By: Catherine Hill MS, RD, LDN
Fruits and vegetables might not be the first foods you think of when dreaming about the holidays, but they are just as important now as any other time of the year. Known for their low calories and high amount of nutrients, fruit and vegetables are key components to a healthy lifestyle. Here are 10 tips to help you “veg out” this holiday season!
1. Keep cut vegetables and fruit handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner.
- Red, green, or yellow peppers
- Carrots, cucumbers, celery sticks, or snap peas
- Broccoli or cauliflower florets
Keep a bowl of fresh, ripe, whole fruit in the center of your kitchen or dining table. Buy fruits and veggies that have been prewashed, bagged, or pre-sliced and are easily available to consume.
2. Boost your breakfast! Get a head start on your daily fruit and vegetable needs with a nutrient-dense smoothie. Made too much smoothie? Freeze any leftovers in a plastic popsicle tray for a tasty, healthy treat.
|½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt||Great source of calcium and protein|
|1 cup total frozen/fresh fruit||High in fiber and adds natural sweetness|
|½ cup unsweetened,
vanilla Almond milk
|Low-calorie way to add more calcium and silkiness to your smoothie|
|1 handful baby carrots||Known to be a sweet vegetable, adding baby carrots can help reduce the amount of fruit needed|
|2 handfuls baby spinach||Super food! Packed with fiber, iron, and potassium|
|Optional: add ice if you desire a thicker smoothie texture|
3. Dip It! Try these fruits and vegetables with your next dip:
- Hummus [Symbol] with crunchy celery, carrots, snap peas, or bell peppers
- Low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt + cocoa powder [Symbol] with strawberries or apple slices
4. Master of disguise! Sneaking fruits or vegetables into common dishes is a great way add more nutrients into your
|Common item||Fruit or vegetable add-in|
|Rice||Try substituting half of the rice with cauliflower rice to create a lower calorie side item|
|Mashed potatoes||Try using half potatoes and half cooked cauliflower in your mashed potatoes for a lower-carb option|
|Whole-wheat pasta||Try adding in “zoodles” as a vegetable filler|
|Mac and cheese||Try using less pasta by adding in broccoli or cauliflower. For the cheese sauce, use blended cooked cauliflower and less cheese/butter/milk|
|Ground meat (for meatloaf, tacos, marinara sauce, etc.)||Bulk up any protein by adding chopped vegetables! Onions, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.|
|Baked muffins||Try using apple sauce instead of sugar. For a veggie packed muffin, try using shredded carrots or zucchini|
5. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season to save money and help the local economy. Apples, spinach, greens, sweet potatoes, and cabbage are just some of the produce that are currently in season. See this chart for more ideas.
6. Ditch the chips! Instead of potato chips (or the store bought “veggie chips”) try a few of these simple recipes at home:
- Sweet potato chips: 1 sweet potato (thinly sliced), 1 Tbl of sea salt, olive oil cooking spray, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika. Lay sliced sweet potato on paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt and let stand for 15 minutes. Blot dry. Place slices on baking sheet and lightly coat with olive oil cooking spray, cumin, and paprika. Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.
- Apple chips: Mix 1 apple (thinly sliced), ½ tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp sugar together. Lay apples on a baking sheet and bake at 225 for 1 hour. Flip apples over and bake for 1 more hour.
7. Join the meatless movement! Try incorporating one veggie-centric meal per week. Make this a family affair by having the kids help prep dinner.
8. Color your plate with salad! Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful veggies. Visit the link for tips of building a healthy salad. Try broccoli slaw as a salad base for a crunchy alternative to lettuce or use these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
9. Fast foods: the frozen vegetable section in the grocery store is a mecca for “fast foods”. Most steam vegetable options can be ready in less than 5 minutes! Keep these on hand for fast side dishes or stir fry’s.
What “Fast Food” can be ready 5 minutes, have less than 60 calories, and contain 180% of your daily Vitamin C needs? A frozen bag of broccoli!
10. Fruity! Using fruit as a dessert is a healthier alternative to sugary temptations during the holiday season. Try these alternatives below:
- Ice cream: chop banana and freeze for at least 4 hours. Blend in a powerful blender for approximately 3-5 minutes. Bananas will blend into a crumble stage before a smooth stage, keep blending. Eat immediately or freeze for later. for a sweet and cold treat! Add mixed fruit, peanut butter powder, cocoa, cinnamon, or pumpkin spice to add flavor!
- Baked apples: 1 apple, dash of cinnamon, squeeze of lemon. Slice or dice apples. Toss with cinnamon and lemon juice. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes, until tender
- Sorbet: 8 oz. fruit (frozen or fresh), ¼ cup sugar, ¼ cup water, squeeze of lemon. Bring ¼ cup water and sugar to simmer until sugar dissolves. In a powerful blender, puree fruit. Add sugar syrup and squeeze lemon in a thin and steady line until smooth. Freeze for 4 hours.