The recommended daily intake for fruits and vegetables is about 4-5 servings of each a day according to the American Heart Association3.This was a new change to the recently released dietary guidelines1.For most people; this is a tough goal to achieve. Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. It has been shown that fruits and vegetables can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and not to mention they can replace higher calorie snacks in your diet2, 4. Getting in your 9 a day can be a challenge, but with these helpful tips you’ll be there in no time!
1. Buy fresh fruits/vegetables in their season 2, 4
This can be expensive and more work at times but if you’re willing to do your research, it can be a great option. Buying fresh can be cheaper and taste better if you buy fruits/vegetables in their season. You can use this link to find fresh markets in your area where fruits/vegetables are regularly sold! Want to know when your favorites are in season? Use this link
2. Snack time1
Replacing your go to bag of chips or pre packaged snack with an on the go fruit can be a great option. Dried fruits are a great snack that never bruise or go bad! Many fruits are portable in their own skin such as bananas. If you have your favorite, easily portable fruits lying around, you’re more likely to reach for them instead of that bag of chips.
3. Buy Frozen 2, 4
Frozen fruits/vegetables have the same nutritional benefits as fresh. Frozen vegetables can be easily added to stir fry dishes or cooked up as a side. Frozen fruits can be made into smoothies, added to yogurt, or eaten as a snack. If your lifestyle needs convenience, frozen is the way for you!
4. Think outside the box
Adding fruits/vegetables in to your meals can be a sneaky way to fit in your servings:
- Add spinach/peppers into your scrambled eggs
- Add extra veggies into your spaghetti sauce
- Add berries into your oatmeal or cereal
- Eat dried fruit as a snack
- Add extra vegetables to homemade soups
5. Drink them 2, 4
If the thought of eating 9 servings a day is too much for you, juicing might be the extra help you need. If you plan to buy store bought juice make sure you’re buying 100% fruit or vegetable juice. You should also check the ingredient list to watch out for added sugars and sodium. If possible, juicing at home might be the better option so you know exactly what is going in. Juicing your own fruits/vegetables can also help to keep some of the fiber which helps you feel full and supports a healthy digestive tract.
6. Base your meal around it
Basing your meal around a vegetable can be another way to increase your intake. Below is one of my favorite recipes filled with vegetables. This can also be a way to swap some calorie dense foods for healthier options in your diet.
Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce
Servings: 6 Total Time: Prep-10 min Cook-25 min = 35 minutes
- 1 medium spaghetti squash (~8 inches)
- 1 cup water
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium green pepper, chopped
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼-½ teaspoon chili powder
- 1 can (28 oz) tomato puree
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
Slice squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Place squash, cut down side, in a baking dish. Add water and cover tightly with foil. Bake at 375° for 20-30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork. Meanwhile, brown beef in a large skillet; drain. Add onion, green pepper, herbs and seasonings; saute until onion is transparent. Stir in tomato puree. Cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Scoop out the squash, separating the strands with a fork. Just before serving; stir ½ cup parmesan cheese into meat sauce. Serve over spaghetti squash and pass remaining parmesan.
Getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet is a tough task for most people. The first and most important thing is to buy them. If you have fruits/vegetables around you’re more likely to notice them and incorporate them into your diet. Set a goal for yourself and use these helpful tips to get your 9 in today!
To learn more, please contact a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on the Idaho Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website by clicking Find a RD.
Written by Idaho State University Dietetic Student,
Magee, Elaine. “Fruits and Vegetables: Easy Ways to Get 9 Servings.” Medicine Net. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=55983&page=2>.
“Nutrients and Health Benefits.” Choose MyPlate. N.p., 13 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-nutrients-health>.
“Suggested Servings from Each Food Group.” American Heart Association. N.p., 17 Feb. 2015. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Suggested-Servings-from-Each-Food-Group_UCM_318186_Article.jsp#.VwdRqJwrJdg>.
“Tips to Help You Eat Fruits.” Choose MyPlate. N.p., 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016. <http://www.choosemyplate.gov/fruits-tips>.