How to Incorporate a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables

There’s no doubt that eating fruits and vegetables is a part of any healthy diet. Eating fruits and vegetables is a way that we get a lot of our micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as a good source of fiber which is essential to a healthy gut.

A variety of fruits and vegetables is important as well. Not only do they provide different nutrients that we need, but different colors have different antioxidants in them. Antioxidants help with cellular damage and protects against aging, and inflammation. Not only eating enough fruits and vegetables throughout the day is important, but also a variety of colors throughout the day. Hence the phrase “eat the rainbow”.

Let’s talk colors for a moment…

Click to go to the recipe for Barbecue Chopped Salad

Red

  • Foods: apples, raspberries, tomatoes, strawberries, radishes, etc.
    • Antioxidant: lycopene which helps with fighting against heart disease.

Orange

  • Food: Carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, etc.
    • Antioxidants: carotenoids alpha-carotene and beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into Vitamin A which is important for your immune, skin, and eye heath.

Yellow

  • Foods: pineapple, lemon, yellow peaches, corn, summer squash, etc.
    • Antioxidants: beta-carotene like orange foods, but they also contain beta-cryptoxanthin which has been shown in studies to help reduce inflammation and may play a role in reducing inflammatory disorders.

*Although bananas are yellow, the inside that you eat is white. See below.

Click to go to the recipe for Strawberry Salsa with Cinnamon Chips

Green

I wouldn’t be much of a nutrition consultant if I didn’t take a moment to talk about green vegetables. They are some of the most nutrient dense foods. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and you guessed it, antioxidants.

  • Food: spinach, broccoli, and green peas
    • Antioxidant: lutein and zeaxanthin which helps with age related eye problems.
  • Food: the cabbage family which also includes brussels sprouts, kale, bok choy, etc.
    • Antioxidant: sulforaphane and glucosinolate which helps protect against certain cancers and blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disease and stroke.

Blue & Purple

  • Food: blueberries, blackberries, cherries, purple grapes, eggplant, purple cabbage, black olives, purple onion, etc.
  • Antioxidants: anthocyanins which protect against cell damage.

White & Brown

Although you might not think “if it doesn’t have rich color it doesn’t have antioxidants”, know that fruits and vegetables that are white are that way because of antioxidants.

  • White Foods: Bananas, potatoes, and parsnips
    • Antioxidant: Anthoxanthins make the foods white which may reduce cardiovasular disease and arthritis. In addition, a lot of white foods like bananas, potatoes, etc. are good sources of potassium which is needed for nerve and heart health, fluid balance, and muscle health.
  • Brown Foods: Mushrooms mainly
    • Antioxidants: selenium (another antioxidant) which plays a role in metabolism and supports the immune system.

How to Incorporate a Variety of Fruits and Vegetables in Your Diet

How cool is it that we can see antioxidants by the colors of the food we eat! And the fact that the food is beautiful and it helps to protect us from cellular damage.

What if you are just trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet and seeing how you can have more of a variety in your meals in general? If you are just getting use to adding in more fruits and vegetables into your diet, you want to make sure they taste good.

Here are some of my favorite suggestions and ways I get my fruits and veggies in!

  • Blend Them In Smoothies
    • Fruits are pretty easy to incorporate into smoothies, but what about vegetables?
    • Spinach will not add flavor and blends really easily
    • Zucchini is another veggie to add in that doesn’t add a lot of flavor and will add a creamy texture.
    • Avocados are another fruit/vegetable to add to your smoothie for a smooth texture. This is more or less your healthy fats, so a little goes a long way and will help keep you full. And technically, avocado is a fruit.
  • Pasta Sauces
    • Tomato Sauce: Onions, bell peppers, and mushrooms are some of my favorites!
    • Cream Sauce: Onions, broccoli, peas, sauteed greens like kale or spinach, and you can even get your own rainbow going to sliced carrots, peas, yellow squash, and some red onion for a more primavera type of sauce.
    • Butter Sauce: You can sautee just about any veggie in some butter and top it over pasta and it will be delicious, personally. I mean, it’s butter.
  • Veggie Omelet
    • Potatoes, onions, bell pepper, spinach, hot peppers, sweet potatoes, etc.
  • Lettuce Wraps and Stir Fry
    • A lot of times lettuce wraps consist of ground meat like chicken or turkey with a spicy sauce and cooked veggies. Top it with some shredded carrots and cabbage.
    • Same goes for a stir fry. Add your protein and veggies with a sweet and spicy sauce and throw it on top of some rice.
  • Roast Them!
    • Roasting vegetables are my all-time favorite way to cook vegetables. They stay firm, but soft, and they keep all the flavor and then some when roasted.
    • You hate vegetables, but want to start eating them more, try roasting them! Well – other than leafy greens.
    • Here is an old post on Tips On How To Roast Vegetables

There are plenty of ways to get a variety of vegetables in your diet and into the recipes you already love. Know that you don’t need a whole load of fruits and vegetables in your diet for it to improve your health. Mess around with it, find your favorites, and incorporating more vegetables into your regular diet will get easier.

