More fruits, veggies can help improve health
It may come as no surprise that Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables despite their substantial health benefits, but just a few small, simple changes at each meal can make a significant difference in a person’s health and wellness.
That’s the advice from Deborah Harris, the Defense Commissary Agency’s nutritionist and health and wellness point of contact. And she points to the local commissary and the agency’s website as a valuable resources to help service members and their families meet their personal health and wellness goals while also making the most of their benefit.
“Anyone can easily up their game and get in eight servings of fruits and veggies daily – two servings at breakfast, lunch and dinner, and two for snacks,” said Harris, a registered dietitian. “Canned, dried and frozen without added sugar and sodium all count toward the goal of at least 8 servings per day.” She referred to a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found only 1 in 10 adults get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily.
“Fruits and veggies are low in calories and are rich in vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has shown to decrease the risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer,” she said. “Increasing fruits and vegetables isn’t that hard if you take advantage of shopping your commissary and use the resources available to you.”
Consider these meal suggestions to help pump up your intake of healthy fruits and vegetables.
- Top your oatmeal with bananas, peaches or strawberries or add blueberries to pancakes.
- Transform an omelet into a hearty meal with baby spinach, peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes or squash, with a little of your favorite cheese.
- Experiment with smoothies by combining low fat milk or yogurt with fruit and veggies. Try a half cup of frozen berries, with some kale or baby spinach.
- Pack an apple, orange, banana or grapes or individual containers of fruits like no-sugar-added canned peaches.
- Soup up your soups with tons of veggies – anything and everything. Throw in some beans, leftover brown rice or quinoa for a very hearty meal.
- Try new veggies or even fruit on your homemade pizza.
- Make a veggie wrap with roasted veggies and some cheese in a tortilla.
- Eating more can sometimes be a good thing. Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables for most meals.
- Use the latest “Thinking Outside the Box” recipe which uses ingredients on sale at the commissary. These recipes are quick & easy meal solutions approved by the DeCA health and wellness program.
- Use spices and herbs to season veggies to add variety.
- Try a salad before or after dinner spiced up with sautéed mushrooms or a chopped salad with fruit and nuts. Add color to salads with baby carrots, grape tomatoes, spinach leaves, apples or mandarin oranges.
- Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables to steam or stir-fry.
- Add veggies into casseroles – a layer of spinach in the lasagna, diced carrots in the tomato sauce or grated zucchini in the meatloaf.
- Try spaghetti squash instead of pasta. Once baked, spaghetti squash can be flaked with a fork to reveal spaghetti like strands to offer the perfect bed for your favorite pasta sauce.
- Freeze bananas and grapes to take healthy snacking to a whole new level. Dip the banana in a small amount of rich dark chocolate for an extra boost of flavor.
- Keep a bowl of fruit within reach at home and be sure to take a piece with you; having a healthy snack handy will help prevent those “hangry” drive-through visits.
- Add fresh berries or a sliced banana to your favorite no-sugar-added yogurt.
“Tour the produce section of your commissary with a fresh perspective,” Harris said. “Acquaint yourself with an unfamiliar fruit or vegetable and talk to the produce team for suggestions on how to incorporate it into a healthy diet. Don’t forget to check out the Nutrition Guide Program to help meet your health and wellness needs.”
Visit the Healthy Living section for more information from DeCA’s nutritionist: approved recipes, tips, and links to assist you in meeting your health and wellness goals and for help with planning meals.