June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, designed to bring attention to the wonderful health benefits of daily produce consumption. And, with many fruits and vegetables available practically year-round, it’s very convenient to indulge in fresh produce.
The American Heart Association recommends adults consume eight or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but a survey revealed this is done by less than half of older adults. In fact, a nutrition survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), found 87 percent of Americans consume less than the recommended vegetable serving per day while 75 percent of Americans consume less than the recommended serving of fruits per day.
So why aren’t we eating more produce despite research effectively linking fruit and vegetable consumption to longer life spans, lowered age-related diseases, and improved cognitive? Respondents cited everything from lack of time to prepare well-balanced meals to the unavailability of a variety of fruits and vegetables at their grocery store to just not liking the taste of these healthier options.
Here are a few simple tips on how you can add more fruits and vegetables to your diet this June and beyond:
- Soups offer a great way to incorporate vegetables. Almost any vegetable lends itself to use in soup, from creamy squash or tomato bisques to vegetable beef or chicken vegetable soup. Add fresh or frozen vegetables to canned soups to increase the servings of vegetables and add flavor.
- Salads don’t have to be lettuce based. Consider using leafy alternatives such as radicchio, arugula, kale or spinach. Also, kick up greens by adding fresh fruits like pineapple, mangoes, Asian pears, papaya or pomegranates.
- Don’t overlook beans. They count as a vegetable and a protein. They can be added to everything from salads to eggs. While most people are familiar with common legumes such as chick peas and kidney beans, other beans such as navy, soy and garbanzo are just as nutritious.
- Fruits can be incorporated into desserts. From strawberry shortcake to ice cream and pies, there are unlimited options for increasing your fruit intake with desserts.
- Be bold with your palate. It’s not uncommon to grow tired of eating the same vegetables such as broccoli and carrots. Try giving your taste buds a boost this summer with seasonal produce such as okra, eggplant and callaloo (also known as tree spinach).
- Drink your fruits and vegetables. The summer months are perfect for enjoying a refreshing smoothie made with your favorite produce. Combine fresh or frozen fruits, yogurt, vegetables and ice. It’s a great alternative to soda and can keep you hydrated during the peak of summer.
- Consider fruits as a snack. Needing a quick pick-me-up in the afternoon? Why not munch on an apple or carrot sticks? Also, dried fruits and vegetables can be substituted for potato chips.
- Add zest to your vegetables. Not into steam vegetables because they’re bland? How about enhancing the flavor with a hint of lemon juice or fresh herbs and spices? A quick search on Pinterest offers many creative ways to cook veggies.
While you may not develop a taste for Brussels sprouts overnight, begin taking small steps to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Your mind and body will thank you now and into the future!