We’ve all been told by our parents when we were growing up that we had to eat our fruits and vegetables. In fact, for some of us, that phrase has permanently been drilled into our memories. How important is it really, though?
Well, the answer to that question is that fruits and vegetables are very important. In fact, they’re vital for maintaining good health, in general. They also have some added benefits, too.
How Many Fruits and Vegetables to Eat
Today it’s recommended to eat five to thirteen servings a day. This is can vary form person to person.
That depends on a lot of factors, such as:
- General size
- Daily calorie intake
You also should consider if you are trying to maintain your current weight, lose weight or gain weight.
The Right Portion Size
When it comes to getting enough fruits and vegetables each day, there’s the question how to measure a serving. Many people assume a serving is a cup, but it’s actually half a cup. You also have to differentiate if you measure fruit or vegetables and what kind of fruit or vegetable it is.
Fruits and veggies come in three forms:
- leafy greens and dried fruits
You have to eat double the leafy greens to equal a serving. Yet, you have to eat half the dried fruit. That’s in relation to the standard half a measuring cup of fresh or cooked vegetables or fruits.
Added Benefits of Fruit
Fruits contain natural sugars. So, one benefit is that they are a sweet snack that is actually healthier than candy and cookies. That makes them wonderful to give children as snack foods. It also makes them great for anyone who is trying to lose weight and wants snacks that are nutritious.
In addition to all of that, though, fruits and vegetables can also prevent a lot of disorders and diseases, such as diverticulitis, a very painful disorder of the intestines. Eating vegetables and fruits each day has also been proven to reduce risks of both strokes and heart attacks. As if that weren’t enough, studies also show that eating fruits and vegetables can protect your vision by reducing your chances of cataracts and other eye problems.
Components of Fruits and Vegetables
As mentioned above, fruits and vegetables are full of healthy, natural sugars. They’re also full of some great other healthy components, though. For example, they’re rich in vitamins and minerals. They’re also full of antioxidants, which fight cell-damaging free radicals in our bodies. You would think that, doing all that, they’d be full of calories, too, but that’s the best part. Most fruits and vegetables are very low in calories.
A Word About Potatoes
A lot of people consider potatoes to be a vegetable. Well, technically, they are. However, from a health standpoint, you shouldn’t count them among your daily fruit and vegetable servings. The reason for that is that potatoes are made mainly of starch. They aren’t as rich in healthy components as other fruits and vegetables, though they can provide short bursts of energy.
How To Eat Your Daily Fruit and Vegetable Portions
Eating five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day can seem like a daunting task. The trick is to incorporate them into your diet in unique and interesting ways, though. Let’s take it meal by meal.
Two of the most popular breakfast foods around are a bowl of cereal and an omelet. Well, you can incorporate fruits and vegetables into both. The trick is substitution, not addition, though. For example, rather than topping a full bowl of cereal off with fruit, have three quarters of a bowl with fruit on top. You’ll be getting more benefits and less calories. You’ll also feel like your breakfast was more filling.
As for the omelets, you can put all sorts of healthy vegetables in them. In fact, you could have a different omelet every day. Sunday could be spinach day and Monday could be mushroom day and so on. That way, breakfast will always be both interesting and healthy.
Lunch substitutions are easy, especially if you like soups or sandwiches. All you have to do is replace a couple ounces of cheese or meat in your favorite sandwich or soup with lettuce, cucumber, tomato, onion or another favorite vegetable. Alternatively, you could avoid the soup or sandwich idea entirely and just have a salad. Make sure to go easy on the dressing.
As far as supper goes, the most important thing to remember is to eat plenty of vegetables. That may mean substituting some vegetables for less healthy pasta or rice. If you like cauliflower, that should be easy, since mashed cauliflower tastes a lot like potato and is much healthier. You can also substitute other vegetables, like broccoli or carrots, though.
Finally, remember that snacking isn’t off limits throughout the day. It just needs to be done in a healthy way. Apples, bananas and strawberries are just a few of the healthy snack options you could try. If you’re worried that you’ll forget your daily fruit snacks, try packing them in snack-sized bags ahead of time. You can also leave a bowl of fruit out on a counter where you have to pass it any time you plan to go out. Then, you’ll be well on your way to healthier eating.