One piece of nutrition advice that may never go out of style? Eat more fruits and vegetables. Although Americans need 2-4 servings of fruits and 3-4 servings of vegetables daily, many individuals face challenges in meeting these goals. Adding more of these low-calorie and nutrient-dense items to your diet results in several health benefits. Fruits and vegetables often have high-levels of fiber. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) mentions the amount of high-level fiber fruits and vegetables contain. Adding these to your diet can help an individual maintain a healthy weight due to their naturally low in calorie and high fiber content. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), increasing your fruit and vegetable intake can help reduce the risks of chronic diseases and certain types of cancers. Studies have shown how eating healthier helps boost your mood and increase your immunity levels, which may help provide protection against disease to include COVID-19.
In the summertime, many different (and delicious) fruits and vegetables are in season. Several fruits and vegetables hold water and are a great source of additional hydration when temperatures continue to rise. From strawberries to bananas to corn to carrots, adding these colorful ingredients to your plate or next dish is an easy way to help balance your diet and feel healthier. Eating nutritious options is a form of self-care.
Here are a few fun ideas for incorporating more fruits and vegetables in your diet this season:
Try something new. Never tried beets, okra, plums or tomatillos? There’s no way of knowing you won’t like the taste of something until you try it. The USDA’s Seasonal Produce Guide highlights what’s in season throughout the year. Try making a habit of trying a few new fruits and vegetables each season to expand your palette.
Channel your inner gardener. If your living space allows for a garden, consider growing your own produce. Gardening is a an easy way for anyone to unwind, get some sunshine and feel connected to a project. Invite your family or other household members to join you to make growing your garden a collective goal. If you’re just getting started, you can visit a local nursery or home and garden shop for starter plants.
Shop local. Shopping at a farmer’s market or farm stand in your area helps supports local business and is a quick way to add more color to your plate. Use the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory to find opportunities for fresh fruit and vegetables in or around your community. Consider inviting a friend or family member to go with you and then make a meal together.
Transform the ingredients. If you aren’t the biggest fan of some raw fruits and vegetables, review different recipes that call for creativity. Instead of munching on an apple as-is, consider making baked apple chips. Cauliflower is a great substitute for pizza crust and tater tots. Stock up on different spices, seasonings, dressing and marinades you like you like to use to make cooking different fruits and vegetables efficient.
For more ideas, visit the following resources:
- 5 Ways Series (USDA Choose My Plate): outlines five different ways to use different ingredients, including canned pears, frozen broccoli and berries; the USDA Start Simple with MyPlate mobile application is also a useful tool in helping you shape your nutritional habits application also helps notify you when you have not had all of your fruits and vegetables for the day
- How to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables (American Heart Association): discusses quick ways to include fruits and vegetables across each meal
- Health Promotion & Wellness Interactive Map (Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center): offers a map-based tool where individuals can type in an address and see nearby resources including farmer’s markets, recreational clubs and more
- Healthy Eating Tips (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): provides information about general considerations for nutrition, including how to reduce your sodium intake and eat healthy fats
- How to Eat Healthy (U.S. Health and Human Services): includes ways to add fruit and vegetables to your lunches for your loved ones and prepare healthy snacks