Strive for Health with 7 to 10 Servings of Fruits and Veggies
Consuming seven to ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day as recommended for the Mediterranean diet may seem like a lot, but it doesn’t have to be such a challenge.
If you don’t love the fruits and veggies specifically associated with the Mediterranean diet, that’s okay! Eat any type of fruit or vegetable you like — and the more the merrier.
Research shows an inverse relationship between number of fruits and veggies and the risk for disease: The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to get sick. Between seven and ten servings seems to be the range for the biggest reductions in disease risk. So how can you meet that lucky number of servings?
Sneaking fruits and veggies into every meal
At every single meal and snack, choose at least a serving or two (or three!) of a fruit or vegetable. Do so not only for the nutrients and the taste, but also to help round out every meal and keep you satisfied with fiber.
What is a serving? This table shows you:
|Fresh fruit||1/2 cup|
|Dried fruit||1/4 cup|
|Raw vegetables||1 cup|
|Cooked vegetables||1/2 cup|
But if you don’t want to remember these stats, as an overarching guideline, simply aim for 2 to 3 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of veggies every day.
When you’re planning ahead, ask yourself, What is my fruit or vegetable at this meal? If the answer is nothing, and you need (or your picky child needs) to get a dose, refer to the following table, which highlights some sneaky ways to integrate fruits and vegetables at breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
|Meal||Fruit and Veggie Suggestions|
|Breakfast||Make a fruit and/or veggie-packed smoothie.
Use canned pumpkin in your muffins.
Add pureed banana in your pancakes.
|Lunch||Add a slice of avocado or onions to your sandwich.
Chop up spinach into soups or as topping for pizza.
|Dinner||Make zucchini pancakes or figs with walnuts for an
Top a chicken or fish with mango salsa.
Use spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
|Enjoying a rainbow of alternatives for greater nutrition|
Eating from the rainbow of hues ensure you get a variety of nutrients and keeps you from getting bored with your selections. (If you’re not so keen on the most popular Mediterranean fruits and veggies, you can try some of these on for size!):
Red: Apples, beets, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes
Orange/yellow: Apricots, butternut squash, cantaloupe, carrots, peaches, pumpkin
Green: Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, spinach
Blue/Purple: Blackberries, blueberries, grapes, plums
White: Bananas, cauliflower, jicama, mushrooms
Swapping in fruit for dessert
When you hear the word dessert, your mind may wander to thoughts of cookies, cake, and ice cream. Although those foods are okay to have once in a while, they shouldn’t be everyday indulgences. If you have a sweet tooth, you may find that swapping in fruit can help give you the sweet satisfaction you need while helping you consume less of the more indulgent stuff.
So do like people in the Mediterranean region do and swap in these delicious and more nutritious dessert ideas:
Fresh berry sorbet
Sliced peaches soaked in wine
Halved figs with a drizzle of honey
Baked apples or pears
Greek yogurt with dried apricots
Everything in moderation! If you want to have cookies or cake once in a while, that’s fine. In fact, indulging periodically is also the Mediterranean way. Fruit tarts and cakes are popular dishes. As long as you keep your portions in check and make these treats an occasional — and not an everyday — thing they can be part of a healthful diet.