In my quest to lose weight, I started seeing a doctor of Chinese medicine referred to me by a friend. During my first visit, she told me, among other things, that I had to start eating 7 to 11 fruit and vegetable servings per day. I looked at her as if she had two heads, but I decided to give it a try. What did I have to lose but weight and years of not so healthy eating habits?
At first, it seemed impossible to even conceive of how to eat all those servings of fruits and vegetables in a single day. But then she handed me a sheet that said a serving equals a half cup of any vegetable or fruit, except lettuce, spinach, cabbage, collard greens, kale and the like. You need a full cup of those leafy veggies to make a serving since they are made of mostly water. A serving can can also be a piece of fruit (i.e. an apple, a pear, a plum, a nectarine) or 15 grapes or 6 baby carrots and so on and so forth.
When I left my doctor’s office the first time, my mind was reeling (partly because she also told me I had to stop eating dairy – but that is a topic for another day). Like the psychotic Type A person that I can be, I feverishly researched the issue, tormented myself and experimented until I finally figured out how to add 7-11 fruit and vegetable servings into my day without becoming a vegetarian and without it becoming a full time job.
The first thing I did was to get on the web and look for vegetable recipes. I knew that I would not be happy eating salads every single day and that I would need some help in that regard. I discovered that the Center for Disease Control (the “CDC”) is very serious about getting Americans to increase their vegetable intake. They have a fabulous website devoted to the issue that is filled with recipes for cooking meals containing all types of vegetables. For example, they have a recipe for a vegetable and chicken stir fry that gives you 3 servings of vegetables per meal. Have it over brown rice and you’ve got yourself a delicious and healthy meal while wiping out 3 of your 7 daily vegetable servings in one felled swoop. You can save the recipes you like from the site and print them out in a customized cookbook. It is unreal. See for yourself at www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov and click on the recipes box. I also discovered some great vegetable recipes on the Food Network website and later the Weight Watchers website.
After finding some vegetable filled recipes that I thought I would like, I had to make a plan to increase my fruit and vegetable intake. Now, I have it down to a science. On a typical day, I will have at least two servings of fruit before lunch. I make 5 one cup sized plastic containers of fruit salad on Sunday and throw a container into my lunch bag to eat as a mid-morning snack. I also throw in two pieces of fruit to snack on in the afternoon – usually an apple and a pear or a plum or a nectarine. Sometimes I throw a snack sized baggie containing 12 baby carrots (that’s 2 servings) or celery sticks and a tablespoon of hummus wrapped in foil into my lunch bag.
When I make a turkey wrap for lunch, I add a cup of baby spinach and a sliced plum tomato to my deli thin turkey meat and dijon mustard to bulk up the wrap (that’s 2 servings of veggies right there).
On the weekends, I make sure that I cook vegetable soup and sides I can pair with meals all week long. For example, Weight Watchers has recipes for vegetable soups which I have modified and made my own and the Food Network website has recipes for carrot soup (and others) that are delicious. The CDC website also has some. A cup of either yields 2 or more vegetable servings (more for pureed soups).
Sides of veggies are the easiest to make. For example, you can peel some carrots, cut them diagonally into two inch pieces, throw them into a bowl with a little olive oil and salt, coat them, then throw them onto a sheet pan, roast them in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes and throw a tablespoon of chopped dill over them when they are still warm (or not) and you will be a happy child. You can do the same thing with sweet potatoes (no need to peel and no dill).
You can take a 16 oz. bag of frozen peas and carrots or mixed vegetables, throw them into a pot with a little chicken broth, garlic powder, onion powder, and Goya Adobo seasoning (or a little salt) to taste and you have tasty side veggies to go with the rest of your dinner. You can take frozen broccoli, blanch it boiling water for a few minutes, take it out with a slotted spoon and throw it into a bowl of ice water to keep it green and stop the cooking, drain it and then throw it into a saucepan to saute with a little olive oil, chopped shallot (or onion) and garlic and a little Lawry’s to taste.
The point is that it doesn’t have to be hard, time consuming or even ridiculously expensive to work 7-11 fruit and vegetable servings into your diet. Frozen veggies give you the same bang for your buck as fresh, and canned pineapple works as well as fresh (as long as its not packed in heavy syrup).
The reward for this effort is youthful glowing skin, better health, increased energy, weight loss and for me, the beginning of the healing process after 22 years of smoking.
I hope you find this helpful.