What is the best diet for living a healthy life? Is it a WFPB (whole-food plant-based), ketogenic, gluten-free, paleo, LCHF (low-carb high-fat), WSHL (whole-starch low-fat), or Mediterranean—the main point of all of these diets is that they include eating lots of plants.
Even the USDA MyPlate and the better version from the Harvard School of Public Health have at least 50 percent of every meal coming from vegetables and fruits. What do leading cardiologists say about our diets? With all of the push for including more plants in our diet how do we do? In a survey by the American Heart Association, under 1 percent of children achieve a healthy eating pattern and the number for adults was a shocking 1.5 percent. To win the war on chronic diseases, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and dementia, all nutrition camps must join hands to teach practical ways to get more plant-based meals and snacks into our routines.
Here are my favorite tips to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet:
MAKE THE MAIN DISH A SALAD.
Dark leafy greens like spinach pr kale make a great base topped with edamame, chickpeas, cannellini beans, and seeds. Add anything else that makes your diet satisfying. Even some died cranberries or fresh blueberries will add some great flavor.
HAVE A LARGE SUPPLY OF FROZEN VEGETABLES AND FRUITS.
Keep them in the freezer, buying organic if possible, to use for side dishes, main dishes, smoothies, and stir-fry.
MAKE FRUIT YOUR LATE-NIGHT SNACK.
Frozen grapes and bananas are delicious, and mixed berries make a great dessert. You can make frozen banana ice cream in a blender or a dedicated kitchen appliance.
ADD FRUIT TO YOUR BREAKFAST.
I would recommend that no bowl of cereal or oatmeal be without berries, dates, bananas, or raisins. Although dried fruit needs to be used in moderation, children often will eat them over whole fruits so it’s a start!
CREATE A SALAD COLOR WHEEL.
Although even limp iceberg lettuce tops french fries, a properly designed salad with orange peppers, mandarin orange slices, grape tomatoes, blueberries, and cauliflower florets will resemble a prism of colors and provide healthy results.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SMOOTHIES.
What better treat then a smoothie- if you don’t have time for breakfast mix the ingredients the night before, and simply mix them on your majic bullet on the way out of the door. With enough blueberries or strawberries, even a sizable handful of spinach or baby kale are hidden from a child’s view.
SNACK ON VEGETABLES.
Planning ahead for lunches, trips, and school events with handy vegetables and fruits is key. A bag of grapes, carrot sticks, celery, and broccoli florets can be winners.
NEVER MAKE A SANDWICH WITHOUT VEGGIES.
Make a rule: No sandwich should be without a fruit or vegetable. Even a PB&J can have banana slices. Certainly, a burger with a big lettuce leaf and a tomato is better than just a burger. And slices of cucumber are a refreshing twist on any sandwich.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT JUICE.
It is easy to find cold-pressed vegetable juices in many stores and markets that are entirely or mainly vegetable. Some have been processed by HPP, which gives them a few months of shelf time. Beware the brands that are pasteurized and mainly fruit. They are sugar bombs. Juice your vegetables and eat your fruit whole.
Eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day is the best insurance against falling prey to the illnesses and obesity that rob us of our wellness. Not only can cardiac disease including heart attack be prevented by produce, but lifespan itself is predicted by the number of servings a day we eat from the garden. Even the worst meal is made better when you add a plant to it.
For more information about adding more plants to your diet and the most up-to-date research and wisdom about food, nutrition, disease prevention, and environmental stewardship check out the Food Revolution.