Eating fruits and vegetables is one of the main keys to a healthy body; it reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and some cancers, and it also helps you maintain or lose weight because fruits and vegetables tend to contain fewer calories per portion than the other food groups – for example, one cup of steamed broccoli has 62 calories, versus the 204 calories in one cup of cooked rice.
When you adopt the current recommendations of eating 1.5–2 cups of fruit and 2–3 cups of vegetables per day, you are reducing calories and adding lots of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants that make your diet truly nourishing. Thus, if you set yourself the goal of eating the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables, you will be on your way to living a healthier life.
But how can you do this, even if you are not a veggie person?
In the case of vegetables, you could make different kinds of salads, but if you don’t enjoy eating those you can cook most veggies and mix them with other foods such as rice, potatoes, pasta, etc. if you dislike raw vegetables. For example, you can put peas, onions, and carrots in a stew, or even substitute some ingredients in many recipes, such as making eggplant lasagna instead of a traditional one. Fruits could be easily included in your menu as a part of breakfast, snacks, or dessert. You can mix fruits with your morning cereal or with yogurt; you could also make fruit sherbets (without sugar), or eat them on their own.
Another option to increase your daily intake of both fruits and vegetables is to prepare smoothies mixing both; this is really nutritious and easy to make, and there are dozens of different combinations you can whip up in a few minutes without having to cook. Usually, just with fruits, you can neutralize the flavor of green vegetables, and you can also add flavored yogurt or soy milk for extra tastiness. These work really well for breakfast or as a mid-afternoon snack.
Keeping this in mind, write down some of the fruits and vegetables that you like, and think of the dishes you enjoy that include them, or those that you would like to try; with this information you can plan a menu, rotating these foods throughout the week. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season when possible, although you can always freeze them for later without missing out on nutrients. However, avoid canned products with lots of sugar and salt (choose “light” or “sodium-reduced” versions).
Once you start eating fruits and vegetables you will feel healthier and progressively expand your food choices – after a while, it will be an essential part of your daily routine.
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