All our lives we are told to eat our fruits and vegetables, yet so many of us don’t. Are fruits and vegetables even really that important? In short, yes, they are. A healthy diet is vital in addition to exercise to live a healthy lifestyle. By eating more fruits and vegetables, you will be helping to reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers.
Vegetables and fruit are naturally low in fat and calories. They are also chock full of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fibre that are important to keep your body functioning correctly and well. This is why it is so important to eat the rainbow! Meaning that you should be eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in a variety of colours because they help your body in different ways. For example, vegetables and fruits high in potassium like bananas and sweet potatoes, may help to lower blood pressure. Dietary fibre helps to reduce cholesterol which in turn decreases your risk of heart disease. In addition, fibre in fruits and vegetables can give you a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. This means that vegetable and fruit heavy diets may help decrease calorie intake if they replace calorie heavy portions of your meal.
The benefits of fruits and vegetables only work if you eat them. Eating more fruits and vegetables does not have to be hard. Below are a few tips on how to eat more of them:
- Sneak more vegetables into sauces and soups – add some vegetables to your favourite pasta sauces and soup recipes. Adding vegetables will add some flavour and some extra nutrition without changing anything too much. If the recipe already calls for vegetables, try doubling them.
- Sneak vegetables and fruits into sweets and desserts – dessert is supposed to be sweet but so are many fruits! Fruit as a dessert, even if dipped in chocolate, is a healthier alternative to the high sugar and fat sweet treats we all love. However, you can indulge less guiltily by sneaking some vegetables or fruit into your baked goods. For example – sweet potatoes in brownies, zucchini/courgette bread, or even avocado pudding!
- Smoothies (vegetables and fruit) – smoothies are a nice healthy breakfast or snack. Try using frozen fruit and not adding any ice cream or sugar. If you really want to go the extra health mile, add some kale, carrots, or spinach to get extra nutrients.
- Vegetable main course/focus – think about having the main focus of your meal be the vegetables. By putting vegetables as your main course, you are likely to eat more of them instead of other higher calorie or less healthy options.
- Try cooking in new ways – Some people get bored of vegetables or dislike them. Experiment with cooking vegetables in new ways. Instead of boiling your carrots and potatoes, try roasting them in the oven or try courgette noodles instead of pasta. There are lots of fun ways to cook vegetables online.
- Spices and herbs – Vegetables aren’t everyone’s favourite taste so liven them up with some herbs and spices to ensure that you enjoy the taste and want to eat more of them.
Just as an end note, there are a few things to avoid when trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.
- Processed fruits with added sugars. Check canned and frozen fruit and vegetables for these issues. Frozen is often a good choice along with fresh.
- Processed vegetables and soups with too much added sodium. This is mainly a concern for canned vegetables and soups. If your doctor has told your that you should reduce sodium, look for low sodium options and check to see if the ingredients include salt.
- Drinking too much fruit juice. Fruit juice is high on sugar and low on fibre so it’s best to keep fruit juice at one serving a day.