Six Servings of Vegetables/Fruits Per Day
Though fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and vital fluid, less than 30% of Americans consume the recommended five servings per day of fruits and vegetables. A 2013 Gallup poll on healthy eating found that just over half of Americans are eating 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables a least four days per week!
Factoring in economics and food deserts, one would think that low-income people would struggle to eat fruits and vegetables more than middle or upper class citizens. And that may very well be the case, since Gallup’s polls ask that participants self-identify their diets as “healthy” with no real standards or qualifiers.
I’ve witnessed that myself in online food groups where people think they are eating “healthy” chugging down fatty cheeses, saturated fat laden smoked meats, heavily processed prepackaged foods, and sugary desserts like “banana” bread and “carrot” cake and “sweet potato” pie. Collard greens drowning in bacon fat is considered healthy by many simply because it is a vegetable; eggs fried in butter are considered healthy because eggs are considered “good for you” sources of protein.
“While lower-income Americans are more likely to say they ate healthily than other income groups, they still eat fruits and vegetables less frequently than do Americans with higher incomes. And while the percentage of middle- and upper-income Americans who eat the recommended amount of produce is higher now than it was in 2008, the percentage of lower-income Americans who do is still virtually the same. Further, lower-income Americans are more likely to be obese than upper-income Americans, despite reports that they eat healthier. This disparity between reports of healthy eating and frequent produce consumption may be linked to an information gap, in which low-income Americans believe they are eating healthily, but are not effectively doing so. Upper-income Americans, who are more likely to have higher levels of education, may be more likely to keep up with news about nutrition. The fact that Americans overall ate less healthily in 2013 is especially troubling, particularly as the obesity rate reached a new high.” Gallup
Though the government is pushing five per day, and new research indicates that seven fruits/veggies per day provides the human body with the best nutrition, we’re going to split it down the middle and ask that you eat six servings of fruits and vegetables six days per week during the month of June.
Often can be very similar to the one you are accustomed to with a few easy modifications.
- Hot cereals: oatmeal with cinnamon, raisins, and/or applesauce
- All-Bran or muesli with nonfat soy or rice milk and/or berries, peach, or banana
- Apples, strawberries, bananas, oranges or other whole fruit
- Fruit salad topped with yogurt and a sprinkling of granola
- Whole grain pumpernickel or rye toast, topped with sauteed mushrooms
- Oven-roasted sweet potato “home fries” solo or smothered with “sautéed” mushrooms, peppers, and onions
- Add chopped dried apricots and a sliced banana to your breakfast cereal
- Grill tomatoes, mushrooms and peppers and serve with beans on toast.
- Make a smoothie by combining your favorite milk or yogurt, ½ cup frozen berries, and a frozen banana for a super easy blended breakfast with two servings of fruits.
- Stir berries (fresh or frozen) dried fruit, or peach slices into yogurt, cereal or oatmeal.
- Add a small glass (6 oz) of 100% fruit juice to breakfast – try fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
- Omelette stuffed with vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, red/green peppers, avocado, zucchini, or tomatoes and a sprinkling of cheese.
- Breakfast burrito or taco filled with “refried” beans, tofu scramble or scrambled eggs, dark green leafy lettuce or spinach, grated carrots, and fresh tomato or salsa
- Tofu scramble with tomatoes, kale or spinach, grated carrots, mushrooms, onions, cooked potato cubes, and peppers
- Pancakes or waffles breakfast: throw in a cup or two of fresh blueberries, and top your pancakes with sliced bananas or peaches
- No time to make breakfast? Don’t eat the fast food solution full of fat and sodium. Whole fruits are quick, require no preparation, and are perfect for an on-the-go meal. An apple, banana, orange, couple of apricots or plums, or tangerines are easily eaten on the way to work or school.
Whether you go out for lunch, bring lunch from home, or dine in, there are lots of healthy and delicious menu options from which to choose. Here are some meal ideas to get you started:
Garden salad with a variety of vegetables, topped with dressing of your choice
Legume-based salads: Three-bean, chickpea, lentil, or black bean and corn salads
Grain-based salads: vegetables tossed with a base of pasta, quinoa, couscous, bulgur, or brown/wild rice
Commercial bagged salads (look for fat-free or no-added-fat versions of dressings)
Vegetable-based soups: tomato, carrot-ginger, mixed vegetable, mushroom-barley, leek and potato, etc.
