Are you getting enough fruits and vegetables? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only one in 10 adults eats enough fruits and vegetables. Lack of fruits and vegetables in your diet can lead to a number of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Here are five veggies you should be eating and 30 quick ideas for adding more fruits and vegetables into your diet!
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Five Vegetables You Should Be Eating
Dark, leafy greens
Yes, kale really is that good for you, but so are chard, beet greens, spinach, collards, and watercress. In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of powerhouse fruits and veggies, leafy greens fill the top spots. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Greens can be used for so much more than just salads. You can puree them and hide them in smoothies, sauces, or soups, or add them to rice and pasta dishes. They also can top pretty much any sandwich or burger.
The key is to choose the right flavor for what you’re making, as many greens are bitter. Spinach and romaine are great for smoothies because they have a mild flavor that hides well. Cabbage, kale, and other bitter greens work best when combined with something sweet like apples or pears.
Just the smell is enough to turn people off of this cruciferous vegetable. However, it may be time to give them another try. They’re brimming with iron, potassium, and vitamin C.
You can easily add Brussels sprouts as a side to any meal. Try tossing them in a small amount of olive oil and oven-roasting them. Or thinly slice the sprouts and use them in a salad or as a side mixed with other steamed veggies.
Red bell peppers
Although technically a fruit, red bell peppers are a sweet, versatile food packed with vitamin C and minerals. Plus, the pop of color red peppers add works great with all the green you’re adding to your diet.
Your options for including peppers in your diet are nearly endless. Slice and dip them, stuff them, saute them, puree them as a sauce. Add red peppers to soups, salads, sandwiches, stir-fry, pizza, pasta, tacos, chimichangas, and so much more.
This childhood staple offers vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and protein. Peas are delicious fresh when you can find them at your local farmer’s market, but the easiest way to buy them is frozen. Always keep a bag in your freezer.
Peas have a mild, sweet flavor, making them easy to add to many meals. Include them in soups, add to mac and cheese, mix in rice dishes, or even puree with ricotta cheese as a pasta sauce.
Pumpkin is another versatile addition to your diet. The key here is to make sure you’re making healthy choices, not those loaded with sugar. Canned, unsweetened pumpkin contains vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber.
Try pumpkin ravioli or add it to soups and chili. Blend up a pumpkin pie smoothie if you’re looking for a sweet fix. You can also make pumpkin part of breakfast by adding it to oatmeal, muffins, and pancakes.
Quick Ideas to Eat More Fruits and Veggies:
- Mix fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables into a breakfast smoothie with low-fat/nonfat yogurt and milk. Try different combinations of berries, bananas, peaches, leafy green vegetables, carrots, and more.
- Add spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, shredded carrots, mushrooms, peppers, cauliflower, zucchini, or onions to eggs for a colorful breakfast scramble, omelet, frittata, or quiche.
- Boost the fiber and number of vitamins in muffins, pancakes, waffles, quick breads, and pancakes by adding pumpkin, bananas, raisins, berries, or shredded zucchini or carrots.
- Bake with fruits and vegetables. Use your favorites in crisps, cobblers, and custards.
- Add grated, shredded, or chopped vegetables (spinach, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, onions, and carrots) to burritos, tacos, lasagna, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, and rice dishes.
- Dip with fruit! Try apple, banana, peach, or orange slices in low-fat/nonfat yogurt; apple or banana slices in peanut butter; or graham crackers in applesauce.
- Top your morning low-fat/nonfat yogurt, hot or cold cereal, pancakes, waffles, or French toast with banana slices, peaches, berries, or dried fruit.
- Try whole wheat pita wedges or crunchy vegetables with hummus or your favorite low-fat/nonfat salad dressing. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt also makes an excellent dip full of calcium and protein.
- Spread unsweetened applesauce on whole-grain toast and sprinkle with cinnamon.
- Roll up spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli, avocado, or squash with scrambled eggs into a breakfast burrito.
- Spice up your oatmeal! Combine pumpkin, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg for a hot breakfast.
- Eat pizza for breakfast! Make a breakfast pizza with a whole-grain English muffin/mini bagel and low-fat cheese. Add sliced tomatoes, onions, broccoli, spinach, or peppers on top.
- Spread peanut butter, cream cheese, or low-fat/nonfat yogurt onto whole-grain bread or a whole-grain English muffin, bagel, toaster waffle, or pancake, and top with berries, dried fruit, or sliced bananas, apples, or peaches.
- Layer fruits and vegetables into sandwiches and paninis using dried fruit, sliced pineapple, apples, bananas, peppers, lettuce, cucumber, or tomato.
- Snack on ants on a log! Top celery sticks with peanut butter and raisins.
- Puree apples, berries, peaches, plums, or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce. Use it on poultry or porkchops, or as a substitute for maple syrup on pancakes, French toast, or waffles.
- Make parfaits with your favorite berries, low-fat/nonfat yogurt, nuts/seeds, and whole-grain cereal.
- Top strawberries with fat-free whipped cream and crumbled graham crackers.
- Experiment with vegetables as pizza toppings at lunch or dinner. Broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini receive rave reviews!
- Roll your favorite vegetables with reduced-fat cheese or hummus into a whole-wheat tortilla for a healthy, filling veggie wrap.
- Grill vegetable kabobs with carrots, peppers, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and squash.
- Make fruit kabobs with grapes, pineapple chunks, banana slices, and reduced-fat cheese cubes.
- Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, red cabbage, peppers, mandarin oranges, and dried fruit.
- Create a rainbow fruit salad with any of your favorite fresh, frozen, or canned fruits. Serve in a carved-out watermelon!
- Slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt.
- Cut up small pieces of cantaloupe, grapes, bananas, and strawberries and put them in an ice cream cone.
- Mix tuna fish (packed in water) with mayonnaise (low-fat and/or made with olive oil) or plain low-fat/nonfat yogurt and add celery, green pepper, apples, or raisins.
- Stuff green or red pepper halves with low-fat ranch dressing or Greek yogurt dip and serve with raw vegetables, such as carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, or grape tomatoes.
- Fill a cored apple or half a cantaloupe with low-fat/nonfat yogurt or cottage cheese, raisins, and unsalted nuts or seeds.
- Keep fruits and cut vegetables handy for snacks, side dishes, and lunchbox additions. Place them in the front of the refrigerator or on the kitchen counter. Whole pieces of fruit, peppers, baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas, and broccoli or cauliflower florets are delicious and full of nutrients.
The USDA’s MyPlate campaign recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Many nutritious veggies are green, but include foods from across the rainbow to get a variety of nutrients.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on . Refreshed 2/16/22.
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