A new study shows that people who eat fruits and vegetables 7 times a day can cut the risk of early death by 7 percent. Here’s how to do that every day without even trying.
By Brittany Linn
You’ve been told since preschool that getting five daily servings of fruits and vegetables is essential for health. Now…forget you ever learned that. It turns out, seven is the magic number, according to a new study from the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
Getting two more daily servings of fruits and vegetables, the researchers found, led to a 42 percent lower risk of death during the study period, a 25 percent reduction in deaths from cancer and a 31 percent dip in deaths from heart disease and stroke.
So how good are you at getting seven servings a day? Our American go-go-go lifestyle doesn’t exactly allow for a stroll through the farmer’s market during lunch break, or dining on a fresh green salad for dinner, while your children sit quietly enjoying their apples and oranges. However, there are simple ways you can fit fruits and veggies into your everyday menu.
To hit your seven every day, as recommend by the new research, try these easy tips and you’ll get your daily dose in no time! And remember to buy organic, not only to avoid pesticides and toxic chemicals, but also because organic agriculture is the best hope for a sustainable food supply that can feed the world.
• Keep them visible. If your fruit is in a bowl on the kitchen counter, you’ll be much more likely to grab it after your busy day, rather dive into the bag of chips hidden in the pantry.
• Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Make that a habit, as depicted on the new USDA food guide, and you’ll be well on your way to getting one to two servings in a single sitting.
• Eat them whole. The peels of most fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which many Americans are lacking in their diets. Eat them skin and all and you’ll be getting extra benefits. (Not recommended for bananas or pineapples.)
• Make them more interesting. Sauté some veggies with olive oil and add your favorite spices. Dunk them in your favorite dressing, hummus, or low-fat dip.
• Buy them small. Throw baby carrots or grapes into a bag and take them with you for an easy snack on the go. The tiny versions of most vegetables actually tend to be sweeter and have more flavor in each bite.
• Eat them in other places. Eating your fruits and veggies away from the table can make them seem less like a mandate and more like just another snack. Keep some grapes or cut-up carrots handy so you’ll have something to munch on while you’re surfing the Web, flipping channels, or talking on the phone.
• Have a shopping spree at the farmer’s market. When fresh fruits and veggies surround you, you’re more likely to purchase them. To stock up, hit a local farmer’s market first and buy as much of your food as you can there, where there’s less opportunity to also buy cookies or chips.
• Go ahead and slurp your soup. Soup is a satisfying way to serve up some vegetables if you’re looking for new menu options. Try this recipe for fresh pea soup, or keep a cool kitchen with a summer gazpacho.
• Put them in muffins and breads. Grate some carrots or scoop dried cranberries or raisins into your next batch of baked goods to add another fruit serving to your day. Try some Spicy Carrot Muffins, Zucchini Apple Bread, or Blueberry Bread.
• Do your homework. Knowing about the benefits of a certain fruit or vegetable will actually make you more inclined to eat it. If you’re in need of a crash course, visit the new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website to get all your questions answered!
• Cook more meals at home. Cooking at home more often gives you the option to use healthier ingredients, and it saves you money, too. If the time constraints of cooking cramp your style, try these 11 healthy, tasty no-cook recipes.
• Make substitutions. When you’re in the supermarket, always head straight to the fresh produce section, since whole, unprocessed fruit is the ideal way to get every nutrient benefit. But whenever you can’t seem to get your hands on the real thing, opt for healthy substitutes, like sugar-free applesauce or no-sugar or -salt-added vegetable juices.
• Whip up some smoothies. Whether it’s strawberry-banana, green tea and blueberry, or a fruit and veggie mix, smoothies are an easy way to drink up your fruit and veggie servings.
• Add them to entrées. With some experimenting, you can probably find plenty of opportunities to sneak some veggies into recipes you already make. Some ideas: adding cut-up veggies to a pasta dish or stuffing chicken or fish with spinach, garlic, and spices.
• Have some salsa. Snack on chips and fresh salsa, or add salsa to a salad or recipe. Make all kinds of homemade healthy salsa using our salsa-making tips and recipes.
• Grill ’em. At your summer barbecue, next to your standard grill-friendly foods, slice up a pineapple, peach, eggplant, or zucchini, and grill those, too! See our collection of veggie-heavy meatless grilling recipes for more ideas.
• Buy fresh, eat fast. If you buy fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll only have a few days to eat them before they go bad. This could very well be motivation to put them on your plate ASAP.
• Try them dried. Even though eating fresh fruits will give your body more nutrients with less processed sugar, you can enjoy a small amount of dried fruit as a snack or salad topper and get almost as many vitamins and minerals as are in the fresh kind. Make sure you are aware of the portion size, though, because most times it’s only a quarter cup.
• Have your cake with fruit. If you top your ice cream, pie, or cake with fresh berries, that counts as a serving, believe it or not. That’s not an excuse to eat extra dessert, of course, but it does make your dessert a more healthful. A better way to think of it is to have your fruit with cake. The majority of the treat should involve the healthy stuff.
• Buy them prepackaged. If it’s the hassle of preparation that’s holding you back from eating your veggies, buy them pre-chopped, pre-peeled, or in premade salads.
• Try a healthy app. Next time you sit down at a restaurant, try a starter salad instead of a calorie-packed appetizer. That way, you will initially fill up on vegetables, and have less room for the extra fat and calories in the main course. Since most restaurant portions are way too big, bring home the extra to enjoy at another meal.
• Buy them frozen. Fruits and vegetables have just as much nutrition when they’re as they do when they’re fresh. Keep a few bags in your freezer so they are always available to dine on.