Fruits and vegetables are the building blocks of a healthy diet. But many people do not eat the recommended number of servings of produce.That's especially true among growing children, who can benefit greatly from the vitamins and nutrients fruits and vegetables provide.
According to the latest data from the NPD Group, a market research firm, Americans eat a little more than half a cup of fruit and a cup of vegetables per day. This is less than half of what the government recommends. The data is similar in Canada, where researchers at Concordia University found that Canadian adults ages 30 to 60, especially those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, aren't consuming the daily recommended levels of fruits and vegetables.
Anyone who eats roughly 2,000 calories per day should strive to consume between two to three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit per day. Produce helps to fight disease because it contains healthy antioxidants, fiber, minerals and vitamins. Eating four cups per day may seem difficult, but there are many ways to incorporate fruits and vegetables into everyday recipes.
* Substitute pureed fruit, like figs, pears and apples, for oil in recipes for cakes and cookies. This will ensure the baked goods are moist but with a lot less fat.
* Add fresh berries or raisins to breakfast cereals and oatmeal.
* Add cauliflower or squash to boiled potatoes before mashing them to increase the nutritional punch and flavor of mashed potatoes.
* Blend fruits and vegetables to create smoothies for breakfast or lunch on the go.
* Bake hearty muffins or breads with sweet potato or carrots in the batter.
* Mix stewed tomatoes in with your broth soup base to make a vegetable or chicken soup even more nutritious.
* Opt for vegetables piled high atop a slice of pizza in lieu of meats or extra cheese.
* Divide your dinner plate into quadrants, filling half of the plate with vegetables, one quarter with meat and the remainder with a whole grain.
* Replace lettuce on a sandwich or burger with a fresh leaf of spinach. While you're dressing your sandwich, add a slice of tomato, too.
* Substitute fresh vegetables and fruit slices for chips when serving dips and salsas. Kale chips are growing in popularity.
* Give children a cup of sliced grapes with their lunches as a refreshing and healthy snack.
* Shred vegetables into a hearty "slaw" and top it with a vinaigrette or a typical mayonnaise-based dressing.
* Blend other vegetables into your pasta sauce.
* Use vegetables instead of pasta in traditional dishes. Layer eggplant slices to make a lasagna. Or use a spiral slicer to slice zucchini or carrots when making homemade noodles.
* Fruit salad is often a refreshing snack or dessert. Having fruit already diced in a large bowl makes it more convenient to eat and possibly more enticing to children.
* Make a vegetable roll-up, filling pizza dough with broccoli or spinach and shredded cheese.
* Mix together an avocado, 1/4 cup of cocoa powder and 1/4 cup honey to create a healthy alternative to chocolate pudding.
* Use pureed vegetables to thicken cheese sauce for macaroni and cheese recipes.
* Shred vegetables and add them to beaten eggs for omelets or scrambles.