I am soooo excited for today’s post! Not only is the topic one of special request, it’s also one that I believe to be extremely practical & beneficial for everyone.
Whether you’re a fruitarian, vegan, carnivore, omnivore, cheese-itarian, paleo eater, ketogenic dieter, or junk food-itarian we can ALL AGREE that more fruits & veggies = better health. There is nothing in this world better to eat than fresh fruits & vegetables… nature’s perfect foods filled with only goodness. The goal is to crowd out unhealthy foods with whole, natural foods. The more fruit & veg in your diet, the less room there is for other food.
But for some reason, fruits & veggies are intimidating to many people. Shoppers are scared to buy any produce outside of their normal iceberg lettuce, apples, carrot sticks, and bananas. Some people believe fruit will make them fat or that the sugar in fruit will cause them to become diabetic, not understanding that fructose is not the same as processed white sugar (see video here.) Others believe eating healthy is too expensive.
And others… simply don’t like the taste of fruits & vegetables (WHAT? HOW?!)
So, whether you’re trying to lose weight, improve your health, raise healthy children, or learn to LOVE natural foods, these tips are for you….(recipes at the end) Here is my beginner’s guide to fruits & veggies:
Start with small changes. Small changes (when performed consistently) evolve into big changes & big changes produce big results.
By now, you probably know that I’m an all or nothin’ kinda girl. I don’t recommend that attitude when it comes to this. Why? Because small changes lead to big changes & small changes seem to be more attainable for most.
- Start your day with water. Whether that’s 8 ounces or an entire liter (which is what I do & recommend) you can’t go wrong with hydrating your body first thing. If you are a morning coffee drinker, make yourself finish at least one glass of water before reaching for that coffee. If you are a morning soda drinker, maybe that glass of water will quench your thirst enough that you realize you don’t need that soda.
- ADD ONE SERVING OF FRUIT/VEG EVERY TIME YOU EAT. This is honestly sooo simple. Here are a few ways to accomplish this task:
- With breakfast, add a sliced banana or large cup of berries to your cereal/oats. If you eat toast, top it off with smashed berries or nut butter with slices of banana. Better yet, make a smoothie to have as either your meal or in addition to your normal fare. OR have a large bowl of simple fruit.
- With lunch, pack whatever fruit your crave as a side. Add some sliced bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, and lettuce to your sandwich or wrap.
- Snack-time, instead of a bowl of chips or per-packaged bar keep it simple with a banana, pear, orange, nectarine, plum, bowl of pineapple, melon, grapes…the list goes on. Have a big serving of fruit until you feel satisfied & I promise you won’t even want anything else. Another great snack idea is a bag of raw veggies with some kind of dip such as hummus, salsa, bean dip, guacamole. Crisp romaine hearts make a perfect chip/taco/boat/vehicle & are a delicious way to get more greens into your diet. (re
- With dinner, eat a piece of fruit & a salad BEFORE the rest of your meal. If you fill your stomach with the most healthy, fiber-rich foods first you are more likely to eat more of them. Taking up room in your stomach with the right foods leaves behind less room for the wrong foods. Even if you’re eating pizza you can top it with loads of veggies like peppers, onions, mushrooms & spinach. Don’t like your salad on the side? Mix it in! You can put anything on top of a bed of greens!
- Dessert, fruit IS dessert!! Let’s replace that bowl of ice cream with a bowl of nice-cream made from blending frozen bananas with a little water/non dairy milk & a splash of vanilla extract. This is a dessert that you will love while it loves you back! You can eat nice cream any time of the day 🙂
Shop in season; check the sales ads; support local farmers.
Grocery shopping is overwhelming. The time, cost, effort, & planning can make eating healthy seem totally not worth it. But, I promise grocery shopping can be SOO simple & affordable if you just know how.