Legume-based soups: 9 bean, black bean, vegetarian chili, spinach lentil, chickpea, minestrone, split pea, black eyed pea and greens, etc.
Black or white bean spread, peppers, tomatoes, and lettuce wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla with rice and protein of your choice
Cucumber, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with Dijon mustard on pumpernickel or rye bread
Falafel sandwich tucked into whole wheat pita with grated carrots, sprouts, tomato and cucumber slices
Hummus or other bean spread on whole grain bread topped with tomatoes, avocados and romaine
Lettuce wrapped sandwich or burger – instead of bread or tortilla, make your sandwich or wrap inside crisp and crunchy leafy green lettuce. Use 3 or more large leaves of Bibb/Boston lettuce, romaine, red lettuce, cabbage or radicchio and pile on your regular sandwich fixins’.
Vegans and vegetarians will enjoy a black bean and sweet potato burrito with corn and tomatoes
Try a sandwich made with a meat alternative such as barbequed seitan, Lightlife Smart Deli turkey style, or whatever you prefer in the non-meat category, and pile on your favorite sandwich veggies
Emphasize vegetables and legumes and grains in all your meals. For many, the evening meal is a good place to try new items. Typically you might start with a bean, rice, or other grain or potato dish and add a couple of vegetables.
Use generous amounts of legumes. Pintos, vegetarian refried and baked beans, black beans, garbanzos, kidney beans
Potatoes: Favor sweet potatoes and yams, instead of white potatoes.
Grains: pasta, brown rice, boxed rice dishes, couscous
Breads: Pumpernickel, rye, or whole-grain breads are preferred. Avoid sweet breads that contain oil, eggs, or milk.
Try any vegetables you like.
Roasted with herbs
- Pasta with marinara sauce: Some commercial sauces are fine (any brand that has less than 2 grams fat per serving and is free of animal products).
- Cauliflower crust pizza loaded with vegetables
- Beans and rice: Try black beans with salsa, vegetarian baked beans, or fat-free refried beans.
- Soft tacos: Prepare this dish with a flour tortilla, beans, lettuce, tomato, and salsa.
- One pot spaghetti dinner: an easy to make dish with pasta, spinach and tomatoes.
- Fajitas: Lightly sauté or grill red, yellow and green bell peppers, onions, eggplant, or poblano peppers with fajita seasonings. Add your protein source and top with fresh made pico de gallo.
- Spaghetti squash with meatballs: Bake your squash and flake the strands with a fork into a bowl. Top with a chunky vegetable and tomato marinara sauce, or chicken mushrooms and spinach
- Vegetable Chili: Vegetarian boxed or canned versions are fine if you don’t want to make your own.
- Veggie lasagna: Made with low-fat tofu to replace the ricotta, layered with grilled veggies.
- Vegetable stir-fry: Season with soy sauce or other low-fat stir-fry sauce. Be sure to use a nonstick pan. Serve over pasta, beans, or rice.
- Fat-free vegetarian burgers: Look for lentil burgers or other commercial brands. BOCA burgers are popular and sold pretty much everywhere. We also have some great recipes here on the blog for black bean and chickpea burgers.
Fresh or cooked fruit
Fruit sorbet, gelato
Whole fresh fruit
Carrot, celery, or other raw vegetables with low-fat hummus
Vegetarian instant cups of soups (split pea, lentil, vegetable, tomato, etc.)
Baked tortilla chips with pico de gallo salsa
Other Meal Ideas for Increasing Vegetable Intake
Sneak in the Vegetables
A trick my aunt used to do way back in the 1970s to get my cousins to eat more vegetables: Chop peeled eggplant or grate zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, or parsnips, and add them to chili, meatloaf, meatballs, spaghetti sauce, stews, hamburgers, lasagna, taco meat, macaroni & cheese, enchiladas, etc. You can also add grated vegetables to baked goods, waffles and pancakes, Using more vegetables adds moisture, flavor and nutrition to your dishes. My vegetable-hating cousins were getting LOTS of vegetables and had no idea. Be creative!
