Saturday, April 20, 2013
How to eat more fruits, vegetables

By Daniel Reynen Citizen Columnist

Two of the secrets to making something successful are simplicity and speed. Fast food companies learned that lesson years ago. When you're hungry you can pull up in a car, order from a big picture menu and drive away with a meal in 10 minutes or less. Imagine if healthy food was just as easy to get.

Now it can be. Instead of picking up an 800-calorie burger dripping with fat, I'm going to share 10 simple things you can do to make fruit and vegetables a bigger part of your daily life.

Start with food that has its own wrapper. Bananas and oranges are two obvious examples. They're easy to carry around and when you're ready to eat, simply take the natural wrapping off and enjoy. Make sure you buy enough so you can enjoy one a day.

Invest in a couple of washable containers to carry pre-cut foods. Baby carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, unsalted nuts and celery are all low-calorie and convenient foods to bring along. Pack them in lunch boxes, Tupperware or bento boxes and store them in the refrigerator. When you're walking out the door, grab one for when you get hungry.

Store prepared vegetables in the fridge that you can add to your regular meals. Chop up green pepper, onion and spinach for omelets. Shred some carrots to sprinkle over a salad. Dice zucchini and mix it in any red sauces you're making. If you don't have the time, grocery stores sell everything pre-cut, pre-diced and pre-shredded for your convenience.

Experiment with cooking frozen vegetables in the microwave. Put 2 to 4 tablespoons of water and the vegetables in a microwave safe bowl. Cover and cook leafy vegetables for 4 to 6 minutes. Asparagus, green beans, broccoli and cauliflower take about 6 to 9 minutes per pound. If you like things more tender, pause the cooking halfway through and use a fork to pierce the veggies. If it's not cooked, start the microwave and keep checking back about once every minute until done.

Remember, canned veggies can be your friend. Diced tomatoes, beets, garbanzo beans and kidney beans can quickly be added to many meals and they stay fresh in the cans for years. Look for labels that say, "no salt added" or "low sodium" to make sure you're buying the healthiest versions.

Set aside two days a week to enjoy a vegetable soup. If you're feeling ambitious, make a recipe that serves 6 or 8 and freeze the extra portions for later. For some ideas visit the website for recipes like butternut squash, chilled cucumber, hot blueberry soup and curry vegetable.

Order a soup and salad combo the next time you go out to eat. Skip the entree and have your server put the dressing on the side. You'll save money and typically a third the calories of a traditional meal. For dessert ask for a serving of fresh fruit. Indulge by putting a dollop of whipped cream on the top.

When you're thinking of places for lunch, don't forget your local grocery store salad bar. They typically have a huge selection of fresh veggies, fruit and soups. You'll find most are priced around the same as a fast food restaurant.

Keep healthy food in sight. Put veggies on the refrigerator's top shelf. Don't use the crisper; you'll forget what's in there until they've gone bad. Same goes for the fruit. Put it in a bowl on your counter and store the junk food behind closed doors. The foods you see are the ones more likely to be eaten.

Taste test several different options until you find a couple you love. Try to avoid the ones that are fried, overly breaded or drowning in fatty sauces. Don't waste your money stocking up on something you feel like you have to eat. Keep testing until you find some fruits and veggies you really want to eat. Ready for some healthy food?

Caution: Before beginning any diet or exercise program, check with your doctor or healthcare professional first. For a free consultation with a trainer, call 305-296-3434. More articles are online at