Mom had the right idea when she told you to eat your veggies. Fruits and vegetables are packed with important nutrients that your body needs to work properly and fight disease. They're also high in fiber and low in calories, filling you up in all the right ways.
The American Heart Association recommends eating four to five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. If you're trying to boost your intake of this important food group, there's no better time than summer when farms and gardens overflow with a bounty of produce. Use these tips to get started.
1. Make more smoothies
Light, refreshing and easy to make without heating up the kitchen, smoothies are the perfect summer food. Toss some yogurt or juice into a blender with your favorite fruits and ice and blend until it reaches a smooth consistency. Have fun experimenting with different combinations of summer fruit flavors like strawberries with kiwi or blueberries with peaches.
One of the simplest ways to eat more produce is to add it to your favorite foods — think zucchini noodles vs. traditional spaghetti. Stuff quesadillas and enchiladas with cooked cauliflower, shred carrots or beets into pizza sauce, or mix fresh berries or apricots into pancake batter.
What you eat for breakfast helps set a tone for the rest of the day. Add diced bell peppers, tomatoes or leftover roasted vegetables to your scrambled eggs, or mix cherries or peaches into yogurt or oatmeal. Round out your breakfast with a side of chopped melon or sliced oranges. Top toast with sliced bananas, kiwi or tomatoes for a savory bite.
A fun way to eat a greater selection of fruits and vegetables is the rainbow challenge. Start by selecting one item from each category of fruits and vegetables sorted by color groups to eat throughout the week, until you reach the point that you are consuming each color group on a daily basis.
· Red: strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, watermelon, radishes
· Orange: carrots, nectarines, peaches, cantaloupe, apricot
· Yellow: corn, bananas
· Green: arugula, cucumber, zucchini, kiwi
· Blue: blueberries
· Purple: plums, beets, passionfruit
Eating the rainbow also provides health benefits, as fruits and vegetables have different levels of phytochemicals that help fight disease. If you stick to your go-to strawberries, you may miss out on important phytochemicals found in blueberries and kiwi.