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5 Tips for eating more vegetables this summer

Vegetables are essential for optimal health. Whether you grow your own, browse the farm stand or simply buy them at the grocery store, get creative. Those who eat a wide variety of vegetables daily enjoy health benefits such as lower BMIs and better gut health.

  1. Buy a veggie noodle maker for zucchini or buy veggie noodles. Find them in the freezer section at the grocery store (carrot, beet).
  2. Grill them – try bell peppers, onions, mushrooms and pineapples on skewers.
  3. Have a green smoothie for breakfast. Frozen bananas, apples, leafy greens, Greek yogurt, a bit of honey and squeeze of lemon work well together.
  4. Whether you make homemade pizza or buy frozen, add extra sliced/diced veggies as a topping before putting in the oven.
  5. Throw some romaine lettuce hearts on the grill with your chicken or burgers for a charred salad.

Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health Observances calendar,  September is the month to remind yourself to increase your intake of fruits and veggies! This health observance is sponsored by the ‘Produce for Better Health Foundation.’ The significance of the health benefits gained by consuming a diet, rich in a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, is often underestimated. You cannot get the same benefits from pills and powders.

How are Americans doing? One in three adults eat the recommended number of fruit servings daily and only one in four consume the recommended number of vegetable servings daily. When you discount potatoes and fruit juice, the picture is grimmer. So let’s dispel common myths on…fruits and veggies:

Fruits and Veggies: Too Expensive?

They are NOT too expensive! Choose fresh (on sale) or frozen fruits and veggies (in bags without sauces or added sugars). Last choice: canned as they are processed and usually contain higher amounts of sodium and/or sugars. Plus there is the nutritive value to consider. Peaches, apricots, plums and apples (with skin) are good sources of soluble fiber, a type of dietary fiber that helps lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. Tips to save $$$: shop in season for best taste, texture, quality and value and buy ‘bags’ versus by the lb. or ‘each.’ Such as? Bagged fruits and veggies such as avocados, apples, oranges, potatoes, sweet bell peppers, carrots, etc., are a better value and go farther in meals/snacks.

Fruits and Veggies: I don’t like ’em

Try them raw, cooked, plain, ‘doctored,’ and prepared in every way (including grilled) before you make that statement. Maybe you don’t like them mushy and overcooked…who does? Eating well-prepared and seasoned (especially for veggies) makes a huge difference in flavor and texture. Like smoothies? Invest in a high-quality blender that can turn even the toughest raw veggies and fruits into a creamy, delicious, filling drink. Just watch the sugar and calories. Investigate recipes online that balance the amount of fruits and veggies in the drink and keep calories at about 150 – 200 calories (snack) and 450 – 500 (meal).

Fruits and Veggies: No room in my diet!!

Not enough room in your diet for fruits and veggies? You just might find some extra room if you decrease the amount of full-fat ice cream, cheese, bread, bagels, pizza, pasta, cookies, wraps, scones, paninis, muffins, monster sugary coffee drinks and granola bars you consume. Consider this: In 2010, Americans consumed (and likely still do)about 109 lbs. of flour…that’s not much less than the average consumption before the low-carbohydrate diet craze, which was about 116 lbs. Remember those huge low-fat bagels?!

Stay tuned to upcoming posts for easy tips on how to increase your intake of fruits and veggies…painlessly!

Green Smoothie Recipe: Spinach

This all-green smoothie recipe not only looks pretty, but it tastes wonderful. Experiment with the ingredients or try the green smoothie recipe as it is listed below. Beware: I don’t ‘measure’ ingredients for this or any other green smoothie recipe.

I have found that I prefer the consistency when I use frozen fruit and less ice, such as banana slices or frozen mango cubes (from fresh). Another factor that affects flavor, nutrition profile and consistency of this green smoothie recipe and other smoothies is the use of protein powder. There are dozens of protein powders available. Currently, I am trying one made by ‘Nature’s Bounty’ (whey-based). It is located alongside the ‘Nature’s Bounty’ vitamins and dietary supplements. I use one scoop but the nutrition information is listed for two scoops. One scoop provides about 7.5 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber and 60 calories. It is low in carbohydrates and fat. Choose vanilla-flavored protein powder over chocolate for most smoothies, especially this green smoothie recipe as chocolate protein powder alters the flavor too much.

Blenders for a Green Smoothie Recipe

You can use any blender that is higher in quality (usually priced at $25.00+) to prepare this green smoothie recipe. Look for multiple ‘buttons’ and settings that allow you to crush ice and chop. If you do not have or cannot afford a Blendtec or Vita mix, which are both very expensive blenders, try the Ninja (available at Walmart) or the Magic Bullet (available for purchase online – both cost $100.00).

The ingredients I use for this green smoothie recipe are inexpensive as I choose ‘in-season’ produce and freeze fresh fruit/veggies when bagged frozen are more expensive and vice versa. In terms of servings per recipe… using my ‘non-measuring’ technique, the recipe yields enough so that I can pour a tall (about 16 oz.) glass for myself and a couple of short shots for eager tasters. Adjust the amount of each ingredient to suit your tastes. Remember, these are my estimated portions for each ingredient. Layer the ingredients in the order listed, starting with green grapes…

Basic Green Smoothie Recipe

  • 1/2 cup or so seedless green grapes
  • 2 handfuls (nearly 2 cups) fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup or so of fresh kale (no stalk if you are using a conventional blender)
  • 1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/4 fresh avocado
  • 1/4 fresh cucumber (no skin)
  • 1/2 frozen banana slices
  • 3 chunks frozen cubed mango
  • 2 fresh basil leaves
  • 2 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup light coconut milk (unflavored)
  • additional skim milk if more liquid is needed
  • Ice cubes as desired for proper consistency

Green Smoothie Recipe nutrition analysis

Per serving (makes about 1.25 servings): 357 calories, 11 g fat (4.5 g saturated), 49.5 g carbohydrate, 8 g dietary fiber, 22 g protein, 181 mg sodium and 31 mg cholesterol. This is a wonderful meal replacement. Vitamin and mineral highlights of this green smoothie recipe: very high in vitamins A and C; high in calcium, manganese and potassium. It is low in sodium and has a moderate sugar content (much less than a can of soda!!)