100 Days of Fitness
VEGETABLES & FRUITS
by Lauren Squier, MPH, RD
Imagine if there were foods that improved your health, weight, immune system, and longevity. Would you eat them? The good news is these foods do exist! The bad news is we are not eating enough of them. Only 1 in 10 adults meet the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations. The federal guidelines vary by age, sex, and level of physical activity, however, the general recommendation for most adults is 2-3 cups of vegetables and 1.5-2 cups of fruits per day. TheKitchn.com has a great infographic that shows 10 ways to meet these daily guidelines.
Did you know?
Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help reduce the risk of many diseases including obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, water, fiber, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Check out WebMD’s “12 Powerhouse Vegetables You Should Be Eating” for top picks and suggested uses.
What are phytochemicals?
Phytochemicals are beneficial plant compounds found in vegetables, fruit, grains, beans, herbs, and spices. They help protect our bodies from cellular damage while stimulating the immune system. Phytochemicals vary based on the color of vegetables and fruit. Choose from all the color groups: red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple/black, and white/tan/brown.
How can I eat more phytochemicals?
Choose a variety of brightly colored vegetables and fruit to get maximum benefit. Fill at least half your plate with colorful fruit and vegetables. Try these tips to meet recommendations:
- Stock your fridge with pre-cut and ready-to-eat vegetables: sweet baby bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrot and celery sticks, roasted beets, salad greens, snap peas, grape tomatoes, jicama, and radishes.
- Eat a fruit and/or vegetable at every meal. Branch out! There are so many colorful fruits and vegetables to choose!
- Try new fruit and vegetable focused recipes: A Veggie Venture. Or check out our roasted vegetable suggestions below.
- Enjoy fruit for a snack…it’s nature’s original fast food!
- Snack on crunchy vegetables with dips or dressing. Prep a few baggies or food storage containers before the busy week starts.
- Dig into a giant salad for lunch or dinner. It’s a great way to get colors, healthy fats and protein in one place!
- Grab fruit and vegetables from a grocery store’s salad bar, soup pot or deli case, if you don’t have time to prep a healthy lunch.
- Add shredded or chopped vegetables such as onions, carrots, zucchini, and spinach to lasagna, meat loaf, casseroles, pasta, and rice dishes.
- Drink your veggies! A pro tip from our Trainer Lindsay, who likes to blend and sip coconut water with aloe, roasted beets, spinach, blueberries, lemon juice, and agave.
- Start soups, sauces and stews with mirepoix (a mix of onion, carrot and celery) that makes everything taste better! Find ready-made mirepoix in the Trader Joe’s refrigerated vegetable case.
- Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season – they have better flavor and are higher in nutrients.
Roast a tray or two of vegetables. Toss veggies with 1-2 tablespoons of avocado or coconut oil, salt & pepper (or your fave seasoning blend), and roast 20-30 min at 400-425 degrees. A few of our favorite combos:
- Butternut squash + red onion
- Broccoli florets + cauliflower florets + carrots
- Mushrooms + green beans + onions
- Fajita blend: onions + colorful bell pepper strips
- Tricolored potatoes + shallots
- Sweet potatoes + under-ripe pears
- Eggplant + zucchini + onion + tomatoes
- Asparagus + carrot sticks
At first it feels challenging to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, you have three or four opportunities each day to practice! Ask yourself at restaurants, the grocery store and before every meal: how can I add more vegetables? Your efforts will be rewarded with a new healthy habit. All of a sudden you are eating colorful fruits and veggies at meals and feeling great!
 Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Disparities in State-Specific Adult Fruit & Vegetable Consumption. 66(45);1241–1247 www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6645a1.htm?s_cid=mm6645a1_w
Questions about any of the above? Need more guidance? Email the expert! Lauren welcomes questions and is always happy to share more tips and tricks with anyone who asks so… ask away!
Lauren Squier, MPH, RD
Lauren Squier, MPH, RD, is a Registered Dietitian, trained chef and owner of Culinary Enlightenment. Lauren’s nutrition background and culinary skills provide a unique blend of resources to help people plan meals, shop, cook, and eat better. For more than a decade, she has been teaching nutrition to children, adults and families through healthy cooking and eating.
Read more about Lauren here. Check her website for more articles & recipes and come to bootcamp and talk to her in person about your nutrition challenges. She has a lot of knowledge and is always ready to share it.