We all know we should eat more fruits and vegetables. But, some are intimidated by the thought of it. Mostly because of the perceived expense of fresh produce or time and effort involved in preparing them. The truth is, if you buy in season you needn’t worry about the cost. And, there are plenty of quick and easy ways to incorporate plant-based foods in our diets every day. Here are just a few ideas for every meal of the day. Simply swap in fruits and veggies that you prefer and are in season accordingly.
- Berries out of season? Substitute sliced banana, grapes, raisins, pitted cherries, sliced peaches or plums.
- Don’t like yogurt or can’t have dairy? Substitute cottage cheese, kefir or 1/4 cup nut milk thickened with nut butter.
- Don’t like nuts and seeds? Substitute 1/4 cup of whole grain, low-sugar cold cereal, such as Kashi, Cheerios or nut-free granola.
Better-than-Toast: Sure, some chic New York City restaurants have been charging an arm and a leg for avocado toast of late, but there’s no reason not to have it at home for a fraction of the cost. Be sure to use 100% whole grain bread and add crumbles of goat cheese for a little extra protein.
- Not a fan of avocado? Substitute mashed banana with nut butter or cottage cheese laced with crushed pineapple or diced peaches, melon or mango.
Italian Summer: Sliced tomatoes, drizzled balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, sliced fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and cracked pepper with a side of whole grain bread. Yes, it’s that easy.
- Want a different option? Believe it or not, strawberries or watermelon can be a good stand-in for the tomatoes. However, in either case, I’d substitute shaved parmesan or crumbled goat or blue cheese for the mozzarella. You can exchange your preferred herb for the basil or omit it altogether.
Outside-the-Box Salad: There’s no law that says a salad must consist primarily of greens. Any combination of raw vegetables and fruit can constitute a salad. Select your favorites and add a protein, such as tuna, grilled chicken, nuts, seeds, beans or egg.
- Dressing dilemma? Most produce pairs well with balsamic vinaigrette but other healthy options are a lemon-based vinaigrette, honey mustard or avocado oil with a squeeze of lime.
Step 1: Grill or Roast Veggies: Rare is the vegetable that doesn’t pop with a sweet depth of flavor after being grilled or roasted. And preparing them is a snap. Wash, cut into uniform pieces, toss in a light coating of olive or canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook. If roasting, spread into single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400° F until caramelized and tender. If grilling, use a grilling pan or basket. If you don’t have one, keep veggies large enough so they won’t fall through the grate. Prepare twice as many veggies as your protein and grain.
Step 2: Pair with a Protein and a Whole Grain or Starchy Vegetable
- Protein Options: Grilled fish fillets, kebabs with shrimp, beef tips or firm tofu cubes; roasted chicken, turkey or pork loin.
- Grain/Starch Options: Grilled corn on the cob; baked or roasted potatoes; stovetop quinoa or whole grain pasta.
Getting more fruits and veggies in your diet doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming or complicated. Select what you like most of what’s in season at any given time and the rest couldn’t be simpler or more delicious.