Take the Fruit and Vegetable Challenge

19 easy ways to get your 9 servings a day

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

If you thought getting five servings of fruits and vegetables a day was tough, get ready for nine! That's the latest recommendation from the new dietary guidelines released by the departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services. Nine servings translate to about 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.

We all know fruits and vegetables are good for us, but how do we go about getting nine servings every day? Most of us had a hard time working in five.

And what about people who don't even like veggies? Many of us can even picture our mothers urging us to "eat our vegetables" at the family dinner table -- or even refusing to let us leave the table until we choked those veggies down. (In fact, some researchers believe that bad experiences with vegetables from our past can affect how we feel about these vegetables now, says Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN, nutrition consultant to the American Institute for Cancer Research.)

If this sounds like you, eating 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day probably sounds next to impossible. But it's a goal that's so important for your health.

"The best nutrition minds in the country made these recommendations after studying the research that show fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and high blood pressure," says Christine Filardo, MS, RD, a spokeswoman for the Produce for Better Health Foundation. "Fruits and vegetables can also help fight the obesity epidemic."

According to Filardo, the most common reasons people give for not eating more fruits and vegetables are that they often aren't convenient, and people don't know how to prepare them.

So what does it take to get into the nine-a-day habit? According to experts:

  • It takes constantly reminding yourself to eat fruits and vegetables.
  • It takes having fruit and veggies available at every turn -- at work, at home, in restaurants.
  • It takes making it easy for yourself, because most people today are beyond busy.
  • If you haven't been accustomed to eating much produce, it takes starting small -- maybe going for one serving a day at first -- and staying the path.

With all this in mind, here are 19 surefire ways to get you on the road to enjoying fruits and vegetables several times a day.

1. Make fruit salad.

Fruit is much more appealing if it is cut, washed, and assembled into a colorful salad. A couple of times a week, clean out your produce bin and make a beautiful fruit salad.

2. Make a bowl of fruit part of your decor.

Wash whatever fresh fruit you have at the moment and set a big bowl of it on your table or desk. As you pass by or talk on the phone, you'll find yourself munching on this awesome snack food.

3. Toss some fruit into your breakfast.

Throw some fresh, frozen, or dried fruit into your breakfast, whether you're having a smoothie, pancakes, French toast, or hot or cold cereal.

4. Throw some veggies in the skillet.

Making an omelet or frittata? Fill it with chopped tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, chili peppers, broccoli florets, or whatever you have on hand. Any or all of these veggies can also be tossed into any potato skillet dish.

5. Crunch on a green salad.

Eat a crisp, green salad almost every day. It's a cool and refreshing way to work veggies into your lunch, dinner or snack. Load your salads up with as many raw veggies as you can: cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, broccoli florets, green beans, onions, radishes, jicama, tomato, etc. And try using high-nutrient raw spinach or romaine instead of iceberg lettuce. For a sweet twist, add fruit to your green salads. Strawberries, pears, grapes, orange segments, mango, and papaya all work well.

6. Pair fruit with cheese.

Enjoy some fresh fruit with cheese for a nice (and portable) dessert, picnic, or snack. The fruits that best lend themselves to pairing with cheeses are pears, apples, and grapes.

7. Munch on dried fruit.

Dried fruits make great snacks! They don't go bad or get bruised, and you can carry them in your briefcase or car (or store them in your desk) for a pick-me-up any time of day. Try dried apricots, pears, peaches, nectarines, prunes, raisins, dates, cherries, blueberries, and more.

8. Add veggies you like to dishes you love.

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