- PLAN! I always go to the store with a plan in mind or list in hand. Sometimes the fruit/veg that I planned to buy doesn’t look great or I see something I would rather have…that’s ok! It’s still important to have a game plan. If you’re shopping for your family, sit down with your spouse/kids & have a discussion about the foods they desire for the week. When you plan as a family it gets everyone more excited about the food & more likely to try/enjoy new things. I prefer to grocery shop 2 times a week because produce stays fresher that way, but do whatever works for you. If you have a home with 2 adults and 2 children, all of whom are eating at least 1 serving of fruit/veg each time they eat… you would need 12-16 pieces of produce per day. Do some simple calculations before heading to the store.
- Buy in season. You will find the best prices on the produce which is in season. I like to check the sales ad for Kroger & Aldi to help me determine where I can find the best deals. Personally, I love to shop from local produce stands, the farmer’ market, & our local wholesaler. If you live in Hardin Co. check out Bud’s Produce! I thought they only sold to businesses but actually anyone can buy produce from them. I get my produce up to 50% cheaper from Bud’s than I can at the grocery store. If you consume a lot of fruits & vegs, I highly recommend buying from the friendly folks at Bud’s.
- Don’t be afraid of the ugly stuff. Sometimes you can score awesome deals on bruised produce…usually there is nothing wrong with it other than the fact that it’s a little ugly. Always check for discounted ugly fruits/veg if you’re trying to save money.
- Try something new! Take a walk through the produce section & admire every bright color, fresh smell, & beautiful site. Take some time to touch & smell whatever looks appealing. Don’t be scared to try something new! More than likely (especially if it’s fruit) you will end up loving it.
- Frozen is a great option. Can’t afford fresh? Don’t wanna deal with having to wash & chop? Consider buying frozen. Frozen produce is picked then frozen at its peak, meaning frozen varieties may actually be higher in antioxidant/nutrient value than the fresh variety which has been sitting on the store shelf. There are so many different blends of frozen vegetables that need only to be steamed in the microwave. Seriously…no excuses people! Buying frozen fruit is also great to have for making smoothies, nice creams, and other sweet frozen treats.
- Stay out of the center aisles. The center aisles largely contain those bad for you, packaged, processed, junk type foods. If you stay on the outside sections/aisles of the store you’re more likely to buy good things!
- Buy more than you think you’ll need. This may sounds like an unwise move, BUT, nobody likes wasting money. If you fill up your home with loads of fresh produce you have no other choice but to eat it up! Also, I feel like the typical portion sizes for fruits & veggies are so incredibly small & honestly nobody feels satisfied from half a banana or one small orange. Don’t be afraid to let yourself eat to satisfaction on solely fruits & veg even if it seems like a lot. If your meal is entirely bananas eating 4-6 of them is not that much!
How to prevent waste:
- Freeze your extra ripe fruit that isn’t getting eaten. Have you ever had a snack of frozen grapes? Delicious! When your grapes are on their last leg simply throw them into a plastic bag & stash in the freezer. When bananas are almost over ripe, meaning the tip is completely black (NOT when they have a few spots; bananas need to be eaten when they are totally spotty with a dark tip) slice them, put in a plastic bag/container & store in your freezer to have on hand for nice cream or smoothies.
- Freeze your extra greens. Yes you can freeze spinach, kale, romaine, collards, etc. They are the perfect addition to a smoothie, soup, or sauce. In addition you can sautee them with garlic or steam them up as a delicious side dish.
- Display your fruits/veggie in an eye catching way. Whatever is in your line of vision, that is what you will grab for in those moment of hunger. Put your fruit in a pretty bowl on the counter; have freshly washed/chopped produce in your line of vision in the fridge. You want your healthy foods to be as easy & convenient to eat as that bag of chips in the cabinet. Maybe that means spending an extra 15 minutes after you grocery shop, to wash your grapes, cut your melons, slice your peppers cucumber & tomatoes, or mix up a huge tossed salad for the week. In addition, don’t keep junk foods out on the counter.
- Make a soup, sauce and/or stock. Those ugly carrots, half of an onion, leftover potatoes, & celery are the perfect ingredients to make a homemade veggie stock that you can keep on hand in the fridge or freezer to use as a base for many meals. Sauteeing & roasting veggies in stock is a healthy, tasty substitute for oil. Soups, especially of the pureed variety, are an easy way to use up extra ingredients. Sauces, like my homemade pasta sauce (recipe below) are an easy way to hide a plethora of veggies from picky eaters while serving something familiar & beloved.
