Did you know that according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), half of your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables? A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, maintain blood sugar, and help with weight maintenance. Unfortunately, most Americans fall short on the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables.
The amount fruits and vegetables you should eat varies based on your age, sex, and caloric intake. For most fruits and vegetables, a serving is equal to 1 cup. There are two exceptions to the rule, however. Two cups of lettuce or ½ cup of dried fruit is equivalent to one serving. The average American needs 9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day, however, most people consume only three servings.
When selecting fruits and vegetables, it is important to eat a variety in order to get all of the nutrients your body requires. Your plate should look like a rainbow or a box of crayons. Be sure to include dark leafy greens; brightly colored red, orange and yellow fruits and vegetables; and deep blue and purple berries. Fruits and vegetables get their bright colors from phytochemicals, so eating many different colors ensures that you will receive a variety of nutrients in your diet. Be sure to try tomatoes, acorn squash, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, spinach, eggplant, and beets.
Here are some tips to help you to boost your intake of fruits and vegetables:
• Keep fruits and vegetables where they are accessible and where you will see them. That way, you’ll be more likely to eat them.
• Try something new. Browse the produce aisle and explore all of the produce that is available.
• Try canned or frozen fruits and vegetables when fresh is not available. Make sure to choose fruits canned in 100% fruit juice and canned vegetables labeled “no added salt,” “reduced sodium,” or “low sodium.”
• Choose whole fruits rather than fruit juice. Whole fruit contains more fiber to help you to stay full.
• Plan ahead. Rinse and cut produce in advance to save time.
• Include fruits and vegetables at every meal and with snacks. Try new recipes that include more produce, such as salads, stir fries, veggie omelets, and vegetable soups.
• Try cut carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers dipped in hummus for a smart snack.
• Top hot cereal with cut-up bananas or fresh berries.
• Add lettuce, spinach, tomatoes or cucumbers to your sandwiches and wraps.
• Add fresh vegetables to your pasta or rice dishes. Good options include: broccoli, spinach, cherry tomatoes, squash, onions, or peppers.
• Look for produce that is in season. Fruits and vegetables are usually fresher and less expensive when purchased in season.
• Plant a garden. Growing your own produce is inexpensive and will help you to add fresh and flavorful produce to your meals. Herbs, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes are good options.
Herbed Spinach Quiche Portabella Caps
• 4 portabella mushrooms, 3-inch diameter
• Cooking spray
• 3 large eggs
• Egg whites from 6 eggs
• ½ cup whole-wheat grated bread crumbs
• ¼ cup nonfat milk
• 1 tsp low-sodium garlic and herb blend
• 1 cup cooked and drained, chopped, frozen spinach
• ¼ cup reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, divided
1. Place oven rack in center of oven; preheat to 375 degrees F.
2. Remove portabella stems. Wipe clean with a damp paper towel.
3. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray, and place mushroom caps on baking sheet.
4. In a mixing bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients, except for 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese.
5. Coat 10-inch non-stick pan with cooking spray and heat over medium flame.
6. Cook and scramble egg mixture until it just starts to thicken. Remove from heat.
7. Using a large spoon, scoop partially cooked, hot egg mixture into portabella caps
8. Sprinkle tops with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake about 20 minutes.
9. Serve immediately.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Nutrient information per serving: 190 calories, 6 grams fat, 330 mg sodium, 14 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 17 grams protein
-From the USDA Produce for a Better Health Foundation