No Excuses: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

9 reasons you're skimping on fruits and vegetables - and how to overcome them.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

What's your excuse? We all know that fruits and vegetables can improve our health in a powerful way. But we seem to keep coming up with reasons why we can't eat more of them.

Several recent studies have shown that we just aren't eating enough produce. For example, researchers from Johns Hopkins University looked at data from two national surveys, which included almost 24,000 people. During a 24-hour period, only 11% reported eating the recommended two or more servings of fruit and three or more servings of vegetables.

In 2005, less than a third of American adults reported eating at least two daily servings of fruit a day, and 27% said they ate three or more servings of vegetables, according to a report from the CDC.

These are not grandiose goals here. Many nutrition experts would argue that five servings a day of fruits and vegetables is the bare minimum.

So why can't we meet them? Here are some common excuses we make for not eating our fruits and vegetables, along with tips on how to overcome each one.

Excuse No. 1: It's not convenient to eat fruits and vegetables.

"Out of sight, out of mind" is the key here. If fruits and vegetables aren't in front of us when we are eating or choosing what to eat, we are less likely to eat them.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Keep ready-to-eat fruit out where you can see it. Keep whole fruit and dried fruit sitting on your kitchen counter. Put cut fruit and 100% juice front and center in your refrigerator so you see it when you open the door.

  • Go places where you're reminded to eat fruits and vegetables. If you go to restaurants that feature vegetarian dishes or cafes that serve awesome fruit smoothies or fruit salads, you'll likely be inspired to eat fruits and vegetables.

Excuse No. 2: I don't like fruits and vegetables.

Some people say they don't eat enough fruits and vegetables because they simply aren't interested. It's more fun to eat french fries or nachos.

Kristi Thaete, MS, RD, a clinical dietitian for Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Kansas, says her clients often anticipate that vegetables will be bland or taste bad.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Get out of a fruit and vegetable rut and try new options. No one likes the same fruit or vegetables day in and day out.

  • Add fruits and vegetables to foods you like. Add fruit to yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, French toast, cottage cheese, etc. Add vegetables to chili, stew, casseroles, pasta, pasta salad, omelets, pizza, and so on. You can also dip raw veggies in your favorite light salad dressing.

  • Serve a green salad with dinner. This is standard practice in many cultures. Why not do it a few times a week? Make it fun by changing the embellishments (say, from mandarin oranges and pecans to cucumber and avocado) and the types of dressing you use (from light raspberry vinaigrette to light Caesar).

  • Buy or make fruit salad often. No one can resist a beautiful fresh fruit salad. There's something very appetizing about an assortment of fruit in different shapes, colors, and flavors, all tossed together.

Excuse No. 3: I'm out of the habit of eating fruits and vegetables.

So much of what we eat and drink, day in and day out, is a function of habit. If you're in the habit of drinking fruit juice each morning with breakfast, adding fruit every time you sit down to a bowl of oatmeal, or starting dinner with a side salad, you'll be a lot more likely to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Make fruits and vegetables part of every meal and snack. Make written signs for yourself if you have to, but somehow remind yourself to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack (or almost every one).

  • Drink a glass of 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice each day. You could have it as a morning or afternoon snack or with a meal. Some of the high-nutrient fruit juices are orange juice, grapefruit juice, and purple grape juice.

Excuse No. 4: I'm not motivated to eat fruits and vegetables.

If everyone knew how much fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, maybe more of us would make it a priority to eat at least five servings a day. The truth is that fruits and vegetables may be the most important things you can add to your daily diet to reduce the risk of cancer.


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