Nutrition

How to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

©iStockphoto.com/aluxum Author: Canadian Living Credits: ©iStockphoto.com/aluxum

Nutrition

How to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables at every meal with these quick and simple ideas.
 
Breakfast
• Top cereal with sliced banana or fresh berries.

• Stir berries or sliced apple or pear into pancake batter.

• Layer dried or fresh fruits with yogurt and granola.

• Add veggies to an omelette or scrambled eggs.

• Start with a smoothie, combining up to three different fruits or veggies.
 
Lunch
• Use mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise on sandwiches.

• Add vegetables to sandwiches. In addition to lettuce and tomato, consider sliced sweet peppers, grated carrots and sprouts. 

• No time for lunch? Have a glass of vegetable juice for an energy boost. Homemade is best, but in a pinch, look for vegetable blends and fruit mixtures with reduced sodium and no added sugar or flavourings.

• If eating out, choose a side salad or vegetable soup instead of fries.

• To help curb sweet cravings later on, have some fresh fruit after lunch.
 
Dinner
• Garnish food with fruits or veggies, such as apple on curry or fresh tomato salsa on grilled chicken.

• Add at least one extra vegetable to everyday meals, such as grated carrot and zucchini to pasta sauce, meat loaf or chili, or roasted vegetables to rice or pasta dishes.

• Immediately after purchasing it, wash, prep and package produce. Prepped veggies are more likely to be added to last-minute meals.

• Make vegetables the primary focus on your dinner plate and use starch and protein as side dishes.
 
Snacks 
• Keep a selection of fruits on the counter. The more you see them, the more you'll want one.

• Prepare vegetable crudités to store in the fridge. When they're ready, you'll munch on them easily.

• Dip fruits and vegetables into creamy ranch dressing, peanut butter or flavoured yogurt.

Craving something sweet? Opt for dried fruit mixes instead of baked goods or chocolate.

• Fresh salsa (tomato-, black bean-, corn- or avocado-based) is a great choice to serve with tortilla chips or baked pita triangles.

Page 1 of 4 -- Learn what a proper serving size of fruits and vegetables looks like on page 2
 A diet filled with vegetables and fruits can help ward off cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. Here's the recommended daily requirements for kids and adults.

Fruit and vegetable requirements
Age/gender # daily servings
Children 2 to 3 years4
Children 4 to 8 years5
Children 9 to 13 years6
Teens 14 to 18 years (female)7
Teens 14 to 18 years (male)8
Adults 19 to 50 (female)7 to 8
Adults 19 to 50 (male)8 to 10
Adults 51+7
 
How big is one serving?
• A 1/2 cup (125 mL) of most vegetables or fruits is considered one serving, with the exception of dried fruit and leafy salad greens.
 
• 1/2 cup (125 mL) of any fresh, frozen or canned vegetable: From broccoli to squash to leafy greens such as rapini and collards. 

• 1 cup (250 mL) raw leafy greens: Since raw greens are light and have a high water content, you'll need to eat 1 cup (250 mL) rather than 1/2 cup (125 mL) to get one serving. This includes raw spinach, kale, endive, arugula and any type of lettuce.

• 1/2 cup (125 mL) of any fresh, frozen or canned fruit: From berries to melons to apples and peaches. 

• 1/4 cup (50 mL) dried fruit: While it is still rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals, dried fruit such as raisins, dates and apricots pack in more calories per bite and have a smaller serving size. 

One serving is equal to a whole of one of these fruits:
• Apple
• Banana
• Orange
• Peach
• Pear
 
One serving is equal to only half of one of these fruits:
• Avocado
• Grapefruit
• Mango
• Papaya
• Pomegranate
 
For vegetables and fruits that are hard to measure, one serving is equal to:
• 6 asparagus spears 
• 4 brussels sprouts
• 3 fresh apricots
• 20 cherries/grapes
• 2 fresh figs
• 10 lychees

Page 2 of 4 -- Discover how eating more fruits and vegetables will boost your health on the next page
Filling half of your plate with vegetables and fruits is a great way to create a balanced, healthy meal. Leave a quarter of your plate each for grains and protein, but make broccoli, cauliflower or leafy greens the all-star. 
 
Nutritional benefits
Vegetables and fruits contain an amazing combination of fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients (healthy plant-based compounds) that work together to provide health benefits. 
 
Since vegetables and fruits are high in fibre but relatively low in calories, eating them helps fill you up and makes it easier to control your weight. 
 
Studies consistently show that the people who eat the most vegetables and fruits have a lower risk of developing heart disease. A meta-analysis of several long-term studies found that people who ate more than five servings of vegetables and fruits daily had a 17 per cent lower risk of heart disease compared to individuals who ate less than three servings per day. 

Disease prevention
In addition to reducing heart disease risk, a diet that's full of fruit and veggies can lower your risk of:
• high blood pressure 
• high cholesterol 
• stroke 
• type 2 diabetes 
• certain types of cancer 
• cataracts and macular degeneration (two common causes of vision loss) 
 
Like an artist's palette 
Since no single food provides all of the nutrients your body needs, it's vital to choose a rainbow of colourful produce every day – from red apples to yellow beans to purple cabbage. 
 
Canada's Food Guide suggests eating at least one dark green and one orange vegetable each day. These colourful choices provide a host of phytonutrients that act as antioxidants to protect your body's cells and ward off chronic diseases. Add green to your plate with broccoli, kale, collards and spinach. Try orange vegetables such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkin. 
 
For optimal health benefits, choose a variety of vegetables and fruits prepared with little or no added fat, sugar or salt. Enjoy them raw, steamed or roasted rather than deep-fried.

Page 3 of 4 -- Check out all the fun and delicious vegetables you can try on page 4
Fresh, frozen or canned?
Fresh produce often has the most desirable flavour and texture, while frozen produce has the advantage of being packed at its nutritional peak, which locks in vital nutrients that may degrade in fresh produce
 
Canned options are OK in a pinch, but may be high in sugar or salt. Plus, many cans are lined with bisphenol-A, a potentially harmful chemical that some people try to avoid. 
 
Get out of your vegetable rut
It's common to fall into routine when it comes to preparing food day after day. Vegetables are no exception, and the best way to increase your intake is to add variety. Here are some simple swaps for common vegetables.
 
If you love...        Why not try...         
Spinach Kale, Swiss chard, beet greens
Potatoes Sweet potatoes, squash, turnips
Celery Fennel or jicama
Carrots Parsnips or radishes
Broccoli Cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi
Green beans Asparagus, fiddleheads, okra 
 
More is better
Canadian guidelines suggest that adults should eat seven to 10 servings of vegetables and fruits each day, but most people get nowhere near that amount. Statistics from the Canadian Community Health Survey show that about half of all Canadians get less than five daily servings. That's really not good enough considering vegetables and fruit are so important for everyone's health.
 

These stories were originally titled "Give Your Fruits And Vegetables A Boost," "Are You Getting Enough," "Divide Up Your Plate" and "Get Out Of Your Vegetable Rut" in Canadian Living's Fresh & Healthy issue.

Purchase a copy of the special issue today!

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Nutrition

How to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet

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