”.
Consider that 1 ½ cups of garden salad (if it grows in the garden, it’s part of your salad – remember bacon bits and croutons don’t grow in the garden!) dishes up about 35 calories while the same amount of pasta salad can pack in nearly 600 calories!
Try these tips for adding more produce servings to your day:
- Think 1-2-3! Enjoy one serving of produce at breakfast (such as a small banana), two servings at lunch (try a handful of baby carrots and a pear), then three servings at dinner (1 cup of cooked broccoli - which counts as 2 servings, and a small sweet potato).
- Substitute wavy-cut carrot “chips”, golden cherry tomatoes or jicama strips for traditional chips with hummus and salsa. And, you’ll keep calories in check and guarantee more veggie servings when you plan to eat three veggie “dippers” for every one chip you eat!
- When it comes to your lunchtime sandwich, a slice of tomato and a wisp of lettuce just don’t add much produce to your plate! Instead, pile your sandwich high with an assortment of colorful vegetables, such as spinach leaves, roasted bell pepper, water chestnuts and sliced raw zucchini. Think of it as a salad between two slices of bread!
- Start your day with a fruit that ends in “-erry”, such as strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, cranberry or cherry. These fruits are among the richest sources of powerful antioxidants in the produce aisle!
- As fresh berries move out of season, simply switch to unsweetened frozen varieties. Just defrost berries slightly, and then stir them into yogurt, cooked oatmeal or whole wheat pancake batter.
- Warm frozen berries in the microwave and top with a soft, crumbled breakfast bar and a dollop of Greek yogurt for a fun take on “cobbler-for-breakfast”!
- Get creative with dinner-time produce! Before microwaving a frozen meal for a quick dinner, add a handful of frozen veggies right on top – then simply stir the veggies into your reheated meal for a bonus produce serving.
- On grill night, place pineapple spears or mango wedges on a clean grill – grill just until warmed through then serve with a drizzle of honey, mini scoop of ice cream and sprinkle of toasted nuts for a sweet ending to your meal.
- Roast unassuming vegetables, such as pumpkin cubes, Brussels sprouts or beets. Simply toss with olive oil and seasonings before placing in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast, stirring occasionally until golden brown and just tender. Remember, browning indicates caramelization of natural sugars – and more flavor!