It’s almost April! While this means that National Nutrition Month (March) is winding down, it doesn’t mean that you should stop focusing on ways to eat better. At Tufts, the “I heart Veggies” campaign took place, putting focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Most of you know that fruits and vegetables are good for you. And many of you know that you don’t eat enough of them. But how do you get enough? And what is enough?
If you feel overwhelmed by trying to eat the recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day, don’t fret – you’re not alone. Here is a simple explanation of what a serving of fruits and vegetables is, as well as 10 simple ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet without extra time, effort, or cost. Whether you’re eating in the dining hall, cooking your own meal, or going out to eat, you can still get what you need by incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine.
5 or more servings
The United States Department of Agriculture recommends eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day for overall health. The simplest technique for determining serving size is by remembering that one serving of fruits and vegetables is approximately the size of your fist. Half a banana, a small apple, a handful of grapes or carrots, a tennis-ball-sized spoonful of peas or corn – these are all about a serving. Don’t stress about exact size – just remember the fist rule and approximate.
1. Throw some fruit on your cereal
Banana slices, strawberries and blueberries all make for an easy and delicious addition to your morning bowl of cereal or oatmeal. Bananas are generally the least expensive, but supermarkets often have 2-for-1 sales on berries that make them an affordable option
2. Try fruit with yogurt for a quick breakfast or snack
Anything you can add to cereal is also delicious with yogurt. Fresh fruit sweetens up plain yogurt, but without added sugar. Adding frozen fruit (go for the ones without added sugar) makes for a cool treat, and it lasts in your freezer for a long time. Chopped melon, which is often available in the dining hall, is also great with yogurt.
3. Add veggies to your eggs
Spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, broccoli, and artichoke hearts all add great flavor to scrambled eggs or an omelet.
4. Grab a piece of fruit as you run out the door
Fruit makes a great snack in class, on the subway, or at work. It’s easy to throw in your pack and it fills you up.
5. Add veggies and fruits to your sandwich
Love your daily sandwich? Add some cucumber slices for a crunch, tomato slices for taste, sprouts for texture, and lettuce or spinach for some color. Pepperoncinis and hot peppers add a delicious kick if you’re in an adventurous mood. Fruit is also great in sandwiches – try apple slices with cheese and honey mustard or pear slices with turkey and pesto.
6. Pack veggies as a snack
Carrots and snap peas are two great options to satisfy a hunger urge in the middle of the day. Cucumber and zucchini slices and cherry tomatoes are also good. Pack a little fat-free ranch dressing or hummus for dipping if that makes raw veggies more appealing.
7. Add vegetables to pasta
If you use red sauce, you’re off to a good start. You can boost your veggie count and the flavor by adding fresh tomatoes, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, eggplant, or anything else you can think of. If you’re in the dining hall, microwave veggies from the salad bar for a minute and stir them in with pasta. Edamame adds some color as well, and is a great source of protein. If you’re a mac and cheese lover, try adding green peas or a can of diced tomatoes with chilies. You can’t go wrong!
8. Top pizza with vegetables or fruit
Anything you add to pasta, you can also put on top of pizza. Even if you’re just pulling a store-bought pizza out of the freezer, you can spruce it up by adding any type of vegetable. In addition to veggies, you can also add pineapple if you’re having ham on pizza, or try pear slices with goat cheese. Sweet potato is also surprisingly good on pizza. Be creative!
9. Try a stir-fry for dinner
The best thing about stir-fry is that it tastes delicious no matter what’s in it. Carrots, bok choy, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini or squash slices, snap peas, and baby corn are common options to throw in the frying pan with a little stir-fry sauce and serve over rice. Or try some different veggies like kale, sweet potato, turnip, beets, or edamame.
10. Have fruit for dessert
Before you stop reading, hear me out – fruit doesn’t have to spoil the fun of dessert! Add fresh or frozen berries to mousse or ice cream. Sear bananas in a splash of canola oil and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar and add a dollop of whipped cream. Try poached or baked apples or pears with some cinnamon sugar and lemon. A wedge of ripe melon, half a grapefruit, or apple slices drizzled with honey are all great lighter options for a sweet after-dinner treat that add to your 5-a-day and don’t leave you feeling stuffed.
Hopefully now you’re feeling empowered to eat your fruits and veggies! The key is to think about adding color anywhere you can. Challenge yourself to see how many different colors or different fruits and vegetables you can eat in one meal. And remember to start with small changes that fit your college lifestyle, habits, and personal preferences. There are hundreds of fruits and vegetables out there – be creative, be brave, try some new things, and figure out what you like.
By: Ashley Carter
Editor: Kate Sweeney