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Include fresh produce in your everyday meals

By Sarah Ransom

We all have grown up hearing about how good it is for us to eat our fruits and vegetables. We know these foods provide a good source of fiber, potassium, folic acid and a variety of vitamins. We have been told that fruits and vegetables show benefits to lowering blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health and helping reduce risks of many chronic conditions, helps with weight management, improves vision and more.
Even with all these reasons to eat fruits and vegetables, we find people are preparing and eating these less and less.
Some quick tips to eating more fruits and vegetables include the following: keep fruit and vegetables where you can see them. Have ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables in a bowl. Grapes, carrots, apples, celery, berries, and broccoli are just a few that are great to have easily accessible and ready for snacking. Explore the produce aisle, or visit your local Farmers Market, and purposefully choose a new food to try.
Variety and color are key to having a healthy diet. Skip the potatoes. We all know how much we enjoy potatoes, and while they provide some vitamins and nutrients, they are high in starch. Step
out and try another vegetable on occasion. Salads,
soups, and stir-fries are a great way to increase vegetable intake.
If you still find you are struggling with including these great foods, especially vegetables, here are some additional ideas of ways to include it with foods you may already be making! Shred those veggies and include them in bread, scrambled eggs, and breakfast casseroles.
In your fruit smoothies, add a few healthy greens, beets or other vegetables of choice to get those vitamins without altering the flavors too much. Add extra chopped vegetables to your spaghetti sauces or pasta dishes, and speaking of pasta – don’t hesitate to try some noodles made from vegetables. Add them to pancakes, chili or baked goodies. Add chopped vegetables to your homemade burgers. Using sliced zucchini, avocado, carrots or green beans, you can make some tasty alternatives to fries. Add vegetables, finely chopped, to your pizza, soups, and stews. When the weather warms up, many fruits and vegetables also turn out great on the grill.
If you would like more ideas on how to include fruits, veggies or learn more about having a healthy, balanced diet – please contact Sarah Ransom at the UT/TSU Extension Office (423)-727-8161 or e-mail [email protected] for more ideas or recipes you can try. Be sure to visit us at the Farmers Market this summer for some great recipes and samples to try.
Source – The Nutrition Source, Vegetables, and Fruits by Harvard Public School of Health; Choose MyPlate