If you’re like most Americans, you’re not eating enough fruits & vegetables. In fact, fewer than 15% of individuals meet the daily intake recommendations for fruit and fewer than 90% meet the recommendation for vegetables consumption according to Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee national consumption data.1 In addition, regular exercise – a key part of a healthy lifestyle – increases your need for nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. Aim for a baseline of 2.0 cups equivalent of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily. 2
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, eating more fruits and vegetables provides nutrients associated with decreased risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and some cancers. As a partner of the Together Counts™ program for healthy, active living we also realize there are many factors that can hamper intake of fruits and vegetables at meals, including: convenience, taste and affordability. The good news is that frozen fruits and vegetables can offer a solution for boosting intake at meals and snacks throughout the day.
Try these 7 suggestions to increase your intake of fruits & vegetables:
1. Cereal: Adding a handful of frozen berries, like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or cherries is a great way to boost nutrients and fiber of whole-grain cereals. This includes hot oatmeal or ready-to-eat bran flakes in the morning. Start your day right by adding a burst of colorful fruits!
2. Smoothies: Drinking your fruits and veggies is a quick and easy way to pump up your overall produce intake. Frozen berries add sweetness, while frozen spinach can add a zest of green without impacting flavor. Choose your favorite protein powder, add milk, soymilk, water or yogurt and blend in your favorite frozen fruits and veggies. There are endless combinations to try!
3. Soups: Whether you’re making your own soup from scratch or opening a can/container of prepared soup, adding a few additional frozen vegetables makes a hearty addition to a lighter meal. Frozen beans or legumes, peas, string beans, corn, broccoli and carrots are just a few colorful and nutrient-packed choices that go well with a variety of soups!
4. Macaroni & Cheese: A classic dish loved by children and adults, macaroni and cheese is a meal that can be nutritionally balanced by adding a side of vegetables or mixing them right in! Frozen cauliflower can add texture and blends-in nicely.
5. Stir-Fry Meals: If you’re on a budget and want a meal that goes a long way, consider stir-frying a mixture of frozen vegetables you have on-hand, such as onions, carrots, peppers, broccoli and edamame (green soybeans). Adding a small amount (3 oz. or 1 serving of meat) of chicken, beef or fish creates a satisfying, wholesome meal.
6. Peanut Butter & Jelly: Snack attack! Take a twist on a traditional sandwich by adding (defrosted) frozen fruit like mango, pineapple or berries to your PBJ sandwich. Your taste buds will thank you!
7. Side Dishes: Trends towards more convenience foods, and preparing meals with fewer ingredients have left Americans falling short in consuming adequate vegetables at the dinner table. A simple shift towards adding a side-dish of steamed frozen vegetables at the evening meal is a budget-friendly, smart choice to boost overall nutrition.
Stock up your freezer with varieties of fruits and vegetables and boost your intake of produce for a healthier new year. To learn more about your daily recommendations of fruits and vegetables, visit www.Choosemyplate.gov.
Barbara Ruhs is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and the owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC. She works with food industry partners and supermarkets to improve public health. Barbara is a partner of the National Frozen & Refrigerated Foods Association and Easy Home Meals.
For more healthy mealtime options take a look at these other articles from Together Count!
- 8 Simple Ways to Healthfully Transform Leftovers Using Frozen Foods
- 5 Ideas to Get Kids to Eat Healthy
- Top Food Trends for 2016
- Food and nutrient intakes, and health: current status and trends. In: Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. February 2015. http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/PDFs/Scientific-Report-of-the-2015-Dietary-Guidelines-Advisory-Committee.pdf. Accessed April 7, 2016.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Key elements of healthy eating patterns. In: Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.