Fruits and vegetables not only provide an abundant combination of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protective plant compounds, they also offer texture, flavor and color to meals and snacks. For example, could you imagine your taco without crunchy lettuce and juicy tomatoes? Or chicken noodle soup without carrots, celery and onions?
While the amount of fresh produce we’re enjoying seems to be on the rise, this year’s State of the Plate study results from Produce for Better Health Foundation shows overall fruit and vegetable consumption has declined by 7% over the past five years. Even though a substantial percentage of that comes from the drop in 100% juice consumption, it still sends a very clear message. We’re not eating enough when it comes to vegetables and fruits.
What Can You Do?
Stock Up and Commit to Eating More!
The upside to this? September is Fruits & Veggie–More Matters Month and the perfect time to focus on including more produce into your meal plan, regardless of how much you’re currently eating. It’s also a great opportunity to fill up your grocery cart with more variety, since fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice all count towards daily produce goals. Stocking your kitchen with all forms of produce is particularly important in terms of eating more, since 82% of vegetables and 90% of fruits we eat come from or are prepared at home.
Don’t Cut the Veggies from Your One-Dish Meals!
When shopping for produce, look for options that make them easy to enjoy. Historically, according to the State of the Plate report, half the vegetables we eat are in the form of a side dish at meals, but the quantity of side dishes being prepared has declined over the years. Parents may have traditionally made a meatloaf dinner with potatoes, green beans and tossed salad, but now one-dish meals are taking center stage. Oftentimes, vegetables are the food that gets cut from these types of meals.
5 Ways to Add Vegetables to Your Day
Instead of stressing about adding sides of vegetables to meals, try this …
- Incorporate them into dishes you’re already preparing.
- Keep frozen spinach in your freezer and add to jarred sauce.
- If making beef stew, add no-salt-added canned peas, green beans, stewed tomatoes and corn.
- For pizza night, make homemade cauliflower crust then add peppers, onions and mushrooms to up veggie intake even more.
- When in the mood for chicken parmesan, enjoy eggplant parm instead.
4 Ways to Add Fruit to Your Day
For fruit intake, the same rules apply …
- Keep convenient, portable options stocked in your pantry so you’re continuously set up for success.
- When running out the door, natural applesauce cups, fresh nectarines or trail mix made with a mixture of dried fruits can’t be beat.
- For breakfast, smoothies made with frozen no sugar added tropical fruit and low-fat yogurt is a satisfying choice.
- Need a beverage to quench your mid-day thirst? Drinking up to 12-ounces 100% juice count toward daily goals and don’t contain added sugar.