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Three ways to eat more fruits and vegetables

Published: Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:03 a.m. CST

Eating seven or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent compared to eating less than one serving, reports a University College London study. Granted, the research was done in England, but Americans can note — the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. The research found that vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference.

More good news is that even if you don’t hit the seven serving per day target, just adding more servings of vegetables to your diet improves overall health.  Even those eating one to three servings of fruits and vegetables had a significantly lower risk than those eating less than one. Here are some tips to move in the right direction.

1. Start your day with fruit and end your day with fruit.

Add raisins to your oatmeal, slice a banana on your bran flakes, or mix blueberries into your yogurt. For those convinced they don’t have time to eat in the morning, fresh fruit is the perfect portable breakfast. Keep a fruit bowl stocked with bananas, tangerines and apples to grab on your way out the door. Displaying the fruit bowl in plain sight on the kitchen table or counter will help you remember.

Get in the habit of choosing fruit as the snack of choice in the evening. Fruit makes a great after dinner snack when the munchies hit. Munch on grapes, fresh strawberries, or juicy orange sections as you’re unwinding from the day. 

2. Don’t let lunch or supper go without a vegetable choice.

Fresh vegetables make an easy lunch box addition. Bored with baby carrots? Try sliced red, yellow, or green peppers for a sweet crunch. The sweet mini peppers sold in resealable bags are also great for bag lunches. Just wash and eat — no slicing necessary. Another option that speeds things up in the kitchen is to let the grocery store do the chopping. Buy fresh vegetables that are cut and ready to go from the produce section of the grocery store.

Too busy to cook vegetables for supper? Not if you purchase frozen vegetables in the new steamer bags. They go straight from the freezer to the microwave without even bothering with a dish. Watch the grocery store ads, and stock up the next time they go on sale. And if you don’t think you like vegetables, this research gives good reason to give them another try.

3. Make vegetables part of your snacking routine.

Use sliced cucumber, zucchini and yellow squash instead of crackers with dips and spreads. Spinach dip and hummus are delicious dip choices for veggies.

What’s the bottom line? It’s time to start thinking more about what you should eat and less time worrying about what you shouldn’t eat. Make it a goal to eat at least on additional serving of fruit or vegetable every day this week. Whatever your starting point, it is always worth eating more fruit and vegetables.