By Lisa Crockett
It’s the time of year after the most wonderful time of the year. If you’ve overindulged, perhaps you’re looking for a way to get back on track. Or, maybe you’re simply looking to improve your health and wellness. Or maybe you want to shed a few pounds. One excellent strategy for achieving any – or all – of these goals, is to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. A standard recommendation for optimal health is at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, which likely means including some sort of plant food at each and every meal, and possibly in between. Most fruit servings are a single piece of fruit (or two to three pieces of dried fruit). Vegetables are generally a half a cup, unless you’re talking about leafy foods like lettuce or spinach, which are a whole cup. Here are some tips and tricks for making the new year your healthiest yet:
Start the day right: Don’t forget to include fruits and vegetables at breakfast: a banana sliced on your oatmeal or a cup of chopped spinach in your scrambled eggs will do nicely.
Sandwich your servings: If you typically eat a sandwich at lunch, layer on a healthy crunch by slicing cucumbers or bell peppers with your other sandwich fillings. If you find that it’s hard to keep all that goodness between the bread, make your sandwich a wrap (or wrap your fillings in a lettuce leaf for even more veggie power.)
Toast of the town: If you’re a millennial, you’re probably already familiar with the beauty of avocado toast. If you’re not, give it a try and you’ll see that the kids are onto something with this trend. Toast a slice of whole-grain bread, then spread mashed avocado (about a quarter cup) on top, and add a sprinkle of salt.
Soup up your soup: Add your own fresh veggies (or even frozen, which contain many of the same health benefits as fresh) to canned soup or packaged noodles for a quick, tasty, satisfying meal. (See the recipe for a veggie-filled ramen on page 25.)
Snacks at the ready: Stock your refrigerator with ready-to-grab snacks like carrots and celery, grapes, sliced apples (soak in water and lemon juice to prevent browning), and snow peas. If you need a little protein to satisfy your hunger, add a dollop of hummus or a dab of nut butter.
Roasted roots: Roast a pan of root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, beets) and Brussels sprouts in a sheet pan by chopping them to uniform size, tossing in olive oil and roasting at 425 degrees (F) until they’re tender. Sprinkle with salt and eat immediately, or store in the fridge for several days and use as desired on salads, in wraps, and added to soup or stew.
Stand by your salad: There is a reason salad is the first thing people think of when they think of eating vegetables – they’re tasty and quick. Keep pre-washed salad greens stocked in the fridge, along with ready-to-go proteins like chopped hard-boiled eggs and roast chicken breast, for the ultimate healthy fast food.
Freeze it out: The freezer section at the supermarket has some old favorites (frozen vegetable medley anyone?) and some new surprises (veggie meatballs, veggie patties) that can add spark to just about any meal.
Smooth move: If you get to the end of the day and realize you haven’t hit your “five” yet, toss some frozen fruit and a generous handful of greens in a blender with a bit of juice or milk and whir until smooth.