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Did you know that less than 10 percent of Americans are meeting the recommended daily intakes for fruits and vegetables?
As a registered dietitian, I feel like I’ve failed you when I see these stats.
While Americans know eating more produce is good for total health, fear and conflicting messaging often plays a role in the decision “to eat or not to eat” the fruits and veggies.
I’ll save the debate on organic versus conventional for later and cut to the bottom line for you here:
The 2016 Pesticide Data Program report revealed pesticide residues on foods tested are at levels below tolerances established by the Environmental Protection Agency and post no safety concerns.
Research has continually proved higher intakes of foods rich in antioxidants (hello, heart-healthy berries) may help with reducing heart disease, cancer and other disease states. By “eating the rainbow” (and no, I’m not talking Skittles), you will certainly be providing your body a great prescription to help manage your health and improve your total wellness.
In an effort to help adult individuals meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommended intakes of 1 to 2 cups of fruits and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, I’ve pulled together 10 ways to do more with produce with the help of some amazing nutrition colleagues.
Grow a garden, even if it’s a small one.
Putting time and effort into gardening makes you cherish the produce and eliminate food waste on the final product.
— Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RD, author of You Get One Body
Throw some veggies on your sandwich.
Amp up your childhood favorite by making a grown-up grilled cheese with broccoli. It’s comfort food amped up!
Keep pre-cut veggies on hand.
These products save time and help you increase your veggie intake without spending hours in the kitchen prepping. Try adding shredded carrots while cooking meats (or meat alternatives) for tacos, or add a bag of frozen spinach to chilies, soups and pastas.
— Kelly Jones, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN, Eat Real Live Well
Stock up on frozen vegetables.
By purchasing pre-cut frozen veggies and keeping them on hand, you can easily add them to meatloaf or meatballs, rice dishes or scrambled eggs. You can’t even taste them, which is great for kids and perhaps a picky spouse, as well!
Blend them in.
Add more veggies by blending beans such as cannellini into pasta sauce for more fiber and protein or pureeing carrots into pizza sauce. It’s an easy way to add more veggies to pizza, and kids actually love it!
— Emily Cooper, RDN, SinfulNutrition.com
Focus on fermented veggies.
Spice things up (and your gut health will thank you) by adding fermented veggies in the form of sauerkraut or kimchi to breakfast eggs or as part of a Buddha bowl. They provide a nice little kick plus add probiotics.
Think outside the box.
Nachos do not just have to be chips and cheese! Add extra produce to nachos by including 1 cup diced vegetables — like red peppers, green peppers and mushrooms (⅓ cup each) — on top. Of course, any vegetable combo would work. Plus, you can call it “nachos grande” instead of nachos.
Boost the flavor.
To amplify macaroni and cheese, try adding butternut squash in the sauce. This adds a nice flavor and doesn’t change the look for picky eaters. Additionally, this boosts the fiber and overall nutrient density of the dish.
Embrace the trends.
Riced cauliflower, zoodles, etc., are trendy but also pack nutrition! Try adding riced cauliflower to meat-based dishes like these mini-meatloaves to boost your veggie intake. Or revamp ants on a log (celery, peanut butter and raisins) and make it trendy with carrots, sunflower seed butter and pumpkin seeds!
— Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, New York City virtual dietitian and creator of CitNutritionally.com
Think with the seasons. Canned pumpkin puree (100 percent) is one of those convenience food items that just keeps on giving. Add it to all sorts of sweet and savory recipes, including pancakes, muffins, enchiladas, smoothies and smoothie bowls, oatmeal, brownies and even chili. Pureed pumpkin freezes well when placed in a resealable bag and can be easily thawed when needed.
— Liz Weiss, MS, RDN, Liz’s Healthy Table
Most of all, remember small changes make big differences, so even if it means just starting with boosting one more serving a day for a week and then gradually building up from there, your health (and future self) will thank you!