This month is National Nutrition Month. As a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, you can imagine how excited I am when this month rolls around each year. It’s the one month when The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics pulls out all the stops and has an entire campaign directed toward focusing on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. The slogan for 2020 is Eat Right, Bite by Bite. Good nutrition doesn’t have to happen all at once! Small changes, one step at a time, will turn into big health changes over time.
There are so many topics that we could delve into this year. Eating less sugar, reducing food waste, tips for eating a plant-based diet, eating for a healthy weight, new food labels – all good discussions. But there is so much information that it would take more than this post to cover all of that subject matter. I decided to focus on one area that seems to be the hardest for most people when trying to eat healthier from the start: incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet.
Did you know that your plate should look like this?
That’s right! HALF your plate should be fruits and vegetables!
You may think that this is a daunting task, but it can be really simple if you know the what and the how. Make your goal 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables your daily goal. I’ll help you get there. Remember, Bite by Bite. Here are some easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily eating habits.
Starting Your Day
Breakfast can be as easy as adding fruit to your whole grain oats, or mixing up some frozen fruit into milk, yogurt (or your favorite non-dairy, plant-based substitute) and drinking your fruit. Try adding some fresh spinach to your smoothie for added vegetables.
A super-easy way to get in some nutrient-dense vegetables for breakfast is simply folding them into an omelet or making a breakfast veggie burrito. Grab as many vegetables as you can find, toss them in a skillet (or an air fryer if you have one – SUPER easy), add some avocado oil and voila! In just a few minutes, you’ve got ready-to-eat vegetables. You can either make an omelet and fold them into your egg or grab a whole grain tortilla (or you can try these grain-free coconut wraps) and wrap it up. Pair it with fruit and you have fruit and vegetables and have jump-started your servings for the day.
Here is a quick and easy smoothie to start your day
Everyone loves pizza, right? What do you normally put on your pizza? Pepperoni is the normal go-to, but I want to challenge you. Make your next pizza at home and create a rainbow of beautiful colors on your pie! You can even try making your own pizza sauce so you can blend spinach, fresh tomatoes, garlic and some fresh onions and basil in your sauce. Just with the base of your sauce, you have got your vegetables started. For an alternative, a fresh basil pesto sauce is delicious.
Toppings are where the fun comes in. Add some fresh tomatoes, roasted broccoli, green peppers, mushrooms, olives, spinach, artichoke hearts, jalapeño, or dare I say it…pineapple? To each their own. You can drizzle your pizza with some heart-healthy avocado oil and top with feta cheese. Pick and choose from your favorites! To really add in some more delicious vegetable options, choose a good cauliflower crust. This will also make your pizza gluten-free.
Here is a healthy pizza recipe to give you some inspiration!
Kabobs are a great way to enjoy both fruit and vegetables. Try grilling tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, yellow squash, and onions. You can add your favorite meat protein if you’d like or simply add to a leafy green salad with olive oil and lemon or your favorite whole grain if you are eating plant-based. You can grill on kabobs for dessert as well. Try pineapple, peaches or banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
If you don’t want to grill your fruit or veggies, try my simple recipe for Caprese Skewers:
- 1-pint part-skim mozzarella ball
- 2 grape tomatoes
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- kosher salt
- fresh cracked pepper
On toothpicks or skewers, place organic basil, grape tomato, and ½ a ball of part-skim mozzarella. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar for taste.
You can make any meal 50% vegetables and fruit. Get creative! For instance: make a fruit sandwich (why not? People put chips in sandwiches – yuck!). Load up your baked potato with fresh salsa and broccoli, eat vegetable soup instead of creamed soups, blend veggies or fruits into all your sauces, shred zucchini or carrots into all your pasta dishes.
Get creative with fruit. Some fruit like peaches, pears, pineapples, and even bananas are amazing grilled or broiled and perfect for dessert. Puree apple, berries, peaches or pears and use for sauces on seafood, poultry or breakfast foods like pancakes, French toast or waffles (but don’t add sugar!).
Don’t eat bland salads! Eating the rainbow couldn’t be more fun in a salad. Add color with grape tomatoes, mandarin oranges, baby carrots, cucumber, onion, mushrooms, apples, strawberries – the sky is the limit! But don’t ruin your salad with heavy dressing. Simply add some oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Remember that most of us can turn a healthy salad into a disaster by adding the wrong dressing.
Snack smart! Instead of chips, grab carrots, snap peas, cucumbers, bell peppers, sliced apples, broccoli or cauliflower florets, celery sticks or whole radishes to snack on. Cut them up and have them ready in your fridge to access easily when you feel the need to nibble. You can add these to lunches, too.
Make fruit readily available. If you see it, you’ll eat it. If you don’t have a bowl just for fruit that you sit on your counter – get one! Don’t hide that beautiful fruit in your fridge (unless it has to be refrigerated). Place that just ripe whole fruit front and center on your kitchen counter.
Don’t forget this month is only the beginning. Start by making small changes. You’ll be surprised how each step you make toward healthy living makes a large impact on your overall health. Remember to get up and be active! Children and teenagers need 60 minutes of activity per day and adults need 2.5 hours a week on average. Move your body! You don’t have to get a gym membership – walk your dog, play with your kids, go for a jog. Just as making changes in your nutrition starts with small steps, so will your daily activity.
For more on National Nutrition Month, be sure to follow me on social media. I’ll be posting helpful tips on how you can make changes to live a healthier life!