Increasing Fruits and Vegetables in Your Diet

I wrote the following article at the request of the editor for Naturally Nutritious Notes. However, after writing it, I was told that the Communications team decided against publishing it because it expressed opinions rather than facts. I don't get that. I think it's more than an opinion that we all need to eat more fruits and vegetables.

At any rate, I decided to publish it here. The following article is written for people who want to put more fruits and vegetables in their diet. That includes, as you'll see below, people who eat meat and eggs as well.

Please enjoy the article:

Science is continually finding that eating mostly fruits and vegetables each day can reduce many so-called “western diseases” like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Current U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest getting at least nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In other words, fruits and vegetables should start to become the focal point of our meals.

So, how best do we do that? Here are ten suggestions:

  1. Add fruit to your breakfast by including a half grapefruit or melon slice with your breakfast. You can also add blueberries or strawberries to cereal or oatmeal in the morning.
  2. If you’re having eggs for breakfast, why not have a vegetable omelet or vegetable scramble? Good veggies to go with eggs (even scrambled egg whites or scrambled tofu) include mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers, onions, black olives, diced tomatoes and chili peppers (for those of us who like it spicy).
  3. Eat a green salad with each meal. And get off the iceberg lettuce, which has so few nutrients, it’s hard to call it a green. Go for kale, chard, spinach leaves, bok choy greens, arugula or Romaine. Try several different types of greens in one salad, and enjoy the variety.
  4. Snack on dried fruit, but not too much. A lot of calories are packaged in a small amount of dried fruit.
  5. Buy a vegetarian or vegan cookbook and look for recipes that focus more on vegetables, fruit, legumes and nuts and less on meat-based dishes. You don’t need to be vegan or vegetarian to try out some of these recipes. I particularly like The Happy Herbivore cookbooks by Lindsay Nixon. You can purchase them on Amazon or borrow them from Sun City’s Eat Smart Live Longer Club, if you are a member of the club.
  6. When meat is the centerpiece of your meal, make sure that you include at least two other vegetables plus a salad as part of your side servings.
  7. Try fruit for desserts. One of my favorites is to put a frozen banana and some frozen blueberries into the blender or food processor and blend them to an ice cream-like consistency. Delicious!
  8. Make a big pot of minestrone or vegetable-based soup and eat it all week for lunches. I like to make a nice thick soup using potatoes, canned whole plum tomatoes, 15-dried bean mixes, carrots, kale, onion, garlic and Simon and Garfunkel spices (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme).
  9. Want pizza? Try a vegetable pizza. Try it without cheese. You’ll be amazed at how good it is.
  10. Buy a juicer and make some vegetable and fruit juices. A previous article on this page provides lots of good recommendations for juicing vegetables and fruits.

Here’s a recipe that I really enjoy from the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook called Ginger Bok Choy Stir-Fry. You say you’ve never had bok choy? Well, give it a try. Eating more fruits and veggies is really about expanding your horizons as well.

1 bunch green onions sliced in half vertically and dark green parts and root ends removed
2 baby bok choy, quartered lengthwise and bottom chopped off
1 red pepper, sliced and seeds removed
1 cup vegetable broth, divided
3 minced garlic cloves
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp soy sauce
3 tsp minced fresh ginger

Pour 1/3 cup of vegetable broth into a large skillet
Add garlic, red pepper flakes and soy sauce. Bring to a boil over high heat and sauté for 2 minutes
Add green onions and cook for another minute
Add another 1/3 cup of broth and ginger and cook another minute or two
Add bell peppers, bok choy and remaining broth
Turn heat to medium and continue to cook until veggies are cooked but still fairly crisp
Serves 2.

Each serving is 106 calories, 1.3 grams of fat, 19.6 grams of carbohydrate, 7 grams of fiber, 5.6 grams of sugar and 8.7 grams of protein.

One thing to note about Lindsay Nixon is she does not cook with oil. For those following the Mediterranean Diet, you can substitute high-quality olive oil for the vegetable broth (but use less of it – let your eye be your guide).