Want to Eat More Fruit and Vegetables? Try This.

We all know that eating more fruit and veggies promotes better health, heart health in particular. But somehow the end of the day comes and most of us are no where near the 8-10 servings (!) in the blood pressure lowering DASH diet.

Sometimes in workshops I’ll help participants estimate their fruit and veggie intake from the previous day, and we seldom get more than a handful of people saying they even managed 5+ servings. When I ask them how they did it, one of the most common answers is “It’s always in the fridge, cut up and ready to eat.”

Easy to say, right? But how can a busy person make that happen? A personal chef would be lovely, but for the rest of us, here’s a habit that might help you get there.

This spring, I picked up this fun container at Superstore, originally for do-it-yourself salads, burritos, and veggie bowls. When I posted it on Instagram and wondered out loud how I would find room for it in our tiny kitchen, another dietitian (Lesia Hucal) chimed in and suggested storing it (full) in the fridge.

So I tried it. Game changer! I’ll be honest — there are pros and cons. A day or two after a big shop, it looks like the picture above, we pull it out at every meal and eat produce like champs.

A couple of days later, it’s half-empty and a bit unsightly. More grape stems, less grapes. Mushy strawberries. And it takes up an awful lot of room in the fridge.

The trick to making this work is to spend 5-10 minutes every day consolidating what remains after your family (hopefully) decimates it and refreshing it with new goodies. Plus a couple of times every week you’ll need to empty it and give it a quick clean.

The payoff? More vitamin-, mineral-, fibre-, anti-oxidant-rich fruit and veggies in your body and less rotting in the drawer of good intentions.

And when you don’t make a veggie-centric main dish, you still have a chance of hitting that ideal “half your plate” full of fruit and vegetables. Lord knows I don’t always make what you would think of as “healthy” food, but there’s always some kind of fruit or vegetable on the table alongside tuna melts, pizza, pasta, pancakes, or whatever else I’ve thrown together to keep kids happy.

with tuna melts
with a potluck
with pancakes

The reality is we can’t help but nibble on what’s in front of us after a meal, so why not make that something you want to eat a bit more of? Same thing while you’re getting dinner ready. Pull it out and magically people will be munching on carrots instead of crackers.

The Container

Really you can use any large container for this. If you want something with sections, sorry to say I can’t find this one anymore, but Amazon, Tupperware, and Walmart have similar products. (Mine is the “Everyday Essentials Portable Veggie Tray,” from Superstore, but it’s no longer in our local store and I couldn’t find it online.) If you see anything else that would work well for this, let me know, and I’ll update the post.

Fill ‘er Up

Rinse and Go

If you want to spend as little time as possible on food prep try these. No cutting required.  

  1. Blueberries
  2. Raspberries
  3. Blackberries
  4. Strawberries
  5. Goldenberries (available at Costco, at least for the past few months)
  6. Grapes
  7. Cherries
  8. Cherry tomatoes
  9. Baby carrots
  10. Sugar snap peas

When you have a few minutes to chop 

  1. Watermelon
  2. Pineapple
  3. Mango
  4. Nectarines
  5. Cucumbers
  6. Bell peppers
  7. Carrots
  8. Celery
  9. Broccoli
  10. Cauliflower
    (and so, so much more… ideas galore here).

For later in the week, when the fresh stuff has dwindled

  1. Frozen mango chunks
  2. Frozen blueberries (big ones work best, they’re still kind of messy, but soooo yummy)
  3. Frozen corn
  4. Frozen edamame
  5. Almonds (peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, etc…)
  6. Roasted chickpeas
  7. Canned chickpeas (lemon juice, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt turn these into a nibbly treat)
  8. Medjool dates
  9. Olives
  10. Apples (including them here because they’ll last several weeks in the fridge. If cut apples aren’t going to be eaten right away, sprinkle with lemon juice or even better, cook them in the microwave until soft so they don’t turn brown.)

So this fall, while the markets are teeming with beautiful produce, and you’re getting back into your routine, how about finding a few minutes every day to wash and maybe cut some fruit or veggies? Then stand back and watch them disappear.


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