A healthy diet includes eating low fat foods and limiting processed ingredients. It also means eating more fruits and vegetables. Here are five easy ways to make better choices in selecting fruits and vegetables, and how to incorporate them easily in the everyday diet.
Better Choices for Selecting Fruits & Vegetables Including Healthy Snacks, Purchasing Tips and Growing Your Own
While a healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, making better choices on selection and menu planning is also important. Here are some tips on how to do just that.
Eating more fruits and vegetables is a goal for many people. While processed foods may be handy, easy to store and relatively inexpensive, certain varieties may also add to a person’s daily intake of salt, sugars. Some may also contain preservatives and additives. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best choices, but frozen fruits and vegetables are another good alternative to fresh varieties, as long as the label states there is no added fats, salts or sugars (just the vegetable itself, for example). Here are some tips for purchasing and incorporating fruits and vegetables into everyday diets.
Offer Healthy Snacks
After school can be a time for active snacking and activity time, so offer fruits or vegetables for children. This also goes for adults wanting a late night snack or during the afternoon. Have a bowl of apples, oranges or bananas within easy reach of the homework. Mini carrots or carrot sticks, radishes, and celery sticks are all easy and inexpensive to prepare. If it is necessary to keep shelf stable fruits and vegetables on hand, always read the labels. Applesauce may be a quick and delicious apple snack, but some varieties have added sugars or colorings. The best choices for processed snacks are those with limited sugars and salts, and that contain all natural colorings and flavorings.
Go Organic for the Popular Items
While organic foods are pesticide-free and all natural, they are usually more expensive. Instead of busting a budget when purchasing organic produce, choose organic fresh fruits and vegetables the family eats daily or often. Do children eat apples by the bushel? This would be a great item to purchase organically grown. Just knowing the one item the family eats on a regular basis is free of pesticides can be reassuring for parents, and may get some adults to eat more fruits and vegetables on a regular basis as well.
Choosing Canned or Frozen Products
Canned or frozen produce is handy when planning meals in advance and for bulk purchasing. While they may keep longer than fresh produce, some varieties may be loaded with sugar, salt or additives. The better choice when buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables is selecting those varieties packaged with just the item itself. Frozen vegetables are often processed with nothing added, and canned vegetables varieties can be found salt-free and sugar-free. Frozen fruits are sometimes processed with sugar, but IQF (individually quick frozen) varieties are available where the item is quick frozen without sugar.
Quick mixes for fruit muffins and pancakes like blueberry or banana for the most part contain highly processed colored and flavored bits of imitation fruits. A better choice is to make the recipe at home from scratch with the real thing. Plain recipes such as muffins and pancakes are easily fortified with frozen or fresh blueberries, chopped peaches or mashed bananas. Vegetables are easily incorporated into quick breads. Stir frozen cut corn or freshly chopped bell peppers into cornbread batters for added color and flavor, and an added nutrient boost as well.
Grow Your Own
The best way to add fruits and vegetables to a diet is to always have them on hand. If planting and taking care of a vegetable garden is daunting, try growing a single item in a large flower pot or a wine barrel cut in half. Even apartment dwellers can find room for a simple narrow planter box for growing lettuces or fresh herbs. Starting off with a single item that can be used in daily recipes and having it handy whenever it is needed makes it that much more likely it will be used. Try growing spinach and baby lettuces for use in salads and sandwiches and for quick sautés. Look for bell peppers and tomatoes in the garden section already started, which are easily adapted for patio planters.
By Renee Shelton
Renee Shelton is a classically trained culinarian with a focus on baking and healthy cooking. She is a pastry chef by trade, and is a small business owner. Her company specializes in pastry and culinary equipment, and she consults on a contract basis, worldwide. Renee frequently writes about food, both sweet and savory, and her hobbies, sewing and fishing.