The PackIt 30-Day Refresh is our first-ever healthy living challenge—no diets or resolutions required. Join us throughout the month of January as we take small steps to make big changes to both the body and mind. Visit www.packit.com/refresh to get started.
Eat your veggies. You heard it ad nauseum from parents and teachers growing up, but even as an adult, it’s easier said than done. Life happens—and so do meat lovers’ pizzas.
That doesn’t mean it’s any less important to pack in fresh foods as the years roll on. Fruit and vegetables can help cut your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, specific cancers and Type 2 diabetes, among other benefits.
There’s another huge reason to get plenty of fruits and veggies, and it’s why we picked this as our first theme of the PackIt 30-Day Refresh. When you prioritize eating fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll find there’s simply less room for processed stuff in your diet. Ditching processed foods is key no matter your dietary goal, whether it’s trying to lose weight, cut your salt or sugar intake or just feel better after every meal.
If you’re an average American who eats a 2,000 calorie diet, you’ll need at least two cups of fruit and two and a half cups of vegetables daily, according to the USDA’s dietary guidelines. Another way to think about it: Make half your plate fruit and vegetables at every meal.
However, many dietitians say the USDA guidelines are the bare minimum to ward off nutritional deficiencies. Many countries advise more; in Japan, the government recommends a whopping 17 portions of fruit and veggies daily!
Most Americans aren’t getting to that level any time soon—as many as 75% of us don’t get their daily quota of veggies. Don’t worry if you’re among that group, though. Getting your daily allowance is easier than you think. We’ve got smart ideas for upping your fruit and vegetable intake below. First, a few guidelines:
• It’s vital that leafy greens—those superheroes in the battle against heart disease—comprise the bulk of your veggie diet. Shoot for good stuff like spinach, lettuce, kale and broccoli for about two-thirds of your vegetable intake.
• Juice technically counts when it comes to servings, but it’s not something that nutritionists are wild about. If you absolutely must have it, blend your own at home so you don’t lose the fiber that makes it so healthful, and throw in veggies whenever possible.
• As with most things in life, balance is everything. The same applies to your variety of fruit and veggie consumption. E.g., some fruits have high sugar contents (think bananas, mangoes, sweet potatoes and grapes). Opt for an array of different fruits and veggies so you don’t overload on the sweet stuff and you get the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals specific varieties offer.
• Here’s a trick to measuring portions of fruits and veggies: A single serving often equates to the size of your palm. Now, that’s not always the case—for greens you’ll need double that size; for dried fruit, stick with half. Still, it’s a handy rule in a pinch. For more precise measurements, consult the USDA’s Food Tracker.
Read on for 8 easy ways to get more fruit and veggies in your diet every day, plus get an exclusive discount on our favorite PackIt bag for grocery shopping.
- Make one meal every day a salad.
This smart idea comes from Jenny Rosenstrach of the wonderful Dinner: A Love Story blog. It’s so simple, and it generally takes care of the bulk of your veggie requirements. Get it in at lunch and, finito, you’re set for the day.
- BYO to potlucks, parties and picnics.
Festive gatherings can be a minefield for delicious but nutritionally-deficient snacks. The fix? Take your own fruit salad or veggie crudités to your next party in a freezable cooler bag. Get ideas for healthy snacks that feed a crowd on our Pinterest boards.
- Try them grilled or roasted.
Can’t stomach the raw stuff? Apply a little heat and you’ll find that many fresh foods are totally transformed. Cauliflower and broccoli are phenomenally distinct from their raw counterparts when roasted; fruits like pineapple and apricot take on a caramelized flavor profile when put to the flame.
- Have greens at breakfast.
Why not bang out your daily goal first thing so it’s out of the way? Toss some veggies in omelet or smoothie, or opt for one of these amazing breakfast salads from the Food Network.
- Lean on frozen foods.
We’re not talking TV dinners but bags of flash-frozen veggies that retain most of the wonderful nutrients they had at picking. Frozen seasoned greens in particular are a particular godsend. Toss them in a soup or heat up as a side for to round out your meal.
- Eat fruit with dinner.
And not just for dessert. Garnish your meal with a tropical salad, or try adding roasted grapes to a lean cut of pork or chicken. Reminder: Tomatoes, cucumbers and bell peppers are actually fruits!
- Down a veggie snack before a big meal out.
When you know you’re going to be having a gut-busting dinner, plan ahead. Eat some raw carrots, cucumbers, celery or peppers with salsa an hour beforehand. You’ll be less likely to go hog wild when ordering or eat your entire supersize meal. Plus, you can always take leftovers to work the next day with a side salad in your freezable lunch bag.
- Become friends with your microwave.
It’s not everyone’s favorite kitchen tool, but if you’re strapped for time, this appliance offers a fast, easy way to prep veggies. You can steam or cook everything from Brussels sprouts to potatoes in a matter of minutes.
Getting perishable fruit and veggies home safely is a snap when you’ve got the only bag that keeps items cold up to 6 hours. Just for fans of the PackIt 30-Day Refresh, take 20% off all Freezable Grocery Bags through January 5th, 2016. Enter code GROCERYREFRESH20 at checkout.