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What If You Hate Vegetables?

If you are one of the many that “hate” vegetables, what can you do to start eating healthier? After all, it’s pretty hard to eat healthy and avoid vegetables. Vegetables are low in calories, high in nutrients and fiber, and most are anti-inflammatory. All huge points on the “healthy meter”. What are some things you can do?

Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

First Impressions Are Not Everything

Keep trying different vegetables. When you start choosing healthier options, your taste buds can and will change when it comes to certain foods. Just like with a child, keep introducing foods to your pallet every once and while. This can include introducing it 10+ times.

That being said, there might be some flavors that just are not for you. That’s okay! Just because you need to eat vegetables doesn’t mean you have to love all of them. There are a few I just can’t do, and others have to be a certain way like raw or cooked from fresh, otherwise you can forget it! But also remember just because you don’t like them today, doesn’t mean it’s something you will never grow to love later.

Check out the other tips to help.

Mix It In

Try finding ways to mix vegetables into something you already love. For instance, if you like spaghetti and marinara sauce, try adding some mushrooms, bell peppers, or zucchini to the sauce. Or how about chili? Why not add corn, zucchini, bell peppers, celery, onion, mushrooms, and so on? You get the picture. Anywhere you can easily add a vegetable without it taking over the flavor, try it.

Cook It Differently

If you are not a fan of mixing in vegetables with your main course, or changing up your favorite chili recipe, then change the way you cook vegetables. People that don’t like vegetables, usually don’t know how to cook them. What does one who doesn’t know how to cook vegetables do to cook them? Microwave frozen veggies. Don’t get me wrong – steaming in a bag is quick and easy and for someone who already know the vegetables they like, it’s awesome! But a lot of times flavor can be lost, the texture is mushy, and usually it won’t have any seasoning.

Steaming can be a healthy way of eating vegetables because there is no added oils or salt, however nutrients (and flavor) can be lost in the steaming process.

If you don’t want to eat them raw, try roasting them in the oven. It’s by far my favorite way! Or if you like grilling, look up grilled vegetable recipes where they are seasoned and marinaded beforehand.

Use the same logic as you would chicken. Boiled chicken is okay but doesn’t have much flavor and is not usually everyone’s favorite way to eat chicken. Same with vegetables. Season them and cook them in a way that preserves flavor. Check out this link to my previous post about Tips on How to Roast Vegetables.

Remind Yourself About the Benefits

For some people it’s more of the “what is this going to do for me” thought process. Think about the benefits of eating vegetables regularly.

Some of these include:

  • Increased Fiber which means
    • Being regular
    • Better heart health
    • Better gut health
    • Weight management
    • Regulates blood sugar
  • Anti-Oxidants
    • Mainly from fruits and vegetables
    • Helps skin to stay younger
    • Cellular repair
  • Anti-Inflammatory
    • Helps with joint pain
    • Helps with muscle pain
    • Helps to prevent infections

If you have all these things working for you, then that means added benefits like increased repair time in between workouts, better sleep, etc. There are no downsides to adding vegetables to a meal or your day, only benefits.

Bottom Line

Whatever your motivation might be to increase your vegetables, don’t give up. There is only benefits, and although you might not like all vegetables, there are bound to be some you won’t mind or dare I say even love once you give them a chance. Mix it in with other flavors, start small, and even test how you cook them to see if it’s the cooking method that needs a change.

This can be a huge goal for you. Although to some it might seem small, trying new things can be terrifying for others and a huge mental block. Realize the victories and know that trying new things, or re-trying food you might have hated before is still a step in a healthy direction mentally and physically. Keep it up!

Tips On How To Roast Vegetables

Hello all! One of my favorite ways to cook vegetables is roasting them in the oven. It doesn’t take much and I think the flavors come out better than any other type of method of cooking. Of course vegetables that are green and leafy might not be the best to roast, however, any root vegetable, broccoli/cauliflower, cabbage/brussel sprouts, bell peppers, asparagus, green beans, etc. are great to roast in the oven!

If you are trying to get more vegetables in your diet and trying to find ways to cook them and like them, here is a simple start! Most of the time you just need a small amount of oil and salt and pepper if you desire. Anything else like additional seasoning, or tossing it with a small amount of cheese, is up to you.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

Here are a few tips I’ve learned and love to do when I roast my vegetables.

Gallon Bag Toss

Get a gallon size bag and use that to distribute the oil and seasoning. You use less of both and everything is evenly distributed.

Don’t want to use plastic? Put your chopped veggies in a bowl with the oil and seasoning and use a cloth or a reusable cover and toss it around.

I usually start with about 1 tablespoon of oil and if it needs more depending on how much I’m making, I’ll use more. But for the most part, that’s about all you’ll need.

Leave The Skins On!

