Fruits and Vegetables – Eat More Greens for Optimal Health

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It is amazing how many teenagers and young adults make a big nutritional mistake by their lack of eating enough fresh vegetables and fruit. I help moderate a few online fitness forums and have noticed in so many diets that are posted, individuals just list starchy carbohydrates and proteins as their main food sources with very little fibrous carbs like broccoli, mushrooms, squash, cauliflower and other delicious veggies. They seem to stuff themselves with starches like yams, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, bread, pasta and rice but forget about all of the benefits these powerful fruits and vegetables can provide them.

I believe the main problem is the lack of proper nutritional education not only to the kids but to the parents as well. The kids learn what the parents teach them and with many families that are living near the poverty level or in the lower middle class areas which results in the overall choices of food to be limited and consist of unhealthy, cheap “filler” foods like processed carbs and sugars. The lack of proper nutrition is not always due to ignorance but mainly due to the lack of money to buy the right foods and the best sources to get them at (farmer’s markets and health food stores).

Most vegetables are not very expensive but some can run higher in cost depending on the season and any agriculture issues at that time. Lack of creativity is another problem. Kids need palatable foods as do young adults! A little bit of effort and these would not be issues. It seems harder than it is to get the right nutrient dense food into a person’s diet but going green does not have to be brain surgery. Just keep it simple and healthy!

Adding some greens to your diet consists of implementing 2-3 choices of items into your daily meals which should be very simple to do. Just one cup of chopped broccoli or some mixed greens and you have a serving! I love adding a cup of chopped raw broccoli to a cup of nonfat cottage cheese along with some almonds and Udo’s oil (essential fatty acids). What a great meal that’s nutritious, tasty and very filling! It is easy to eat a big bowl of salad and by mixing in some healthy nuts or berries, it will make the salad so much more delicious that you will want to eat at least 2 servings, if not more! Chowing down on celery just does not cut it any longer since the darker the green veggie, the more phytochemicals it will have in it. These are cancer fighters and with the rate of cancer in our country increasing every year, I highly recommend including these important items in your diet.

Eating these types of greens raw is the best way but steaming can also be done and helps to make the portions seem smaller since they tend to shrivel down when cooked. This is another great way to sneak these important foods into your daily meal plan. A bunch of spinach which has been steamed will disappear into a tasty soup and contains more than a serving of your required greens. Another tasty option is to make roasted kale chips by adding a drizzle of olive oil to 4-5 cups of fresh kale and then putting them into the oven for a few minutes. Add a pinch of salt to the kale when it comes out of the oven and enjoy!

Topping raw or cooked veggies with light omega oil such as Udo’s Oil will add even more nutrients to your meal along with a light nutty flavor to help it become even more delicious. Add some raspberry flavored balsamic vinegar and you will create a gourmet delight!

There are many foods that have the ability to easily hide fibrous greens within them. Wraps are very popular and work great for adding cooked or raw veggies (red peppers, onions). As mentioned earlier, soups are an excellent dish to add a bunch of green veggies to.

Stir fried veggies cooked with olive oil will leave a nice flavor with lots of healthy fats which will keep you feeling fuller, longer. The stir fried veggies will be nice and crunchy when cooked with this method. Many popular veggies to include in a stir fry include bokchoy, Chinese or regular broccoli, snap peas, snow peas, peppers, collards, endive, escarole and more. These are all excellent ingredients which can be accompanied by other nutrient dense veggies like carrots, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and sprouts. So be creative and add some greens to your diet for optimal health!

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Linda Cusmano

Linda is a national level fitness and figure pro who dabbles in bodybuilding competitions, obstacle and strength challenges along with fitness model competitions. She is a triple certified elite personal trainer and the owner of Body Rush Personal Training. See my profile page for more information!

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