This year’s National Nutrition Month® theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward” – a reminder that each one of us holds the tool to make healthier food choices. Bite by bite, fork by fork, making small changes during National Nutrition Month® can lead to lasting changes over time to improve your health.
To make sure you are getting the most nutritious mouthfuls possible this month, we’ve got some tips for loading on the fruits and vegetables from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Building a healthy plate is easy when you make half your plate fruits and vegetables. It’s also a great way to add color, flavor and texture plus vitamins, minerals and fiber while consuming goods naturally low in calories and fat. Try the following suggestions to reach a goal of 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day.
- Order the veggie pizza toppings. Try broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, arugula, peperoncini and zucchini.
- Mix up a breakfast smoothie made with low-fat milk, frozen strawberries and a banana.
- Make a lunch veggie wrap with roasted vegetables and low-fat cheese rolled in a whole-wheat tortilla.
- Try crunchy vegetables instead of chips with your favorite low-fat salad dressing for dipping.
- Grill colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
- Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, or mandarin oranges.
- Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: red, green or yellow peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, grape tomatoes, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas or whole radishes.
- Place colorful fruit where everyone can easily grab something for a snack on the run. Keep a bowl of fresh, ripe whole fruit on your kitchen counter or dining table.
- Get saucy with fruit. Puree apples, berries, peaches or pears in a blender for a thick, sweet sauce on grilled or broiled seafood or poultry, or on pancakes, French toast or waffles.
- Stuff an omelet with vegetables. Turn any omelet into a hearty meal with broccoli, squash, carrots, peppers, tomatoes or onions with low-fat sharp cheddar cheese.
- “Sandwich” in fruits and vegetables. Use sliced pineapple, apple, peppers, cucumber and tomato as fillings. Or better yet substitute bread with crisp lettuce for a handy lettuce wrap.
- Wake up to fruit. Make a habit of adding fruit (bananas, frozen berries) to your morning oatmeal, ready-to-eat cereal, yogurt or toaster waffle.
- Top a baked potato with beans and salsa or broccoli and low-fat cheese.
- Microwave a cup of vegetable soup as a snack or with a sandwich for lunch.
- Add grated, shredded or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce and rice dishes.
- Make fruit your dessert: Slice a banana lengthwise and top with a scoop of low-fat frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of chopped nuts.
- Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir fry for a quick side dish.
- Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame (fresh soybeans). Top with low-fat dressing.
- Fruit on the grill: Make kabobs with pineapple, peaches and banana. Grill on low heat until fruit is hot and slightly golden.
- Dip: Whole wheat pita wedges in hummus, baked tortilla chips in salsa, strawberries or apple slices in low-fat yogurt, or graham crackers in applesauce.
For more National Nutrition Month tips, visit eatright.org
By Sarah Coulter, MS, RD, LD, Roper St. Francis Clinical Nutrition Manager