The news is out – eating more vegetables and fruits is a simple way of dramatically improving one’s health. What has traditionally been mom’s wisdom in the past; today, is fast becoming modern food science. By eating the daily recommended amounts of veggies we greatly reduce our risk of a large number of diseases that plague Americans. Colon cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes are just a few diseases that are positively impacted by eating plenty of vegetables and fruits. Not only do we reduce our risk of illness, but we also can improve our lives by enjoying more energy, diminishing pain and inflammation, more easily regulating weight, and better promoting all bodily functions.
One note: We all like to eat! Don’t sacrifice taste just because it is “health food”. The bottom line is that if we don’t enjoy it we won’t eat it. Consulting recipes and cook books is a great way to go as there are some fantastic chefs who are focused on healthy foods. Your local food coop is a great resource for both high quality ingredients and books.
Here are some simple and easy ideas…
Everyone has heard that it is a good idea to start the day with a healthy breakfast. Smoothies are good choice for the active individual and provide a quick way to eat a nutrient packed meal.
Start with a good “base” – bananas are a great choice. Add any number of berries and fruits, the varieties here are vast: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, goji, pears, melons, cantaloupes, oranges, tangerines, mango, papaya, pineapple, apple, are all great choices. Then add your choice of liquids such as soy, rice, or nut milks. If you tend towards low blood sugar or want a little more substance you can add soy, rice, or whey powders, bee pollen, spirulina, or ground nuts and seeds. Ginger, black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, or cinnamon can provide extra flavor.
Salad, salad, salad!
Salads are one the easiest ways to get a wide variety of veggies and are an extremely convenient meal (a great way to avoid eating out at work). Start with a good base of leafy greens such as red leaf or green leaf lettuces, chard, spinach, kale, or cabbage and then pile it on! Shredded carrots, squash, or zucchini add color and flavor and are packed with nutrients. Varieties of sprouts, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, dried fruit, avocado, nuts, and seeds (low saturated fat varieties – sunflower, pumpkin, almonds, etc) give some zip and provide a larger variety of nutrients. If you need a little more protein in your meals consider adding a small portion of lean meat such as chicken or turkey.
Make sure to use a high quality salad dressing to avoid poor quality fats and additives. It is a good idea to make your own using oils such as olive oil as a base. Add a little vinegar (apple, rice, red wine, balsamic, etc), spices, citrus juice, or nut butter for an instant, healthy dressing!
The American standby – the sandwich
Another easy way to get a few portions of our daily vegetables, sandwiches are convenient and extremely portable. Just think of it as a salad between two pieces of bread! Try to use high quality breads such as the Ezekiel brand to provide extra nutrients. Avoid high fat cheeses and dressings and try a little avocado or tahini instead.
Although a little more involved than making a salad, soups are a great way to get a large variety of veggies. Vegetable soups are very healthy especially when made with a low fat stock. Chicken and vegetable, tomato, gazpacho, and butternut squash, are all tasty and extremely healthy. The varieties are endless and are only limited by ones’ imagination. Also, soup making is a very forgiving process that rewards creativity, so experiment and have fun!
Of course juicing is a fantastic way to get a large variety of vegetables and fruits. The styles and types of juices are endless and include a vast number of choices for ingredients. I think it is a good idea to not focus entirely on sweet veggies and fruits as that can result in way too much sugar in one setting. It is best to include lots of leafy greens and other low sugar vegetables. Additives such as wheat grass juice, spirulina, bee pollen, etc. are a great way to super charge your juice.
Everyone likes to snack and for some it is a downright necessity. It is a good opportunity to get another portion of fruits and veggies and provide a little energy boost. Try a little peanut or almond butter on apples or celery. Or perhaps some dried fruit with a small amount of nuts. Sea vegetables are a very healthy choice – toasted nori or dried dulse are very tasty and nutrient packed. A simple approach is to cut-up a whole bunch of raw veggies and eat them with a healthy dip like tahini, hummus, avocado and cilantro. Be creative with the dip or sauce to keep it interesting.