Tips For Increasing Fruits & Vegetables In Your Diet

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 - 10:52am

By Dena McDowell, MS, RD

How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you eat each day? The National Cancer Institute and the United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to maintain optimal health. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables provides the necessary fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals. Specifically, fruits and vegetables are rich in dietary fiber (both soluble and insoluble), potassium, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E. Produce is also naturally low in sodium, fat, cholesterol and calories. Eating the recommended 5-9 servings of produce is essential to decrease the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney stones, and helps to reduce blood pressure, all while helping to promote a lower calorie diet, which is beneficial to those trying to lose weight.

Healthy diets include a variety of colors

Selecting a “rainbow” colored diet will ensure the greatest amount of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It may sound like a daunting task to eat this much produce, but if you follow the Food Guide Pyramid for portion sizes you may find that it is not as hard as you think. Here are some sample serving sizes:



1 c. cut up fruit

1 c. cooked

1 c. canned in natural juice

1 c. raw veggies

1 medium size fresh

1 c. vegetable juice

1c.100% natural fruit juice

2 c. leafy greens

½ c. dried

1 c. 100% natural vegetable juice

Adding fruits & vegetables to your diet is easy

Here some tips to add fruits and vegetables into your diet:

  • Keep a bowl of whole fruit on the table or counter.

  • Cut-up fruit and veggies and store in the refrigerator at eye level to remind you to snack on these nutritious foods when you open the fridge.
  • Buy fresh fruits and veggies in season when they may be less expensive and at their peak flavor.
  • Try fruit (strawberries, bananas, apricots) dipped in chocolate. Keep low calorie caramel dip on hand for apples.
  • Act like a kid and make “Ants on a Log” (take celery and fill with peanut butter, top peanut butter with raisins).
  • For a quick energy boost make a fruit smoothie (your choice of juice, yogurt and fruit, blend for a delicious treat).
  • Try hummus on cut up veggies.
  • Shred carrots or zucchini into casseroles, quick breads, and muffins or cakes. Use applesauce instead of oil when baking.
  • For a sweet treat, mix 1/2 cup vanilla or lemon pudding with 1/2 cup light whipped topping. Use as a dip for your favorite fruit.
  • At breakfast, top your cereal with bananas or peaches; add blueberries to pancakes; drink 100% orange or grapefruit juice. Or, try a fruit mixed with low-fat or fat-free yogurt and top with low-fat granola. Top whole grain bread with a 100% fruit spread. Make a vegetable omelet using peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes and add your favorite cheese.
  • At lunch, pack fresh fruit or canned fruit in natural or light juice. Add a vegetable based soup (like minestrone or vegetable beef) and pair with a sandwich full of lettuce and tomatoes. Or make a trip to the salad bar and load your plate with fresh greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and carrots. Add sunflower seeds, cheese and eggs to complete the meal. Don’t forget the light salad dressing. Try a can of vegetable juice if you can’t eat a salad or soup.
  • For dinner, plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other chicken, fish, pork or lean beef to complement the meal. Include a green salad with your dinner every night. Add chopped vegetables in pasta sauce. If barbequing meat, grill peppers and mushrooms to add flavor to the meat. Try making meat and vegetable kabobs using a variety of different vegetables. Serve with a baked potato or sweet potato on the side. Try meat dishes that incorporate fruit, such as chicken with pineapple or mango sauce. On pizza night, order a veggie pizza with toppings like mushrooms, green peppers and onions, and skip the meat toppings.
  • For dessert, have baked apples, pears, or try frozen juice bars (100% juice), sorbet, sherbet, or frozen yogurt topping with fruit.