Eating fruits and vegetables in the summer is easy. The vegetables are abundant, whether they come from your garden or the farmer’s market. A big, leafy salad fills the bill for a light, cool lunch. Fruit is at its best with ripe red berries, juicy peaches and thirst quenching watermelon. But come winter, it is easy to slip on your daily fruit and vegetable intake. Sure, most fruits and vegetables are available year round in the grocery stores. But, they just don’t taste quite the same as they do in the summer.
One of the main reasons people eat fewer fruits and vegetables in the winter is that they fill up on other types of foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables seem a little less appealing in the winter when we crave warm, flavorful comfort foods, instead. The thought of a cold salad is less appealing when the temperature dips below freezing.
Following are some ideas to help you eat more fruits and vegetables during the winter months.
Select seasonal produce. Not only will these fruits and vegetables have the best flavor, they are usually at their most affordable. Look for bananas, clementines, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, pears, tangerines and pomegranates. Seasonal vegetable choices include avocados, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, sweet potatoes and winter squash.
Choose from different forms. Who says fruits and vegetables have to be fresh only? Frozen, canned and dried fruits have the same nutrition and are often a better buy in the winter than fresh. Just choose fruits without added sugars and vegetables without added salt.
Make fruits and vegetables a priority. Try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Eat those before filling up on other foods. Easy ways to work them into your daily plan might include adding a handful of frozen berries or dried fruit in your morning cereal or yogurt, adding extra vegetables to pizza or sandwiches, adding a cup of juice to your breakfast, or slicing a banana on your peanut butter sandwich.
Adapt. There are many ways to adapt fruits and vegetables to suit your need for comfort foods. Try baked apples or pears sprinkled with a little honey and cinnamon for dessert. Roast some root vegetables to warm up a cold winter’s day. Make a big pot of vegetable soup. Experiment with meatless main dishes.
Use time-saving fruits and vegetables. Examples might be baby carrots, fresh salad mixes, coleslaw mix, frozen vegetables, canned beans, frozen pepper strips or dried fruit.
Make it fun for the kids. Offer a dip with raw veggies. Try low-fat ranch dressing or hummus. Make fruit kabobs or vegetable kabobs. Blend frozen fruit, some yogurt, and carrots or spinach into a yummy smoothie. Offer different textures: some kids prefer raw veggies while others like them cooked; blend cooked fruits into a sauce; or add shredded veggies to salads.
Page 2 of 2 - Sneak extra veggies into your usual recipes. You can add chopped, frozen spinach to your spaghetti sauce, shred zucchini into a casserole, stir pumpkin puree into pizza sauce, or replace some of the hamburger in a dish with finely chopped mushrooms.
Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the cardiac rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Mo.