Fill 50% of Your Plate with Fruits & Veggies
Contributions by Kathryn Kemp Guylay, and Jackie Newgent
“If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t. ”
― Michael Pollan
What’s In & What’s Out
- Cover at least half your plate with fruits and veggies at one meal or snack each day (for Level III and above, cover at least half your plate for two meals or snacks each day).
- While fresh fruits and vegetables are best, preserving produce at its freshest is a great way to preserve its nutrients, so frozen and canned produce are a-okay if fresh isn’t an option.
- Deep fried vegetables do not count. Deep frying alters a vegetable’s nutrient content, and adds unhealthy fats to your plate (stick with healthy fats like avocado, nuts, fish and olive oil). Sorry french fries, you’re out of luck.
- You may include dried fruit in limited quantities, but look for the kind without sulfites or added sugar. Dried fruit has more concentrated sugar than fresh fruit, so choose dried figs, pears, peaches and currants, as they have the most fiber, and don’t eat too much.
- Jam, jelly, preserves and marmalade don’t count. They contain a lot of added sugar, and your body thinks it has just eaten a pixie stick.
Prize Alert from Dig Inn
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Why This Is A Good Idea
The Federal Dietary Guidelines recommend 1.5 - 2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables daily (about 5 servings)—giving you the vital vitamins, nutrients and fiber your body needs to thrive. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent type 2 diabetes, lower blood pressure, help you maintain a healthy weight, and even make your skin glow! And by filling at least half your plate with fruits and veggies, you’ll be well on your way to meeting (or even exceeding!) these guidelines.
Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.
Basic Tips & Useful Hints
- Be sure to check in after each meal at which you’ve filled at least 50% of your plate with fruits and veggies. You can check in multiple times in a day. Try not to wait till the end of the day - it’s much more effective to check in right after you eat.
- Succeed before you even walk out the door in the morning by making a veggie-centric breakfast. 2 eggs and a pile of sautéed veggies; an omelette loaded with spinach, mushrooms and onions; and a breakfast salad all fit the bill.
- Use snack time to your advantage and replace crackers or cookies with a plate full of vegetables and a side of hummus.
- After you’ve filled at least half your plate with veggies, fill the rest with whole grains and protein such as sustainably-raised Alaskan Salmon, organic tofu, free-range organic chicken, or grass-fed meat.
- Eat your veggies with healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil to best absorb their nutrients.
- While fruits and veggies are the star of this Challenge, make sure you consume complete proteins throughout the day. Meat, poultry, fish, dairy and eggs are all naturally complete proteins from animals. A variety of nuts, whole grains, seeds and legumes can be combined to provide your body with complete proteins throughout the day too—a whole grain such as brown rice combined with beans or lentils, or a whole grain such as Ezekiel bread combined with nuts or seeds (almond butter) for example.
- Certain vitamins and minerals are best absorbed when paired together. For example, eating calcium and magnesium-rich foods together can maximize the nutritional benefit of each—broccoli with pumpkin seed pesto, or kale with toasted almonds.
- Eat the rainbow—a variety of colors of produce in your diet guarantees you’ll be getting a wide range of nutrients.
- The darker and more vibrant the vegetable, the better (except cauliflower, the pale powerhouse).
- Farmers markets, farm stands, your garden, and the produce section at the grocery store are your new best friends. The more locally grown the better, as the produce will be fresher and have less of an environmental impact if it comes from nearby.
- The frozen section is good too—being able to keep produce on hand is the best way to ensure you eat it!
- Berries are the queen of the fruit category, containing less sugar and more antioxidants and fiber than others.
- Be sure to stock up on leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, spinach, and broccoli—these guys are the kings of nutrition, and they are easy to cook. If you don’t have time to chop during the week you can chop all at once over the weekend and store your produce in a vented or perforated bag in your fridge. Or buy pre-chopped in a pinch, and let the grocery store do the heavy lifting for you.
- Keep veggies that can be eaten raw as a snack, dipped in something, or cooked for dinner on hand—like zucchini, cauliflower, green beans, bell peppers and carrots. Their versatility increases the likelihood that you’ll eat them!
- Don’t forget your favorite proteins—sustainably-sourced fish, free-range chicken, organic grass-fed meat, etc.
- Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of protein-rich, nutritious beans and whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
- Eggs too.
Smart Things To Read And Watch
- The Last Conversation You’ll Ever Need to Have About Eating Right
- Harvard School of Public Health’s Guide to eating Fruits and Vegetables
- VIDEO: How to add veggies to your diet
- A study on fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease
- Eating fruits and veggies makes you happy
- Why fiber is so important for your health
- Daily fresh fruit can lower heart death risk just as much as statins
- A naturally picky eater? There’s no such thing.
- Vegetable-based desserts
Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.