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Welcome to our series, “Baby Steps for Better Health,” where we share small food, nutrition, and sustainability tips that go a long way. This month we are sharing a few tips on easy ways that we can sneak more fruits and vegetables into our diets.

With all the noise coming at us about what constitutes a healthy diet and all the stress that comes with living today, making healthier choices at the plate can feel like a chore. Annemarie Colbin, PhD, Natural Gourmet Institute’s founder often asked: “How do you know what to eat? Do you eat what’s good for you? Do you choose your foods wisely?” Recommendations from the Institute of Medicine suggest that we’d be better off getting 5-7 servings daily of vegetables and fruits.* But, fewer than 13 percent of Americans get an average of three servings a day. This means some of us are eating a bit more than that, but many likely are eating none.

Instead of getting wrapped up in the latest unprocessed-food plan or miracle-diet, consider optimizing your plate. Try to average 2-3 servings of colorful and mostly non-starchy fruits and vegetables at every meal. Consuming 2 servings at breakfast, 2 at lunch, and 2-3 at dinner will help you meet the basic guidelines.

Still not convinced? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Tips for getting two to three servings of fruits and vegetables at each meal:

  • Breakfast
    • Try a quick parfait by layering a cup of colorful berries with non-dairy or dairy-based yogurts and a spoonful of nuts or granola (2 fruit servings)
    • Instead of bread or potatoes, try a fresh cucumber-tomato salad with your eggs (2 servings)
    • Grate a large apple or ripe pear into your oatmeal or morning porridge with a few dried apricots, cranberries, or currants (2 fruit servings)
  • Lunch or Dinner
    • Make your salads diverse: start with at least 3 cups of leafy greens and add a cup of your favorite mixed vegetables, top with protein like beans, fish, or nuts (4 vegetable servings)
    • Serve soups or stewed beans over 2 cups of spinach or Swiss chard for a starter, main course, or side dish (2 vegetable servings)
    • Whether you’re eating at home or anywhere else, fill half your plate with vegetables and go from there – try roasting root vegetables with any spice mix or toss blanched vegetables with citrus zest and extra-virgin olive oil (2-3 vegetable servings)
  • Snacks and Other
    • Keep cut vegetables around for easy snacking alone or with bean or nut-based dips (1-2 servings)
    • Fruit smoothies make a satisfying snack, try a handful of spinach or mint in your regular 8-ounce mix (just be careful not to load up on added sugar with sweetened milks, concentrated juices, and yogurts) (2 fruit + ½ vegetable serving)
    • Can’t find time to get all your veggies in? Sip an 8-ounce glass of mostly-vegetable juice (1-2 vegetable servings)

*about 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit