“An apple a day keeps the doctor away!” How many times did you hear that when you were growing up? I think everyone knows that we should eat more fruits and vegetables to maintain optimum health. Filling up on fruits and veggies instead of less nutritious choices is also a good way to lose weight. Recently, the USDA revamped their food pyramid and dietary guidelines, recommending 4 servings of fruit and 5 servings of vegetables daily. While this may seem like a lot, it is really pretty easy to do.
Keep in mind that a ½ cup of fruit counts as a serving, so you only need two cups of fruit a day to reach your goal. A small banana with breakfast, a serving of strawberries at lunch and a handful of blueberries in the afternoon and you’re done. Be creative and add fruits to your salad at dinner. Try to eat a variety of fruits for the biggest health benefits. Avoid fruit juices, which don’t provide the fiber of whole fruits and usually contain added sugar. If you are eating dried fruits, a ¼ cup counts as a serving.
When it comes to five serving of vegetables, variety is important. If you are like many people I meet who say they just don’t like vegetables, branch out a little and try something new. With so many to choose from, I’m sure you can find at least a few that you will like! As with fruits, ½ cup of vegetables counts as a serving. There are basically five subgroups of vegetables: dark-green (broccoli and spinach), orange (carrots or winter squash), legumes (black beans and chickpeas), starchy (potatoes and corn), and all the rest (tomatoes, onions and green beans). Try to eat from each of these groups over the course of a week. To add vegetables to your diet, put a slice of tomato on your sandwich, eat a handful of carrots for your afternoon snack, and always eat a small salad with dinner.
Here is one of my favorite vegetarian recipes – it’s a great way to get a variety of veggies in at one meal!
Rice and Veggie-Stuffed Bell Peppers
- 2 cups brown rice
- 8 large green bell peppers
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small zucchini, peeled and chopped
- 1 small yellow squash, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 1 cup fresh baby spinach
- 1 can canellini (white kidney) beans, or 1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
- 1 can crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup fat-free feta cheese
- salt and pepper
Cook rice according to package directions. Cut tops off of green bell peppers and remove seeds. Saute’ remaining ingredients (except for feta cheese) in skillet coated with non-stick cooking spray until tender. Add cooked rice and feta cheese to vegetables, mix well. Stuff rice and vegetable mixture into green bell peppers. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until peppers are tender. For more delicious recipes, make sure to visit our healthy recipes area!