Fitting Fresh Fruits and Veggies into Your Life: Six Simple Tips
Yesterday, I spent 30 minutes on a park bench peeling grapes and feeding them to my 1-year-old son. As my hands got stickier and the pile of green peels turned brown in the sun, I thought to myself that I would never be willing to work this hard for my own grapes. Sure, I’ve been known to take my time digging chocolate chip cookie dough chunks out of a pint of Häagen-Dazs or picking M&M’s out of a bag of trail mix. But, when it comes to fruits and veggies, they practically have to jump in my mouth on their own for me to eat them. If I have to wash, peel, cut, and especially cook them each time I eat them, they’re not going to make their way into my diet very often.
We all know we are supposed to eat our fruits and veggies. More and more research shows that they keep us feeling and functioning well and protect us from cancer and other diseases. Plus, they help us maintain a healthy weight. However, few of us actually eat the recommended amount. The thing is, if we play the fruit and veggie game right, they actually can be super quick to squeeze into our day. Here’s how to do it without even cooking anything.
#1 NEVER put fruits and veggies (that you intend to eat fresh) into your refrigerator straight out of the grocery bag. (And definitely not in the bottom drawer or behind other more appetizing and unhealthy stuff!) Why? Two reasons: #1—procrastinating on preparation means they may never get eaten. #2—out of sight, out of mind! Here’s the deal: as soon as you get home from shopping, wash everything using a natural spray that removes dirt, germs, and chemicals (here’s the one I use: http://www.veggie-wash.com/).
#2 Put washed, whole fruits in a bowl in plain sight. This goes for apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, plums, pears, and nectarines. NOTE: only buy enough you and your family will eat in a week because they’ll start to spoil after that.
#3 Peel, chop, package, and store the rest on the front of a refrigerator shelf. Do whatever each requires so it is fully ready to eat. This means peeling and/or cutting peppers, cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, celery, green beans, radishes, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple. Place in single serving containers or sandwich bags to grab and go when you’re on the run. No matter how you pack them up, make sure the containers don’t get pushed to the back of the fridge where you’ll forget about them!
#4 Have something healthy ready for dipping. In general, I don’t do plain, fresh veggies (although, if you can swing it, more power to you!) I’m all about dips. Here are three of my favorites:
Nut butters. I keep a jar of Skippy Natural peanut butter and a spoon in my desk at work. (Have you tried it? If not, check it out: http://www.peanutbutter.com/natural.aspx. Taste-wise, it’s the closest thing to the unhealthy stuff I ate as a kid, and it’s all natural. Seriously, give it a shot. It will not disappoint.) I spread it on celery sticks and apple slices. Sick of PB? Try almond or cashew butter.
Salsa, hummus, and guacamole. These aren’t just for chips! All three go great on veggies. Look for prepared dips with no preservatives and all natural ingredients. Trader Joe’s has some great options and different varieties of all three! Sliced mushrooms, cucumbers, snap or snow peas, and broccoli and cauliflower florets are some of my favorite dipping veggies. I’m not a huge carrot fan, but baby carrots or sliced carrots are good too.
Super quick Greek yogurt dip. Plain (unsweetened, unflavored) Greek yogurt is where it’s at. (My favorites are http://www.fageusa.com/products/fage-total-0-percent/# and http://www.chobani.com/). It tastes like a mild, sour cream but has way more protein and far less fat. I make my own dip in less than a minute by mixing this yogurt with dried spices (dill, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, Italian seasoning, all-purpose seasoning, whatever I’m in the mood for) plus a little salt. It makes a tasty, easy dip for any veggie. If you favor sweet over savory, mix this yogurt with berries or banana slices for a rich and creamy dessert.
#5 Bring ready-to-eat fruits and veggies wherever you go. Just like My Buddy and Kid Sister–wherever you go, they go. To work, the park, the mall, everywhere. If you have them handy, you’ll be much more likely to grab them when hunger (or a craving for something way less healthy) strikes. If you’ve already pre-packed them into small plastic containers or bags, grab berries, grapes, cherry tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, or pineapple on the way out the door. Bananas and already washed (by you when you walked in the door from the store!) apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, or plums can be thrown into Glad bags and then into your purse, backpack, or briefcase. Place some whole fruit on your desk at work and more fruit plus veggies and dip in the fridge at the office. Don’t forget to pack some napkins or a fork for the sticky ones!
#6 Mix it up. I like to pre-package a variety of veggies together. The more color, the better. If I can find them, I buy orange, yellow, red, and green bell peppers; and blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. My thought is: the more colorful, the prettier, and the more fun to eat! You can pre-make salads with a rainbow of veggies, or fruit salads in the same way. For a simple fruit salad recipe, click here and scroll down to the middle of the post.
With summer coming, why not add a little color to your life? Happy, fresh, healthy eating!