We’ve all heard it time and time again; we should be eating more fruit and vegetables. We probably already know that increased fruit and vegetable consumption is correlated with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer and all-cause mortality. But still, many of us struggle to get the 7-10 servings per day that’s recommended. In this post I share my top five tips to include more fruit and vegetables into your everyday life.
- Think of yourself as adding, not taking away
Sometimes when we think of taking away certain foods from our diets it can seem daunting, or feel like we’re depriving ourselves. I never want people to feel that way. Instead, consider adding vegetables or fruit to your typical meals and snacks.
These are some nutritious additions to meals you might already be making:
- Try adding kale or spinach to your usual fruit smoothies. See my favourite smoothie combination here on my Instagram page. I have this almost every morning for breakfast!
- Instead of replacing spaghetti pasta with zucchini, try adding spiralized zucchini to your dish. You may find over time that you need less of the pasta to satisfy you, but if not, you’re still getting a serving of vegetables either way!
- Add a rainbow of vegetables such as broccoli, peppers, cabbage, or mushrooms to your usual rice stir fry.
- Bulk up a sandwich with tomato slices, arugula, spinach, red onion, cucumber, grated carrot or avocado.
- Try adding cauliflower, eggplant, wilted kale, and sweet potato to curry
When we think of all the different flavours and textures we could be adding to a dish, rather than taking parts away, the transition to adding more vegetables and fruit into our diets becomes exciting rather than daunting. When adding vegetables to dishes, try to eat the rainbow, meaning a variety of colours! This is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting an array of nutrients.
- Center snacks around fruit and vegetables
Think of the main part of your snack as vegetables and fruit, and consider what you can add that’s rich in protein, fat, and carbohydrates to make the snack more satiating and satisfying.
I love to pair carrots and celery with hummus, apples with peanut butter, homemade trailmix with fresh berries, frozen banana coins dipped in peanut butter (so good!), dates dipped in peanut butter, avocado with toast, or a green smoothie filled with kale, spinach, apple, ground flax seeds and cucumber.
- Prepare fruit and vegetables ahead of time
This one might take a bit of time to get into the habit of, but I promise once you do it’ll save you so much time in the long run! Once you get home from the grocery store or farmers market, try washing and cutting up your veggies immediately and storing them in an airtight container. I like to wash my kale, celery, peppers, and cucumber right when I get home from the store, so they’re ready to use and easily add when I’m whipping together a meal. Store them at eye-level in your fridge for an added reminder to use them when you open your fridge. This is also a great way to prevent food waste!
- Include variety
Things can get pretty boring if you’re always using the same veggies in the same way. It’s so important to switch it up, between spices and methods of cooking. There’s so many different ways to enjoy the flavours of vegetables and fruit. I love roasted sweet potato, red pepper, broccoli, and cauliflower, while I prefer to massage kale with lemon and a pinch of salt to make it easier to eat and digest. When considering cooking methods, don’t forget to use spices to your advantage. I love adding garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, and oregano to give a savoury, smoky flavour. Cinnamon on sweet potato can transform it into something sweet, and a mix of cumin, chili powder, and garlic can give a dish a delicious Mexican flavour. Experiment with all different types of spices to see what you like best!
Check out my Instagram page for inspiration of different flavour combinations!
- Always have fruits and vegetables on hand in the freezer
Sometimes, life gets busy and we don’t have time to run to the store to get fresh fruits and vegetables. Having a stash of your favourite frozen vegetables and fruit is the perfect solution to this problem! People often assume that frozen vegetables and fruit are less nutritious, but that’s not the case. Frozen vegetables and fruit have been shown to be just as nutritious as fresh, and either way, consuming frozen vegetables that are convenient is a much more nutritious option than not consuming vegetables because you don’t have any on hand. Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is also a great way to reduce food waste if you don’t think you’ll use the entirety of a fresh ingredient.
Frozen vegetables and fruit can be a lifesaver in the depths of winter when produce is more expensive and less readily available, and there seems to constantly be new frozen vegetables or fruit cropping up! Frozen bags of broccoli, spinach, cauliflower and kale can be added to any meal in a pinch. Just make sure that the vegetables contain no added oils or salt, and fruit contains no added sugar. I also always have frozen berries on hand for smoothies or dessert when I’m craving something refreshing and cold.
Check out my Instagram @tastingtothrive_rd for all the ways that I like to add more vegetables and fruit in my meals!
Cardiovascular disease: Wang X, Ouyang Y, Liu J, Zhu M, Zhao G, Bao W, Hu FB. Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. B2014 Jul 29;349:g4490.
Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes LT, Keum N, Norat T, Greenwood DC, Riboli E, Vatten LJ, Tonstad S. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality—a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2017 Feb 22;46(3):1029-56.
Health Canada Fruit and Vegetable Recommendations: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/food-guide-aliment/view_eatwell_vue_bienmang-eng.pdf
Hunter KJ, Fletcher JM. The antioxidant activity and composition of fresh, frozen, jarred and canned