Fruit and vegetables have the highest nutrient density of any food groups, but most people in the US don’t eat enough of them. Numerous studies have shown that people of all ages, but especially seniors, who consume higher amounts of fruits and veggies reduce their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Not to mention, they also live longer.
Older adults with a normal physical activity level should eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day. A serving typically constitutes ~1 cup in volume. Despite those recommendations, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 1 in 10 seniors eat enough fruits and vegetables. And no, taking a multivitamin isn’t a substitute for whole foods since your body doesn’t absorb nutrients as efficiently from concentrated supplements.
To help you increase the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables in your diet, here are 10 simple tips!
Have Them Available and Convenient to Access
This is probably the easiest and most obvious tip, but it’s something that a lot of people overlook. If you’re going to eat more fruits and veggies, they have to be easily accessible. Prep cut vegetables each week for a healthy snack, and/or have a fruit basket front and center on your kitchen counter. The more you see them the more you’ll eat them!
Join a Local CSA
CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and it’s a system that allows people to subscribe to receive seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farmers each week. Not only are you supporting small, local farmers, but the produce is also higher quality and fresher than what you’d typically find in a grocery store. For more information on CSA baskets, visit www.csacoalition.org/.
Blend into smoothies
Drinking nutrient-dense smoothies is a great way to start the day for anyone, but they can be especially helpful for seniors who have trouble chewing. Smoothies are also great because they contain all the healthy fiber from the fruits and veggies you blend into them.
When most people think of smoothies they imagine something fruit-based, but for a super food veggie boost you can add a handful of fresh spinach to almost any smoothie recipe – and you’ll barely taste it!
Puree into sauces
Same idea as smoothies. For example, if you’re making a marinara sauce you could blend in cooked carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, and/or spinach. If you enjoy mac n’ cheese, puree roasted butternut squash into the béchamel sauce before adding the cheese.
Use avocado as a butter/cream substitute
Avocados aren’t just for guacamole; they’re also an extremely versatile fruit that can be a substitute for butter or cream in a lot of recipes. For example, you can make avocado-based frosting and avocado ice cream that has the rich creamy texture of the dairy-based version.
Try veggie chips
Instead of potato chips that lack nutrients and are often loaded with saturated fat, try Terra brand chips made from sweet potatoes and other root vegetables. They’re more expensive than Lays, but they use high quality ingredients which makes for a healthier snack.
Use different cooking techniques
Rather than boring the taste buds with the same scoop of peas night after night, shake up the repertoire by trying different cooking techniques, including steaming, grilling, sautéing, stir-frying, and boiling.
Make a dip
To make cut vegetables and fruit a more interesting snack, try dipping them in hummus, peanut butter, or a Greek yogurt-based dip (Greek yogurt mixed with a packet of ranch dressing seasoning is a simple but great tasting dip). Avoid French onion dip and others that list sour cream, mayo, or cream cheese as the primary ingredients.
Whip up some popsicles
Popsicles are refreshing and convenient but unfortunately, are often loaded with sugar and lack any sort of nutritional value. However, you can blend up fresh fruits at home with juice or water and pour them into a Popsicle mold, which makes for a healthy summertime snack.
Get into a routine
If you’re going to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, getting into a routine is important. For example, try having a salad (romaine or mixed greens, not iceberg) every night with dinner or eat cut bell veggies every afternoon for a snack.