Simple recipes… even your picky eater will enjoy.
Ideally, I think everyone should eat plant based with a high emphasis on raw living foods! Yet, these recipes are for EVERYONE & can be enjoyed on their own or in addition to any diet. Remember: the more we crowd our plates with fruits & veggies, the less we will eat of the not-so-good stuff.
SMOOTHIES: the combos are endless but I’m keeping it real basic
**The Green Dreamsicle Smoothie
2 Frozen banana
1 cup Kale/spinach
3/4 cup water, coconut water, or milk of choice
Optional: frozen mango, berries, cucumber, non-dairy milk
- Wash/peel/roughly chop ingredients.
- Add everything to blender; blend smooth.
- Drink immediately or put in the freezer until ready to drink.
Make ahead option for smoothies: store in freezer in individual freezer bags, place in fridge to thaw overnight. Pour into glass in the morning and take on the go. OR: Use freezer friendly plastic cups with lid, add to your child’s lunch box frozen (instead of a cold pack) and it will thaw in time for lunch.
2 cups frozen banana slices
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼-1/2 cup milk of choice (almond or coconut is best!) or water
- Add all ingredients to blender jar.
- Process until smooth & thick.
- Good additions include nut butter, strawberries, shredded coconut, cinnamon.
Adapted from Plantily.com
**Mango Green Smoothie
1 ½ cups frozen mango pieces
1 ripe banana
1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
¾ cup milk of choice or water/coconut water
- Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
Recipe from WellPlated.com
**Berry Blast Smoothie
2 cups frozen mixed berries (or 1 cup strawberry, 1 cup blueberry)
2 fresh nectarines
1 cup milk of choice or water/coconut water
½ cup chopped carrot
- Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately.
1 can chickpeas (drained, rinsed)
1 can or 2 cups peas (drained, rinsed or thawed is using frozen)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
*May need 1 tablespoon water to thin.
- Add all ingredients to blender jar.
- Blend smooth to the consistency of hummus.
- Store in the fridge. Eat it with veggie dippers such as carrot sticks, cucumber slices, sweet bell pepper slices, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, etc.
- Lunch ideas: spread on bread, tortilla or wrap with sliced avocado, lettuce, tomato, & pepper for a super nutritious vegetable sandwich.
- Pack in individual container along with apple slices & veggie slices as an easy, healthy side to lunch or a snack option.
If you don’t care for peas try using carrots or tomato or 1 can of beets! Also avocado & sweet potato make great options. Mix it up with different spices!
Adapted from MyFussyEater.com
2 fresh mangoes (skinned & chopped)
2 medium tomatoes
1 stalk of celery
1/2 red bell pepper
- Add all ingredients to blender jar. Blend until smooth.
- Use as a dressing for your salad or dip for raw veggies such as romaine hearts, celery, cucumbers, radishes.
**Veggie Pasta Sauce
4 cans diced or stewed tomato
2 can tomato paste
2 zucchini, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Lots of basil, oregano, parsley, minced garlic
dash of cayenne pepper or paprika
juice of half lemon
optional: literally any veggie goes great in this sauce! I’ve added in cauliflower, squash, lima beans, & green beans.
- Wash & chop veggies
- Add all ingredients to crockpot
- Cook on low 6 hours or high 2-3
- Leave chunky or blend smooth for picky eaters.
- Serve with whole grain pasta, or use as pizza sauce. Also makes a great base for “meatless sloppy joes” made with beans.
- Leftovers get better with time in the fridge, sauce also freezes well.
Soups: so easy, so good
4 thoughts on “Beginner’s Guide to Fruits + Veggies”
Love all this, Mal. Your hard work is an encouragement to many.
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Never doubt that you are a blessing! I love reading your posts and they have really encouraged me. Your medical issues have made me count my blessings of pretty good health. Your determination has given me strength to do better and get stronger. Keep it going!!!! Bring it on!!!!
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