We’ve all heard at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Yet, in all honesty, how many of us are meeting that goal? Not enough of us. According to a 2015 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a mere 13 percent of us are eating enough fruit – the required 1.5 to 2 cups daily. Vegetable intake is even worse – just nine percent of the nation is meeting the two-to-three cup daily recommendation.
Failing to meet our recommendations of daily produce can be harmful to our health. Plenty of research has shown a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of a whole host of diseases you really don’t want to get – cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, diverticulosis, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Getting and motivating people to eat more fruits and vegetables can be challenging. Like the old saying “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” also applies to those who know they should eat more produce but choose not to. Perhaps they could be persuaded if the fruits and veggies are “disguised” or “incorporated” into their favorite foods.
Listed below are some unconventional and original ideas for adding more pizazz to your intake of eating your fruits and veggies. This is not just simply “eat an apple” or “add banana slices to your cereal.” These are sneaky ideas of upping your daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables. Think of it as part dietary hide and seek but also a fun way to give favorite dishes a much needed nutritional boost.
· Turn oatmeal into your favorite breakfast by adding in pureed pumpkin or butternut squash for natural sweetness and mouth-pleasing creaminess.
· Instead of using mayonnaise on a sandwich, try smashed avocado in its place. This reduces calories while injecting necessary fiber and vitamins. Or try homemade pesto as a spread for a different and exciting taste change.
· Yogurt is always a good standby for adding in various items. Stir in any berry or banana along with chia or flax seeds packing it with health-promoting goodness.
· Jazz up your pancakes by stirring in grated carrot. Pair it with spices like cinnamon with a touch of maple syrup and you’ll think you’re eating a stack of carrot cake.
· Smoothies are always a favorite and sneaky way of adding in those necessary fruits and veggies. For anyone who won’t touch a spinach or kale leaf, whirl them into a smoothie along with frozen berries, tangy yogurt and creamy nut butters. They will never know.
· Next time you grill burgers or bake a meatloaf, beef up their nutritional power by mixing in sautéed mushrooms, or grated vegetables such as zucchini and beets, chopped spinach or diced, sun-dried tomatoes. Here’s an unusual one – stir in a handful of dried cherries for an unexpected yet pleasant sweet taste.
· Any chocolate baked goods such as brownies or chocolate cake are easy to add in items like avocado puree, sweet potatoes, or even beets. Just reduce the amount of fat and sugar and they’ll still maintain their fudgy consistency.
· Spaghetti squash is a great one to use in place of pasta. It has similar looks, taste and characteristics as pasta but without nearly as many carbs. Pretty much whatever you can do with pasta, you can do with spaghetti squash.
· Now, here is where you can have some real fun – serve up mashed cauliflower. Don’t even mention the word cauliflower and see if anyone can tell the difference between it or mashed potatoes.
· Salads are always a great way to pick up the pace of produce eaten. Feel free to add in whatever type of fruit or veggie you like. Think outside the box – instead of a usual salad of greens, tomatoes and carrots, throw in sliced apples, any dried fruit, orange segments, Kalamata olives, sliced avocado or mango, or add in a different leafy green such as turnip, mustard or collard greens.