If you are roasting carrots, beets, potatoes… anything with a thin skin that you can use a peeler on, leave it on! Scrub them to clean them off, but by leaving the skins on you preserve not just nutrients, but flavor. Test it out! Peel a few carrots and the others leave the skin on and see which one has more flavor and sweetness.

Leaving the skin on also helps protect it from burning too quickly and can then be roasted to make sure it’s cooked all the way through.

Don’t Crowd Them

When you spread your vegetables out on the baking sheet, don’t crowd them. Give them room so the heat can be distributed and their juices can evaporate. Otherwise you’ll get mush on the outside and hard in the middle. If you give them room it should all cook evenly and be crispy on the edges.

Roasting Vegetable Chart

So what are you going to try first?

 

Okra with Fire Roasted Tomatoes

Nothing says spring vegetables better than asparagus and okra to me. Although both are used in the fall too! Okra is one of those things that people either love or hate. If you are a texture person, more than likely you don’t like okra. At restaurants you’ll usually see fried okra, not fresh. I wanted to give you a fresh okra recipe to switch up your sides this spring. Since I was limited when I was younger to what I could have, I’m all about variety now!

Let’s take a minute and talk about okra.

Okra

1 Cup of Okra

  • 33 Calories
  • 0.2 g Total Fat
  • 7 mg Sodium
  • 299 mg Potassium
  • 7 g Carbohydrates
  • 3.3 g Fiber
  • 1.5 g Sugar
  • 1.9 g Protein
  • 38% DV Vitamin C
  • 14% DV Vitamin A
  • 14% DV Magnesium
  • 8% DV Calcium

This vegetable is good for lowering cholesterol, maintaining a good blood glucose level, supports your immune system, and helps to promote a healthy pregnancy due to the vitamins and minerals including folic acid, that it provides. Okra has also been shown in a study to help prevent kidney disease, which is good news for those with diabetes.

On To The Recipe

Okra has been paired with tomatoes since forever, but I like using fire roasted tomatoes for the flavor. Season however you’d like but I like adding a Cajun seasoning mix to mine and fresh garlic. You can have this as a side or make it into a main dish by adding chicken breast and brown rice. If you are vegan or vegetarian, add black eyed peas or butter beans instead of the chicken. Either way, it’s a great dish!

Okra with Fire Roasted Tomatoes

  • Servings: 6 side servings
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Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, optional
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1.5-2 lbs. raw okra, sliced
  • 2 15 oz. cans diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1-2 tbsp Cajun seasoning

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large skillet. Add in the yellow onion and cook until translucent. Add in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add in your okra, canned tomatoes, and creole seasoning. Let simmer on medium-low for about 20 minutes.
  3. Serve as a side alone, or over rice.

Nutrition Information

Per Side Serving

114 Calories | 4.43 g total fat | 2.0 g monounsaturated fat | 1.2 g polyunsaturated fat | 0.6 g saturated fat | 0 g trans fats | 0 mg cholesterol | 328 mg sodium | 14.7 g carbohydrates | 7.5 g fiber | 6.5 g sugar | 4 g protein | 65% Vitamin C | 23% Folate | 16% Calcium | 29% Magnesium

Okra with Fire Roasted Tomatoes with Butter Beans

Yum! I just added a can of small butter beans to the mixture and heated it through and ta da! I had my dinner.

 

Green Beans & Tomatoes with Fresh Oregano

Stewed tomatoes and green beans just go together. This is one of the side dishes I keep in mind any time of year and can go with just about anything. Simple ingredients, simple instructions, and so good! Nutritionally let’s look at the benefits of using fresh oregano. Sometimes we forget how powerful our fresh herbs are and what they bring to the table other than flavor. Fresh herbs are powerhouses of nutrients and antioxidants which is nice since we usually use a small amount of them when we cook. Here are some interesting facts about oregano, as well as many other herbs in general.

Fresh Oregano
  • Powerhouse of Antioxidants – 42 times the antioxidants found in apples
  • Improves Immune System
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Significant of Crucial Minerals for Bone Health

Dried herbs have their purpose in cooking, but to get the full benefit it’s always good to use fresh herbs when you can.

Green Beans & Tomatoes with Fresh Oregano

  • Servings: 4 Servings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb. fresh green beans, ends snapped
  • 1 14 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a medium pan on medium-high heat. If you are using a non-stick pot, you can put the heat on medium and cook the onions without oil. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  2. Toss in the green beans, tomatoes, broth, oregano, and parsley. Let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the green beans are at the desired tenderness. I usually wait until the green beans are a dark rich green color, like the picture, and turn off the heat.
  3. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Add lemon juice and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information

158 calories | 7.4 g total fat | 1.4 g saturated fat | 1.6 g polyunsaturated fat | 6.4 g monounsaturated fat | 0 g trans fat | 0 mg cholesterol | 192 mg sodium | 18.5 g carbohydrates | 5.6 g fiber | 4.6 g sugar | 4.2 g protein

Macros

47% Carbohydrates | 42% Fat | 11% Protein

Dietary Servings per Portion

3.0 Vegetables