Jennifer Lovejoy, Arivale Chief Science Officer, PhD
It shouldn’t come as a shock that vegetables and fruits ought to be the cornerstone of our diet. And yet, we’re lucky if we get through the day and manage to have a single measly salad at some point. In fact, the average American only gets about three of their recommended five to nine servings of fruits and veggies every day.
Does this mean regularly eating enough fruits and veggies is woefully misguided as a goal and will always remain out of reach?
How You Can Eat Enough Fruits and Vegetables
Let’s get this out of the way first: the answer isn’t just to eat salads for every meal.
Now, let’s break down the answer by how many times you eat every day. Since this varies person to person – with some people eating fewer and some far more than the standard three meals a day – lets go with a hypothetical four meals and snacks throughout the day. Let’s also standardize a “serving” of fruits or vegetables to be the size of your fist.
If you get just one serving of fruits or veggies with every meal or snack, that’s already four servings on the day. Look at you! You’re already beating the average American!
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “How in the world does someone get a full serving of fruits and veggies at breakfast without just straight eating an apple?” Here are a few ideas:
- Yogurt mixed with chia or hemp seeds and berries
- An egg or tofu scramble with spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes
- Eat like a millennial and have avocado toast with an egg and greens
- Roasted sweet potato with almond butter or yogurt and cinnamon
- Oatmeal with shredded zucchini or carrots, vanilla protein powder, and cinnamon (You eat zucchini bread and carrot cake, so why not try them with oatmeal?)
There you go. That’s one serving down before you’ve even really started your day. Just four to eight servings to go!
Lunch is a great time to add two to three more servings of fruits and vegetables.
This is where the trend of seemingly everything becoming a grain bowl comes in handy. Strive to use greens as the base of your bowl, then pile on the colors: red (radishes, cherry tomatoes), purple (cabbage), green (cucumber/broccoli), orange (mango, carrots, sweet potato), and brown (mushrooms, onions, garlic).
Who says veggies can’t be a satisfying snack?
Consider having some crunchy jicama sticks with hummus or plain yogurt dip as a snack. Or, perhaps a piece of fruit and handful of nuts would help you get through the afternoon slump.
By the time dinner rolls around, you may have already had as many as five servings of fruits and vegetables. Now, it’s time to make all us nutritionists proud and compose half your dinner plate out of veggies. For example, you could have salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts and cauliflower mashed potatoes. That’s two more (delicious-sounding) servings of veggies!
A Note on Variety
I know a few of you are thinking, “Five to nine servings is easy when you just have a banana every hour on the hour while at work.” Well, let me nip that in the bud right away. Variety is the spice of life, and when it comes to fruits and vegetables, it can also have benefits for your health. Check it out:
- Greens are great! But if you find yourself always opting for kale, try collards, cabbage, arugula, mustard greens, or another underdog in the green leafy family.
- Do you always have carrot sticks or salads? Get away from raw and try roasting your veggies or sautéing them in olive oil and garlic. Some vitamins (like A) can be converted when cooked, while others (like C) are better utilized when consumed raw.
- Do you easily surpass three to four servings of fruit per day but struggle to get vegetables into the mix? Focus on limiting your fruit to two to three servings to go along with at least three to four servings of veggies. Not only will this help bring in a greater variety of nutrients but also decrease the likelihood of going overboard on your sugar intake.
Juicing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
With juicing, you miss out on fiber, which is typically found in the skin and pulp and is one of the critical benefits to eating plants. Juicing also concentrates the plants’ natural sugars, which means excessive juicing may lead to excessive sugar consumption, which can increase triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood that plays a role in heart health). With juicing you also lose the act of chewing, which plays a role in hunger and satiety hormones. Hence the need to eat your fruits and vegetables, not just drink them.
Whole Foods vs. Processed Foods
Don’t fall prey to the “health halo” effect where every type of food becomes blessed as long as it contains a whisper of vegetables in its ingredients or packaging (think veggie crisps or ingredient lists that include beet juice coloring or tomato paste).
Want more ideas on new ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into your daily routine? Check out the Arivale Pinterest page for some great recipes.