It’s easy to not eat your veggies.. even while eating a lot of foods that are considered “healthy”. For example: A quick breakfast of peanut butter on whole wheat bread (you’d have a banana but your kid ate the last one yesterday). Your morning snack is a low fat strawberry yogurt. For lunch at work, a turkey sandwich that was brought in during a meeting (and a bag of Sun Chips.. more whole grains!). You had a protein bar before hitting the gym, and then when out with some friends and had sushi for dinner (and were very good and skipped the deep fried things). Overall, not bad… good a mix of carbs, protein, and not too much fat. But your fruit and vegetable intake was about ½ a strawberry in your yogurt, a piece of limp iceberg lettuce on your sandwich, the avocado in your California roll, and a piece of seaweed in your miso soup. Not exactly the recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
Fruit and vegetables are key to good health, they are just starting to understand how the micronutrients affect everything from heart health to mental health. There was an interesting study published last month showing how 2 changes to lifestyle could improve health: more fruits and veggies, and less TV time. I’m a big believer in making small changes that improve your diet, not going “on” a diet. One of the habits I have adopted is including a fruit or vegetable in every meal and every snack.
Breakfast: I’m normally a fruit and yogurt and granola, or fruit and cereal person in the morning. I keep frozen blueberries in the freezer in case I’m out of fresh fruit (zap them for 40 seconds in the microwave to thaw). If you like eggs, try scrambling with some chopped green onions and baby spinach, or really any vegetables. And add a big scoop of salsa.
Snacks: my morning snack usually looks like a 2nd breakfast. Add cottage cheese and fruit to this list. If I do have peanut butter on toast, I try to get a piece of fruit too. And my latest favorite is a banana chocolate milk.
Lunch: Salads are the obvious choice for the veggie rich lunch. One of the other things I have started doing when I have work lunches is getting the vegetarian option. It’s not a guarantee to get more vegetables, but it normally helps. If I have make a sandwich, I always try to load on dark leafy lettuce, avocado, and maybe a tomato. And a lunch staple when I have good tomatoes: peanut butter on toast with tomato (it’s really not awful, I learned it from my mom… ) Another option is to have some cut up vegetables, like carrots, celery, or radishes. Lately, I have been making quick pickles too – hits that crunchy salty / sweet flavor instead of Sun chips! I used a kohlrabi to make my last batch. See the recipe at the end. And lunch just doesn’t seem complete without a piece of fruit at the end.
Afternoon snacks: I don’t always have an afternoon snack, but when I do, I like something more savory. Kale chips are a fun option (and if you have clean kale, it only takes 20 minutes or so to make, not much longer than popcorn). Sometimes I’ll have trail mix, but really there is not enough fruit in that to count. Apple with cheese is a favorite, apple with peanut butter works too. Cut up vegetables are a good option too, you can always add a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to brighten them up.
Dinner: Often I start my dinner thoughts with what vegetable I have, then decide what to make (as opposed to starting with the protein). Hopefully I have provided lots of ideas on vegetable rich ideas for dinners over the years! Here's my index.
So: If you just wanted to do 1 thing this summer, I would challenge you to eat some fruit or vegetable with EVERY meal and snack! Do it for a month, see if you can get some healthy new habits.
Excerpt from From Al Dente blog:
Master Recipe from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan
1 cup water, piping hot from the tap
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
6 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
Fruit or vegetable, sliced thin
1. Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.
2. Prepare vegetables or fruit and place in a quart container. Pour brine over the fruit or vegetable and refrigerate. You can eat immediately. But they will taste better after they've had time to sit.