March is National Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is “Eat Right With Color.” It is about using color as a guide to eat more fruits and vegetables – the more color we add to our plate, the better off we will be. But in reality, how do we do it? There are a number of ways, but here are some of my favorites that I recommend to my clients so that every time they eat, they include at least one fruit or vegetable:
- Fruit smoothies are a great snack or part of a meal – blend frozen berries or any fruit, yogurt and/or milk and a few ice cubes
- For a veggie boost, throw in a handful of spinach or kale.
- Fruit is nature’s original dessert with its natural sweetness. It is also the perfect topping for oatmeal, cereal or plain yogurt.
- Pile your sandwich high with veggies, opting for spinach or a darker green lettuce. Think beyond lettuce and tomato though with others such as cucumbers, olives, bell peppers, and sprouts.
- Frozen vegetables are super convenient and inexpensive. There are so many different blends and types available – just avoid those with heavy butter or cream sauces.
- You can cook them quickly in a microwave, steam or add to other foods like in #5 or #8.
- Add vegetables to sauces, soups, stir-frys or burrito stuffings
- I love adding squash and zucchini to my spaghetti sauce, in addition to onions and peppers. Carrots are also a great addition.
- Ask for extra veggies with your meal when dining out. Most restaurants are happy to do this if asked politely though some might insist upon an additional charge, which is worth it in my book.
- Challenge your family to trying a new vegetable every month, or better yet every week – involve your family in finding a new recipe, or making it a family activity to pick one out together at the store or farmers market
- Another idea, sign up for a CSA (community supported agriculture), and you’ll get a bounty of fresh and local vegetables weekly or monthly that you can have fun planning into your meals. Find one near you at http://www.localharvest.org/.
- While you are at it, try different cooking methods and find one that works best for your family and tastebuds. Roasting is one of my favorites as it brings out the natural sweetness in vegetables. I have just discovered pressure cooking, and this is fast becoming another favorite way to enjoy vegetables.
- Include a vegetable-based soup or salad with dinner. Not only will you be getting more vegetables, but you’ll be filling up on less calories (as long as you keep your portions reasonable and avoid cream-based soups or dressings)
- Making your own soup is best. The canned stuff just doesn’t taste the same to me and is very high in sodium. And making your own can be simple. There are frozen vegetable blends that make it super easy – or use an immersion blender for a quick pureed soup. I like to make big batches when I have extra time and then freeze for later use.
- Pair a fruit or veggie with a natural peanut butter (i.e., only has 1 ingredient: peanuts) or nut butter. Two favorites are:
- Celery with peanut butter (could even top with raisins)
- Apple with peanut butter
- Snack on hummus and fresh veggies (i.e., carrots, bell pepper strips, celery, grape tomatoes).
Need more recipe ideas? I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I absolutely love Eating Well. They have a terrific website, in addition to a magazine. The Meal Makeover Moms also have great recipes on their website and in their cookbooks that incorporate vegetables in all kinds of tasty ways.
So what are your favorite ways to eat more fruits and vegetables?