I am so excited about spending March focusing on nutrition. Are you Ready to Be…MindFULL of Nutrition? Does that scare you a bit? Do you ever wonder HOW MUCH produce you need?
I turned to Choose My Plate as a great resource for this. Check out their website here.
General guidelines have women ages 31-50 needing about 1.5 cups of fruit daily. This is for women who get less than 30 minutes of exercise daily so it can be increased if you are more active! In case you’re wondering – children ages 4-8 also need about 1- 1.5 cups of fruit a day. You can check this chart for more on what a cup of fruit looks like depending on the type!
For veggies, women ages 31-50 need 2.5 cups of veggies daily (again this is for women who get 30 minutes or less exercise each day so it can be increased with increased activity). Children need 1.5 cups (ages 4-8). If you want more on this or for other recommendations based on kids age and gender check here). This page also has a really cool chart based on how many veggies per week you need from each sub group – kinda cool!
Please note these recommendations are generalizations and can change based on other factors!
So we know we need them….how do we do it? This is where my great friend Valerie from Nalls Produce. Valerie is a great resource for all things veggies and produce. Our family LOVES OUR CSA with Nalls but it can be tough sometimes to figure out HOW to get the veggies in. But Valerie never fails to help – check out her NINE tips I love her involvement in the community and her desire to bring healthy meals to our homes:
You want to eat more fresh veggies. You really do. You want to have a crisper that is full of vegetables that you know are good for you and your family, and you want to USE them. You want children that won’t turn up their noses at cabbage steaks. YOU don’t want to turn your nose up at cabbage steaks. But you know that pureeing butternut squash every other day to include in your mac and cheese is not realistic either.
Most of us with moderate to low levels of willpower, children, and responsibilities, the “want” is not enough. New habits are really hard to create. Period. But you WANT to, right? Try these tricks to make it happen!
- Write down your goals. Make them quantifiable and specific. Just saying “I want to eat more fresh vegetables and fruit” is not enough. To be quantifiable and specific you need to say something like “ I want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables with dinner at least 4 nights a week for the next 30 days”. This gives you a specific number that you can measure. The 30 days part – of course you will want to extend this habit beyond the 30 days, but your brain can better handle the challenge of achieving this goal if there is a set end point. At the end of 30 days you will want to look back and evaluate your performance and set a new goal for the next 30 days.
- Track your progress Make a chart with 120 circles on it and color in the circle every time you have a fresh veggie with dinner. Place this chart where you can see it every day and have written on it “Fresh Fruits & Veggies with Dinner 4x weekly for 30 Days”. Marking off the circles is a fun way to get your kids involved, too!
- Prepare yourself for success! Stock your kitchen with enough fresh veggies to make this happen. If you come home in the evening late on a weekday and you have no fresh veggies in your kitchen, it is going to be hard to make it happen that night. Buy enough to have plenty on hand.
- Buy plenty! See trick number 3. Also, most of us have a compelling need to not waste food. If you have an abundance of fresh produce but you know it is going to go bad soon, you are more likely to hurry up and use it.
- Try new recipes! If you enjoy playing in the kitchen, find new recipes to experiment with. It can get you excited to play around with new ingredients!
- Repeat winning recipes! There is nothing wrong with knowing you love roasted cauliflower and incorporating it regularly into your meal planning. A veggie eaten is a veggie eaten, it doesn’t have to be a new, exotic, exciting recipe to “get credit”
- Reverse plan your meals! Instead of thinking “What’s for dinner?” think backwards. “I want my dinner to include cabbage, so I will make cabbage steaks. Kielbasa goes well with that, and I will add whole wheat dinner rolls to finish the meal” This works even better when you have the veggies on hand. “I want to use this cabbage — what can I make? Oh, cabbage steaks, plus kielbasa and rolls”.
- Grow your own! Tomatoes and peppers are fairly easy to grow, even for those of your with self-proclaimed “Black Thumbs”. If you have grown the veggies yourself, you won’t want them to go to waste. You will have pride in your accomplishments and will be eager to reap the rewards! Visit a independent garden center, they can get you set up to handle a few plants successfully, even if you have your doubts.
- Join a CSA! Many farms or produce shops offer packages of pre-selected produce on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, or CSAs. They will include a variety of items that are in-season and ready to eat. This forces you to try new things, based on what you receive that week, fills your crisper, and, best of all, forces you to use it relatively quickly. You know that you are receiving another share soon, and you will need the space in your refrigerator. Hopefully you can try these methods and get some more fresh produce into your diet easily! Sometimes it’s best to just think about ways to manipulate your brain and thought process rather than just thinking about the desired outcome!
Ahh – these tips are great. I specifically love the idea of setting specific goals and CHARTING them. That makes it fun for the family and makes your progress tangible. Thanks so much Valerie for sharing with us.
Valerie Nalls is the manager of Nalls Produce, 50+ year old family operated garden center and fresh produce shop in Alexandria Virginia. Learn more about the Nalls CSA program at nallscropshare.com