For years, we’ve been pushing the 5 A Day rule — that is, to aim to have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables as part of your daily intake. But new research is indicating that more may be better. According to a study by the Imperial College of London, 10 portions of fruit and vegetables each day may dramatically decrease the chance of disease and premature death. But just how much produce would that be exactly? And is this a realistic goal?
One portion counts as 80 grams (3 oz) of fruit or veggies. Three heaping tablespoons of spinach is equal to one portion. So is a pear or one small banana. Sadly, Americans have a history of struggling to fit produce into our diet, even at previously recommended levels.
Here’s my take on this news: be it five or fifteen recommended servings…do not get too wrapped up in numbers unless you feel it’s going to help you improve your eating habits. Instead, focus on small, simple steps to eating more fruits and veggies like the ones listed here.
3 Simple Tips for Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake in your Diet:
1. Keep longer-lasting produce in store.
Applesauce cups, dried fruit, frozen fruit, and frozen veggies get me by when I’ve run out of fresh items and can’t make it to the grocery. With fruits, look for “no added sugar” varieties. Frozen fruits are easy to use in smoothies and popsicles. Buy frozen blueberries – they thaw quicker than other frozen fruits, making them a great addition to cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt.
Frozen veggie blends and frozen leafy greens are typically heat and eat, but can also be added to omelets, stir-fry, pasta dishes, and soups. Buy in bulk at stores like Costco and keep them handy always.
2. Establish a few mainstays for dining out that take fresh ingredients seriously.
My fiancé and I choose one night each week to grab takeout, usually because we’re too busy or too tired to cook. At Salata, two personal salads cost less than an okay-quality medium pizza — and pack fiber, vitamins, minerals, and lean protein to boot.
Their menu has over 50 fresh ingredients (fruits and veggies are chopped daily) that you can choose from to make your own custom salad. I love combining romaine hearts with carrots, bean sprouts, cilantro, almonds, Asian BBQ chicken, and ginger-lime dressing.
3. Stop trying so hard.
You may have been encouraged to make weekly meal prepping an institution in your home before, but you won’t be hearing that from me. We’re busy women! We don’t always have an hour to devote to washing, pre-chopping, and storing produce. And even when we do have the time, let’s be real, there are plenty of things we’d rather be doing with it.
Every week I:
- Buy crudités from the supermarket for snacking
- Purchase pre-washed spinach and lettuce. Leafy greens can be grabbed and quickly added to smoothies, sandwiches, and salads.
- Take advantage of all of that good frozen produce I have stocked in my freezer…
What do all of these items have in common? They spare my knives, my sink, and my time! Moreover, they lower the barrier to accessing fresh produce, and thus encourage increased consumption.
While you may have to fork over a little more cash for crudités than you would buying raw broccoli, carrots, celery, and cauliflower separately, you help make up for that splurge by saving on frozen produce. Frozen produce is nutrient-rich and an economical choice. The best thing about it is how long it can last in your freezer!
Hopefully these tips help you step up your produce game and reap the benefits of all nature has to offer.
Adrienne Inger is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist passionate about setting the record straight with sound and simple nutrition advice. She sees clients nationwide via “virtual appointment” and has a growing private practice in the DC-Metro Area where she lives. Adrienne completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of Maryland, and her clinical dietetic internship at a UCLA-affiliated hospital in Los Angeles, California. She has years of experience helping clients with weight management, women’s health, diabetes prevention & management, chronic kidney disease, nutrition for aging and more. http://www.adrienneinger.com