By Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RD, LD
It’s no secret that many Americans fall short when it comes to eating the recommended five daily servings of fruits and veggies, despite the health benefits. Many of us know we should be eating more fruits and vegetables. So, why aren’t we getting enough? Here are some common barriers to fruit and veggie consumption, and strategies to help you add more produce to your plate.
It’s one of the biggest barriers I hear. With our hectic lifestyles, it can be much easier to reach for a packaged bar or grab something at a drive thru. But there are ways that you can make fruits and vegetables easier to incorporate into your routine.
- Prep fresh fruits and vegetables ahead. It’s natural to reach for what is easiest. Prepare produce on the weekend or when you get home from the grocery store, by washing and cutting what you want available throughout the week. Put produce in clear containers where you can see it so you don’t forget! Or buy pre-cut fruits and veggies at the store if you can afford it.
- Plan ahead. If you are the type of person who gets home from work late, you may benefit from planning. Just jotting down veggie-filled dinner ideas for the week will get you one step closer to having a balanced meal instead of ordering takeout. If you know you’re too tired to cook on weeknights, try meal prepping on weekends.
- Keep dried fruits and vegetables handy. They count toward daily intake and are much easier to store in your desk or purse.
If you don’t live in a suburb, you likely don’t have easy access to a grocery store. Just getting produce can be difficult if all that’s nearby are restaurants and fast-food joints. Try getting a little creative.
- Consider a grocery delivery service. From Amazon Fresh and Instacart to grocery stores that are making home deliveries, grocery delivery services can bring fresh produce straight to your door.
- Customize your meals out. People who make a conscious effort to add more fruits and vegetable to their diet are more successful than those who don’t, clearly. If you dine out frequently, make it part of your routine to add a fruit or vegetable, like a side salad or extra veggies in your stir-fry. Usually the options are there -- you just have to make the decision to try.
It’s probably the one I hear the most. People believe that nutritious food is expensive, so they give up before they even try. Focusing on whole fruits and vegetables and other budget-friendly options can actually reduce your grocery bill.
- Shop seasonally. In-season fruits and vegetables are usually less expensive (and fresher) than those out-of-season. They are also more likely to be on sale, so shop your grocery ads and plan meals and snacks around sales.
- Don’t fret if you can’t afford organic produce. Whether you eat organic or conventional produce, eating any produce is better than having none.
- Try frozen and canned produce. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables can be more cost-effective than fresh. Because many of them are flash-frozen shortly after harvesting, they retain a lot of nutrients, so they are just as healthy as fresh. They also tend to be more convenient than fresh and have a longer shelf life, so you don’t have to worry about spoilage. Look for versions with no added salt or sugar.
- Only buy what you need. Throwing away spoiled produce is just like throwing away money. Only buy enough fresh produce for what you can eat by making a plan ahead of time. If you do end up with more than you can eat before it spoils, stick excess in the freezer!
You obviously want your meals and snacks to be enjoyable. If the taste of fruits and vegetables turns you off (or your child or significant other), try these strategies.
- Pair new fruits and vegetables with something you (or they) already enjoy. If you know you love peanut butter, try it with apples and celery to make it more enjoyable. If your kid lives off of mac and cheese, stir in some peas or frozen broccoli.
- Try new recipes and preparation methods. My husband always thought he hated vegetables because he had only eaten them overcooked. Look for recipes that use flavors you know you like and try to prepare your vegetables in a new way, such as roasting or grilling, for better flavor.
- Hide your veggies. Try pureed vegetables like butternut squash or cauliflower in your pasta sauce or bake zucchini into your muffins to mask the look and taste.
With just a little effort and strategy, you can be on your way to eating more produce in no time!