According to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only one in 10 adults in the U.S. gets enough fruits and vegetables in his or her meals.
This statistic is based on federal guidelines and recommendations stating that adults should eat 2-3 cups of vegetables and 1 1/2-2 cups of fruit per day. Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients such as fiber, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin A, antioxidants, folate and more to prevent many diseases and infections and also keep our bodies functioning optimally.
As we are now in the spring season and heading into summer, there are more fresh, organic fruits and vegetables available that can be incorporated into nutrition plans and meals in creative ways.
Following are ideas for including spring and summer fruits and vegetables in meals, which I highly recommend to maximize nutrition and taste.
• Broccoli. I enjoy cooking broccoli using a two-part process to preserve nutrients while also giving it a crunchy texture. I start by using my steamer basket and pot to steam the broccoli in boiled water over the stove for approximately five minutes, and then I transfer it to a nonstick cooking pan and cook it for another five minutes on medium to low heat with olive or canola oil. I also sprinkle in garlic salt and pepper to give it some extra flavor. Once the broccoli is cooked this way, it’s easy to add it as a side dish to a meal that may include chicken or fish and quinoa.
• Avocado. I love the creamy, hearty texture of avocado and feel good about the fact that it contains healthful, monounsaturated fats. I use an avocado slicer to create neat slices that can easily be added to a salad that includes kale or spinach, cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes, or a sandwich with whole-grain bread, lettuce, tomatoes, turkey, tuna or hard-boiled eggs. I also often enjoy eating avocado slices by themselves with a little salt and pepper sprinkled on top.
• Berries. One of my favorite ways to consume berries is to add them to a smoothie. I make smoothies several times a week, and berries are one of my key ingredients. My smoothie recipe includes 1 cup of organic frozen strawberries, blueberries and blackberries, 1 cup of organic skim milk, 1 cup of organic kale, 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter and a packet of low-sugar chocolate protein powder. I put all of the ingredients in a blender and then end up with a healthy, delicious and filling smoothie that gives me energy throughout my morning.
• Mushrooms. Mushrooms are quite versatile. I like to sauté them in a nonstick pan and put them on top of chicken or add them to pasta dishes. I also like to add them to homemade pizzas. Mushrooms can be seasoned with garlic salt, pepper, olive oil, teriyaki sauce and more. They’re easy to cook, and they make most dishes a little bit more interesting and flavorful.
• Bell peppers. I cut up bell peppers and add them to scrambled eggs, omelets or frittatas. They not only make breakfast and brunch dishes more colorful, but they also add crunch, flavor and texture. I often buy organic mini-bell peppers, which make for a great snack that I add to my kids’ lunches.
There are so many interesting ways to include fruits and vegetables in your meals, so get creative, have fun with it and make sure that you’re getting the recommended levels in your nutrition plan each day to optimize your health and well-being.
Reena Vokoun is owner of the Los Altos-based Passion Fit. For more information, visit passionfit.com.