Photo credit: jiangyi-99
I’ve been on a bit of a “get healthier” track, so when I read an article in the New York Times recently about a study that suggests we should be eating seven or more servings of vegetables and fruits a day (which, by the way, I cannot find no matter what keywords I plug into Google, so here is the BBC’s take on the study), I decided to take a close look at my veggie and fruit eating habits.
You’d think being married to a former vegan who does all the cooking would mean my daily vegetable and fruit intake would be more than adequate, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case at all. First of all, when my husband was vegan, he had a tendency to concentrate on proteins rather than vegetables and fruits (which wasn’t surprising, since there was also a year previously when he became vegetarian and afterwards we realized he should have called himself a “cheeseatarian”). As you might have guessed, now that he’s doing regular omnivore eating, vegetables and fruits still aren’t at the top of his list when it comes to cooking.
I decided I’d better remedy my rather woeful track record of eating vegetables and fruits. When I was in my 20s, my idea of a snack was to cut up a green pepper and mince some garlic and do a quick stir fry. I’m not sure what happened between then and now, but I had definitely lost my way when it comes to healthy eating.
So first things first. I had to figure out what a serving actually meant. According to Canada’s Food Guide, one serving is a medium fruit or half a cup of fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. The American Heart Association says one serving is one cup of raw leafy vegetables, half a cup of other vegetables, half a cup of vegetable juice, a medium fruit or half a cup of chopped, cooked or canned fruit. Clear enough, then: to get seven servings of vegetables and fruits a day I’d be counting half cup serving sizes, unless I’m eating raw leafy vegetables, in which case I’ll use the one cup measure.
(By the way, while I’m more used to saying “fruits and vegetables”, I’m mostly using “vegetables and fruits” here because, according to the study I mentioned, fruits are okay but don’t have as much of an impact as vegetables. And I’m sure there are probably some vegetables – kale, anyone? – which likely have more nutritional bang for the buck than others.)
Seven servings therefore means I need to eat three and a half cups of vegetables and fruits a day (ha! I guess basic math does come in handy later in life). At first glance, this seemed to pose quite the challenge, especially since I was eating maybe one and at most two servings a day.
But once I made a commitment to more vegetables and fruits, it wasn’t as difficult as I’d thought it would be.
First of all, I now think “veggie” and “fruit” at the first signs of those snacking urges (I don’t know about you, but for me, these usually come when I have a book in hand). Yes, steering myself away from the potato chips (they are definitely my main source of unhealthy eating temptation) has been difficult. But then I tried the humus my husband makes for himself as a snack, and I fell in love. I pair it with lots of celery, carrots, radishes and cucumbers, and I’ve gotten so diligent I now pre-chop my celery and keep it in a container in the fridge for ease in fulfilling my snacking urges.
I rely on my nightly plate of veggies and humus to make up for whatever servings I might have missed during the day. But I also now have veggies with my breakfast (zucchini stir fry with my scrambled eggs!) and of course, as part of my lunch. I’ve also been reminding my husband we do need to have a veggie component to our dinners – even if it’s just tomato or cucumber slices.
And instead of my juice and flaxseed concoction I now make a fruit and kale and flaxseed smoothie (finally! I’m using that Magic Bullet I bought so long ago!) and it tastes so much nicer than what I was drinking before.
And kale! Oh, kale, I hear you are so good for me. Well, except that raw kale may be problematic when it comes to thyroid issues. So I now regularly cook up two batches of kale: one in water and one in broth. I freeze each batch, and use the kale cooked in water cubes in my smoothies and the kale cooked in chicken broth cubes in my soups. Very easy.
I’m sure I’ll come up with more ways to eat more vegetables and fruit. I love my vegetables and humus snack, but I’m sure variety is important, too. For me, snacking on vegetables and fruits is definitely the way to go, though!