According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we need to eat about four-and-a-half cups of produce a day. Of course, researchers have found that we tend to eat less than that, so we need to make a conscious effort to eat more.
The four-and-a-half cup goal is based on the average 2,000 calorie diet. So, keep in mind, if you're trying to cut calories to lose weight, then you'll eat a little less and vice versa if you need to take in more calories. According to the new MyPyramid guidelines, this would mean:
- Calorie level of 1,600 = 1.5 cups fruit and 2 cups of veggies
Calorie level of 1,800 = 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies
Calorie level of 2,000 = 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of veggies
There are some easy ways to sneak more veggies into your family's diet: piling more onto your sandwiches; including fresh or frozen veggies in macaroni and cheese or other pasta dishes; eating pre-sliced mixed veggies as a snack; substituting carrots sticks or cucumber slices for potato chips; and eating a large salad before or with meals.
Fruits can easily be incorporated into breakfast by adding them to your cereal or topping your pancakes or waffles. Smoothies are a quick, easy and highly nutritious way to get in at least one or more servings of fruit. The weekend is a great time to try out new breakfast recipes, such as these recipes that include fruit.
Fruit also makes a great dessert; it provides that "sweet tooth fix" without all the extra fat and calories of typical desserts like cake or pie. (Check out low-fat dessert recipes using fruit.) Try microwaving an apple with a little cinnamon or topping a melon half with whipped topping or low-fat frozen yogurt.
It's important to have healthy snacks throughout the day and fruit is just about the perfect healthy snack: it is diet-friendly, portable, filling, and delicious! Keep some by the door to grab on your way out or stash it in your fridge or desk at work. And don't forget to always add a piece to your kids lunch bags!