You are here:

Commonsense strategies to help you eat more fruits and vegetables

Image: Thinkstock

Here’s how to enhance the foods you already like with heart-healthy plant sources.

According to a recent national food survey by the CDC, 87% of American adults do not eat the minimum daily recommended portions of fruit (1.5 to 2 cups), and 91% are not getting the recommended amount of vegetables (2 to 3 cups a day). The reasons for this unhealthy trend vary. One important factor is that food preferences, including an aversion to fruits and vegetables, form early in life and can be hard to change. “People say, ‘I don’t like salad’ and ‘I don’t like spinach,’ and that’s that,” says Stacey Nelson, a registered dietitian and manager of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.

But when paired with other, more familiar foods, fruits and vegetables can take on a new allure. “Everyone thinks of a vegetable as a big salad or a steaming mound of cooked vegetable, but these foods are very versatile,” Nelson says.

By being creative and taking some gastronomic risks, you can boost the number of your daily servings of heart-healthy plant foods. Here are some strategies to consider.

Be creative

It helps to find fresh ways to incorporate plant foods into your usual dishes, Nelson says. “I think people are stymied by this idea that you can only eat vegetables one or two ways—steamed or raw.”

One strategy that most people find easy to adopt is folding a variety of sliced or cubed raw vegetables into already-cooked foods such as chili and soups. It adds crunch and new flavors.

Or try this one: If you like tacos, use a couple of fresh, firm cabbage or lettuce leaves instead of a flour tortilla or hard taco shell. “You can throw all the meat, cheese, and guacamole in it, and that gives you another serving of vegetables,” Nelson says.

Reinvent your salad

Are you bored by leafy green salads—or are your salads just boring? There is more to the art of the salad than a sprinkle of tomatoes or cucumbers.

For instance, a handful of nuts or dried fruit can add new flavors to salads, as they can to soups and pasta dishes. Have you considered tossing in some cubed apple or pineapple chunks? The rule is “try it, you might like it.”

Rethink breakfast

Fruit is no stranger to the American breakfast plate. But hash brown potatoes need not be the only vegetable choice for your morning meal. For example, Nelson suggests, add some shredded spinach to your scrambled eggs. Try a side of sliced tomatoes or a dollop of tomato-and-avocado salad, which are consistent with the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.

Go beyond green

Not everyone shares the current enthusiasm for kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. Leafy greens are certainly nutritious, but there is a rainbow of other colors to pick from beyond lettuce and broccoli. “We don’t focus exclusively on green vegetables anymore,” Nelson says. “Vegetables offer a wide variety of nutrients and different tastes, so give them a try.”

Show off

It’s not an accident that grocery stores place a cornucopia of candy and other snacks at the checkout line. If you place fruits and vegetables that don’t require refrigeration out in the open, you will be more likely to eat them.

Fruits and vegetables: How much to eat

A cup of fruit or vegetable is roughly the size of your fist. For uncooked leafy vegetables, the equivalent amount is about 2 cups. For dried fruit, ½ cup is equivalent to 1 cup of whole fruit. Here are examples of 1-cup servings of some common fruits and vegetables.



1 medium apple

1 cup boiled or steamed leafy greens

1 large banana

2 cups raw leafy greens

2 to 3 medium-sized plums

1 large ear of corn

8 large strawberries

1 medium baked sweet potato

½ cup raisins or other dried fruit

10 broccoli florets

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top