This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.
There's a reason we've been hearing "don't forget to eat your veggies and fruits" since we were old enough to eat solid foods. Fruits and vegetables are powerhouses of beneficial vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants that are vital to human development and the fight against chronic illnesses.
The benefits of a diet balanced with the right fruits and vegetables are abundant for all ages. But it hasn't always been easy to find the right balance until now. If eating healthier by adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is your New Year's resolution, you may be surprised at just how easy it is to pull off.
Want more tips? See the best foods for kidney health, 8 tips to quit drinking alcohol and 5 reasons to add more carbs into your diet.
Easy ways to add fruits and vegetables to your meals
A 2021 study revealed that five servings of most fruits and vegetables (excluding starchy vegetables and fruit juices) each day were associated with lower mortality. Fruits and veggies are commonly rich in vitamin B, C, A, E, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and folic acid.
More good news: Adding immune-boosting fruits and vegetables to your meals doesn't have to be difficult, bland or boring. Here are eight easy and delicious ways to get started eating more fruits and vegetables today.
Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables
Regardless of how you prefer your fruits and veggies prepared, simply make sure they make up half of every meal.
There is no need to give up your favorite recipes. Instead, enjoy half your plate of a favorite recipe and the other half of the plate full of fruits and veggies. And if you really want to up your nutrition game, consider swapping out a less-than-healthy dessert for a couple of servings of delicious fruit.
Eat dried fruit as snacks
Although fresh fruit is a better option, dried fruit can be a great snack in moderation. A small serving of raisins, dried bananas, dried apricots or dried strawberries can be a great snack on the go.
Remember that it takes much less dried fruit to get the same sugar as you would from a fresh piece of fruit. It's also easy to overdo dried fruit because it contains less water, and it won't fill you up as fast. So measure out the intended serving size instead of snacking directly from the bag. Also, be sure to look for dried fruits with no added sugars.
Keep fresh fruit in a bowl in your kitchen
Without a doubt, most of us are creatures of convenience. Try keeping fresh fruit in an easily accessible place in your kitchen, like a bowl, so it's visible and easy to grab. You can do the same thing with certain vegetables that don't require refrigeration, like cherry or grape tomatoes.
Make stir-fries with plenty of vegetables
Have you ever cooked leafy greens like spinach and noticed that cooked greens take up a lot less space than fresh ones? Most fresh vegetables contain such a large amount of water that when cooked, they decrease in size significantly. This makes vegetables the perfect candidates to be ingredients in your next stir fry.
Try a hearty helping of dark leafy greens like spinach and kale, and then chop up things like carrots, broccoli, bell peppers, water chestnuts and onions to stir fry. Stir fries are easy ways to get multiple servings of vegetables in one meal.
Check your local farmer's market
Your local farmer's market is probably a jackpot of perfectly fresh and in-season vegetables and fruits.
If you think seasonally, you can pick out the best times to get your favorites and also try some new ones. For example, depending on your location, a fall farmer's market may be full of things like pumpkin, butternut and acorn squash, leafy greens, beets and Brussels sprouts. At a summer market, you may find things like cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, yellow squash, beans, berries and other fruit.
Add fresh fruit to any dessert
What's a cobbler without fresh fruit? If you make a peach or berry cobbler, toss an extra serving or two of fresh fruit on top at the end.
Even if your dessert of choice doesn't call for it, consider adding a serving or two of fruit that pairs well. For example, strawberries are a great addition to chocolate cake or cheesecake. Peaches and berries are excellent additions to yogurts and most cakes.
Substitute bread for lettuce wraps
Most white bread is pretty low in essential nutrients when compared to fruits and vegetables. But a sandwich needs something, right? Large-leaf lettuce or cabbage to the rescue.
Next time you're making a big, yummy sandwich, consider swapping the bread for lettuce or cabbage.
Have a side salad with dinner
A side salad is a great way to add extra vegetables and fruits to any meal. Whether you're cooking at home or dining out in a restaurant, a side salad is almost always an affordable option.
Get creative with your side salads. Add lots of vegetables, of course, but toss in some fruit, too. Apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries and other berries are great additions to most salads.
Studies show that people who eat five servings of fruit and vegetables per day are at lower risk for heart disease or stroke, cancer, respiratory disease or any other cause of death.
The nutrients and vitamins in fruits and vegetables are indeed linked to good health, and who doesn't want to live their best life with optimal health and wellness? The best part is that there are many ways to get your fruits and veggies covered in every meal with little cost and effort.
Let your food work for you this new year.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.