Easy tips for adding fruit and vegetables to your diet

Follow these recommendations for older adults and learn how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables to your diet.

Did you know that the recommendation for older adults is to consume 3 ½ cups of fruits and vegetables each day? That amount can feel like a lot if your habits are not accustomed to a diet based in produce. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends, through the method MyPlate, that half our plates be fruits and vegetables.

There are many reasons to seriously consider adopting this healthful eating strategy. Fruits and non-starchy vegetables are low in calories, low in sodium, and have limited sugars; not to mention they are a great source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. A consistent daily intake of fruits and non-starchy vegetables can help prevent many serious health conditions like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancers. Fruit and vegetables in any form will do – fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juice can move you to that goal of 3 ½ cups each day.

So what are some ways to easily incorporate more fruit and vegetables into our diets? Let’s start with breakfast!

Adding fruit, like mangos, diced apples or raisins to your morning cereal, hot or cold, can be delicious, and you are off to a great start. Don’t forget that that 8 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice is considered one cup of fruit. Perhaps making a smoothie in the blender with some yogurt and frozen fruit sounds like an interesting way to kick off your day. Put some sliced kiwi or strawberries on your English muffin or bagel for a twist on boring toast.

Why not have a fresh salad with your sandwich for lunch, or maybe tomato or vegetable soup. As for that sandwich, sneak a few pieces of kale or spinach leaves in-between those pieces of bread!

Dinner time can be monotonous, so try something new. It’s easy and inexpensive to add a bag of frozen vegetables to nearly any pasta dish or casserole that might be on your menu, and the variety is endless in the frozen food section at your grocery store. Use herbs and spices to enhance a vegetable dish – try thyme or rosemary on cooked carrots. Maybe try a new combination of salads or sides that use both fruit and vegetables, like a lettuce salad with pineapple or mandarin orange slices, or a corn salad with blueberries. Be creative.

A juicy pear can be a refreshing and rewarding dessert, and for those in-between meal snacks, veggie sticks with a low-fat dressing or dip can help ward off those hunger pangs before dinner.

These simple tips are meant to provide generalized recommendation on how to incorporate vegetables and fruits to your daily diet. You should always check with your health care provider before following any health recommendation. If you would like to learn more about ways to maintain healthy eating, visit Michigan State University Extension. MSU Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families and children that focus on lifestyle changes to promote healthy eating and wellness. 

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