Double the Vegetables in Any Recipe
Vegetables are included in dozens of recipes for soups, salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, pizza, pot pies, and casseroles. Try doubling or even tripling the amount of vegetables you use for a super dose of healthy vegetables.
Stuff Your Sandwiches With Vegetables
Most people eat a sandwich with meat, cheese, bread, and maybe a bit of lettuce and tomato. Bump up the vegetable content by adding sliced zucchini, cucumber, mushrooms, red or orange bell pepper, grated carrots, sprouts, etc. Go for it! Try The Beast Mode Overstuffed Sandwich.
Vegetablize Mashed Potatoes
Is that a word? I’m sure you know what I mean! Try a mixture of cauliflower and potatoes whipped up the same as you would your mashed potatoes tastes great and doubles your veggie intake effortlessly.
Try Meatless Monday for Meal Ideas
World wide people are involved in the Meatless Monday movement for better health and a better planet. By eliminating animal products from your diet even just one day per week, you lower your risks of cancer and heart disease, support sustainability, and save a few dollars to boot. The program offers tons of creative recipes full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Grill Your Meats and Veggies Too
Many of you will be enjoying backyard barbecues during the month of June as the warm summer months roll in. Don’t just throw a steak or burgers on the grill – throw on some zucchini, corn on the cob, or vegetable shish-ka-bobs too. Take a look at this recipe.
Start Dinner Off With a Small Salad
Two cups of dark green leafy lettuce like escarole, arugula or red leaf lettuce, (instead of iceberg or Romaine), along with ½ cup of fruit or vegetable toppings = 3 vegetable servings. Try to avoid the bacon, cheese and high fat dressings though. Try a heart-healthy dressing like this one.
Do it With Smoothies
Smoothies are so versatile and you can feel free to mix in whatever combination of fruits and vegetables you like. Fresh or frozen berries, bananas, apples, mangoes, payaya, pears, avocado, cucumber, and fresh green leafy vegetables all blend well together. A bit of ginger adds spicy undertones, and peppermint or mint leaves a minty fresh taste.
Just think… you can get all six of your fruit and vegetable servings in one smoothie! Another great thing you can try is instead of plain water, try using coconut water, or a bit of almond milk or yogurt for richness. Throw in some protein powder, nuts or chia seeds for a protein boost. Try to avoid using fruit juice though because we’re going after fiber this month, and fruit juice has far more calories than its worth.
Vegetable Chips vs Commercial Snack Chips
Doritos and Fritos are so 80s! Instead of packaged processed chips, switch to freshly made home made potato chips, kale chips, zucchini chips, carrot chips, or sweet potato chips – baked crisp in your oven. Check out this collection of veggie chip recipes.
Making your own vegetable chips is easier than you think, and best of all, you have complete control over the ingredients. For sturdy vegetables like potatoes and beets, use a food processor with a slicer attachment, or a mandoline, which will quickly and uniformly slice your veggies to various thicknesses.No matter what type of chip you’re making, the process is essentially the same—lay slices on a baking sheet, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and then bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through. Your homemade chips will stay fresh in an airtight container for several days, so make a large batch for plenty of guilt-free snacking.
Want to mix things up? Using the same preparation—brushing with olive oil and sprinkling whatever spice you like—you can make many variations of these delicious chips:
- Parmesan and Black Pepper Potato Chips: Instead of salt, sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper on one side of the potatoes. Proceed with baking.
- Seasoned Salt Potato Chips: Sprinkle with seasoning salt and proceed with baking; the seasoning salt imparts a barbecue-like flavor.
- Baked Sweet Potato Chips: Substitute one medium-size peeled sweet potato. Proceed with recipe above, altering the baking time to 22 to 27 minutes.
- Cinnamon Sweet Potato Chips: Substitute one medium-size peeled sweet potato. Sprinkle with cinnamon and salt for a warm and spicy flavor. Bake 22 to 27 minutes.
- Baked Beet Chips: Slice two medium-size beets 1/8-inch thick, place on baking sheet and lightly brush with oil. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 40 minutes.
- Baked Carrot Chips: Thinly slice two large carrots; place in bowl and toss with olive oil and salt. Lay slices on baking sheet and bake at 275 degrees F for about 30-35 minutes, checking often to make sure they don’t burn.
Category: Veganism and African Americans