September is National Fruit and Veggies Month (NFVM). It’s a time to celebrate plants and highlight their many benefits. This year’s theme, Celebrating the Roots of our Food, reminds us that our fruits and veggies are at the “roots” of our diet and essential for our health and wellness. Most Americans are eating too few fruits and veggies, thereby limiting their intake of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients. This might be due to beliefs that preparing produce is difficult or that fruits and vegetables are expensive, inconvenient, or not going to result in a tasty dish. In honor of NFVM month, let’s flip the script and push plants to the center of our plates with ideas and hacks that dispel these myths.
Make fruits and vegetables more convenient with a bit of planning and savvy shopping. Choose from the abundance of frozen fruit and veggie options, and keep a bag or two on hand to quickly steam, stir-fry, add to a smoothie, or enhance a pancake or baking batter. Use canned veggies for adding to stews, soups, casseroles and more. Increasing fruit and vegetables intake is easy when small servings are added to a variety of dishes across meals. Blueberries in morning oatmeal, extra sliced veggies on a sandwich, fruit along with snack, and veggies atop pizza are small shifts that can add up when done routinely.
Consider your habits and pick produce that works within your budget. For example, if cutting and washing lettuce seems to prevent you from enjoying greens, then consider paying for pre-washed greens instead. On the other hand, if peeling and cutting carrots comes easier, then pass on baby carrots for a more affordable large bag of whole carrots. It also helps to seek produce that’s in season. Be flexible and aim for a variety of textures and colors while picking produce that’s on sale. Lastly, save money by letting Guiding Stars help you find nutritious options among frozen and canned vegetables.
Tate is the key determining factor of whether we’ll routinely consume a certain food. I hear this often when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Sometimes, we’ve only been introduced to a vegetable cooked a certain way (or maybe overcooked), which has altered our view of that vegetable. If this is the case, I strongly encourage you to learn alternate cooking methods. Blanching, for example, helps retain color, crunch and flavor that might be missing from vegetables that are over roasted or steamed. This involves cooking vegetables in boiling water for mere minutes before draining and placing in ice cold water. Use your favorite sauces, dressings, and spice blends to bring big flavor to simple produce. Consider adding sweet fruit to the grill or a sauté pan to create caramelization. Lastly, if you (or someone else in your household) doesn’t favor vegetables, begin by adding them to something you (or they) already love so that it’s paired with a well-liked taste.