When gardens flourish and farmers’ markets are in full swing, our palates tend to reap the benefits of the spring and summer growing seasons. Likewise, our healthy weight loss goals benefit from access to so many nutritious foods.
The USDA recommends filling half your plate with fruits and veggies at every snack or meal. When fresh local produce is abundant, it’s easier — and tastier — than ever to hit that mark. But a plant-heavy plate doesn’t have to just be a goal for the warmer months.
Kim Meeuwsen, registered dietitian/nutritionist with the Mary Free Bed Weight Management Program, offers these 5 tips to help you meet your fruit and veggie goals year-round:
- Snack smart – Break the chips and soda/vending machine snack routine. Save potentially hundreds of calories by munching instead on cut-up fruits and veggies. Try carrots with hummus, fruit and yogurt dip or an apple with a cheese stick.
- Blend away – Short on time? Blend fruits and vegetables into a smoothie to grab on-the-go or toss into a soup. This is a great way to get in a couple extra servings for the day. Don’t be afraid to try new flavors; you can often mix and match multiple varieties and textures with delicious results.
- Make it easy on yourself – Pick an afternoon to tackle your weekly grocery shopping and prep, when you can pre-wash and cut fruits and vegetables. Place prepped produce front and center in your refrigerator for an easy grab-and-go snack. Just as you’d keep sweets “out of sight, out of mind,” keeping fruits and vegetables “in sight and in mind” will encourage you to reach first for the healthy treat.
- Choose fresh, frozen or canned – The nutrient content is comparable between fresh, frozen and canned fruits and veggies. Opting for a variety of frozen or canned goods when certain fresh crops are out of season is healthy AND budget friendly. Stick to the more nutritious options by avoiding canned fruits in “heavy syrup” and choosing canned/frozen vegetables with little to no added sodium.
- Sneak it in – Add fruits and veggies to sandwiches, pizza or pasta dishes to increase the volume of your meal with few added calories. Try adding greens, apples, peppers, cucumber or tomatoes to sandwiches. Pizza can host a variety of fruits or vegetables, and pasta dishes tend to pair well with broccoli, cauliflower, peas, onion and greens. You can even sub out the noodles in favor of thinly sliced squash or zucchini! Check out these recipes for some great alternative pasta ideas.
A diet that’s rich in fruits and vegetables provides numerous health benefits, including lowering your risk for chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. It may protect against certain types of cancers and even promote digestive health. With so many varieties to choose from, what are your favorites?