“Eat your fruits and veggies!”
“5 A DAY!”
I imagine there are very few of us who haven’t heard the slogan, “5 A DAY!” 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is what the USDA used to recommend (their slogan has changed slightly, but the principles behind eating more fruits and vegetables has not changed—in fact, they say that you should be consuming between 5-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, depending on your size!) Often, this can seem quite challenging! If you think about it, that can add up to be quite a bit of food! The nice thing is that fresh fruits and vegetables are filling, chock full of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber your body needs, but are low in calories and fat!
Why, exactly, are we supposed to eat so many fruits and vegetables? Obviously, it’s “healthy.” But there are a lot of specific ways that eating those fruits and veggies can help your body.
- A study done by Harvard showed that those who eat an average of 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables were 30% less likely to have a heart attack compared to those who ate 1.5 or less servings a day. Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, etc.), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), and citrus (lemons, limes, tangerines, oranges, etc.) seemed to contribute more towards these results, although any fruit or vegetable had an effect.
- Eating fruits and vegetables help lower your blood pressure. A diet high in fruits and veggies, combined with restrictions on saturated and total fats, were able to lower blood pressure as much as blood pressure medication was able to do.
- Some fruits and vegetables seem to have an effect on protecting against some cancers (not all, and not always), particularly cancers that seem to form in places where food comes into contact (think mouth, stomach, esophagus, etc.)
- Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which is great for your gastrointestinal health! Feeling a little constipated? Eat a few kiwi, or other high-fiber fruit or vegetables!
- The vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables can help with your vision and can help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.
- Eating enough fruits and vegetables in your diet can help prevent type 2 diabetes.
The list goes on. Bountiful Baskets has given us all a chance to really up the ante on how many fruits and vegetables we are able to eat, affordably, and freshly. One really effective way to “force” yourself to eat more produce is to get 1 basket a week (or 2 if your family consists of 4 or more people) and EAT IT ALL. This can sometimes be daunting, but as a family of 6 going through at least 2 baskets a week for the past several months, I can assure you it can be done! (If you live in an area that does not have baskets available every week, then get 2 to last you the two weeks, or contribute for 3 and extras if you have a larger family.)
How we do it
When we wash our produce and line it up on the counter on Saturday, my husband and I often look at each other and wonder how on earth we are going to get through it. The 2 baskets (sometimes 3!) we get for our family of 6 for the week seems like a LOT of food! The fruits aren’t usually a problem, but the vegetables sometimes offer some challenges, especially when not-so-favorite vegetables show up.
- Saturday evening, I typically sit down with a list of what came in the baskets and create a menu. We have found that having a menu is truly the key to our success. And Google is our best friend when it comes to creating the menu. I will often type in an assortment of the vegetables and fruit that comes in the baskets and search. Invariably, there will be at least a few recipes that use the combination of items I searched. I save/print the recipe, cross off the used items off of my list of available contents from the basket, and continue my searches until I have used everything in the basket. Sometimes we have a favorite recipe we use regularly that uses a certain vegetable, and I will throw that into the mix as well. By creating menus this way, not only do we try new recipes weekly (daily sometimes!), but we are able to use more of the basket, more efficiently, and with less waste! You can also come to this blog on Saturday and Sunday and find recipe round-ups using the contents of the baskets. Then the work is done for you already! J
- Cut them up!
- As soon as the vegetables have been washed and rinsed, cut them up! This works especially well for carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, jicama, and other good snack-y vegetables. It saves on time later, and they are ready to eat when you feel the munchies coming on. Put them in a zipper baggie and keep them in the front of your fridge for easy access. When I take the time to prepare the veggies this way, I find that I put them in lunches, grab them for snacks, or find a way to use them in other ways more than when I don’t.
- HIDE them
- There are inevitably fruits and vegetables that are not favorites. Many of these can be cooked and then pureed and hidden in other foods. There are a lot of great resources available for “hiding” things. A great cookbook to look up is “Deceptively Delicious”. For instance, cauliflower can be hidden in almost anything—sweet or savory—without being noticed! If you’re unsure if a certain fruit or vegetable can be hidden/substituted, try the trusty Google search engine. Chances are, someone has tried it before!
- Leave single-serving sized fruits out on the counter in plain sight
- Keeping them where you can see them makes it much easier to just grab the fruit and eat it. While the fruit does last longer in the fridge, if you’re going through a basket a week, the fruit will typically last just fine on the counter, especially apples, bananas, peaches, plums, pears, kiwi, etc.
- Use the ripest items first.
- Typically the baskets contain a varying degree of ripeness for the contents. Bananas often come green, apples don’t get any better with age, peaches and plums can often use a day or two on the counter, as can the tomatoes. If you plan your menus and snacks around what is ripe, you will find that you don’t have accidentally bad items and that you’re eating things that aren’t ripe yet. That being said, for the most part, Bountiful Baskets produce is fresher than what you can get at the grocery store and if washed and stored properly, will last longer than what you can get at the store.
- Think SOUPS and STIRFRYS and PIES!
- At the end of the week, as you’re left with a strange assortment of left-over vegetables and fruits, soups, stirfrys, and pies and crisps can help you get through the last little bit. Just about every vegetable can go into stirfrys or soups, and you can combine so many fruits and make a great pie or crisp/cobbler.
I hope these suggestions are helpful! May your plates be full of goodness and your body full of fruits and vegetables!
A basket a week—I DARE YA!