Nutrition Articles

The No-Excuses Appeal of Fruits and Veggies

Check Your Reasons at the Door

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By now you know the importance of getting at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (if not, click here). Perhaps you are still not convinced? Use the excuse-buster list below when you find yourself reasoning your way out of reaching for the good stuff. Excuses are easy to make, but with a little exploration, you’ll find that you can reach your healthy-habit goals quicker.

Excuse 1: Buying fruits and vegetables can be costly and they spoil too quickly.

Excuse-Busters:
  • Buy them in-season and fresh. The y will be cheaper AND at their peak of flavor. Consider that you are getting nutrient-dense foods that your body craves, full of vitamins and minerals. They are certainly better buys than chips, cookies, and soda, which we normally buy regardless of cost.
  • Buy both ripe and unripe items (for example, yellow and green bananas). That way you have some for immediate eating the first few days while the others are ripening.
  • Keep fruits and vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge, on the kitchen counter or table. If you see them several times in a day, you will be more likely to eat them before they spoil.
Excuse 2: They take too long to prepare. 

Excuse-Busters:
  • Take advantage of your grocery salad bar, which provides already sliced varieties. Eat them in snack form or toss in a salad with less prep time.
  • Stock up on frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. These are simple to prepare in the microwave and offer similar nutritional value to the fresh variety. Sometimes frozen vegetables lock in nutrients better than "fresh" ones that have sat for a few days. If buying canned food, look for the low-sodium varieties.
  • Wash, slice, and dice ahead of time. Store in a clear container in the front of your fridge where you can see and reach for it on a daily basis for immediate use.
Excuse 3: Fresh fruits and vegetables contain harmful pesticides. 

Excuse-Busters:
  • Debates continue on the dangers of pesticides used on our foods. Remember that the FDA regulates pesticide use very strictly. You might consider buying "organically grown" varieties, which means that no pesticides are used.  Most health authorities report that the health benefits that come from eating fruits and vegetables outweigh the concerns of pesticide use. Still skeptical? The following steps will help reduce risks.
  • Wash produce with warm water. Don’t use any soaps. Scrub well with a dish brush. This is important especially if you are eating the outer skin of items such as apples, cucumbers, or potatoes.
  • Discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables that tend to be dirty, such as lettuce and cabbage.
  • Peel and cook when appropriate. Realize that you lose some nutrients and fiber in this process.
Excuse 4: Vitamins are easily lost when you cook fruits and vegetables. 

Excuse-Busters:
  • It’s true that vitamins break down in heat and air. The longer and hotter you cook something, the more nutrients you lose. But there are simple, easy ways to avoid major vitamin loss when preparing fruits and vegetables. The most obvious, of course, is to eat raw fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Cook only until crisp and tender. Otherwise known as al dente, a crisper vegetable or fruit will retain more nutrients than a mushy one. A good way to achieve this is steaming rather than boiling your food.
  • Use as little water as possible while cooking. This reduces the dissolving action of vitamins.
  • Use big pieces rather than small, cut-up pieces. Minimizing the surface area of each piece prevents loss of vitamins when exposed to air.
  • Cover your pots during cooking to contain steam and heat. This helps reduce cooking time and therefore saves nutrients.
  • The water you’ve used for cooking vegetables can be reused in soups, sauces, stews or vegetable juices. This is a way to get the benefit of residual vitamins.

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Member Comments

  • Love the idea of altering the texture of vegetables in order to be more appealing. There are ones that I just don't like in their natural form. Also, use the internet for ideas about proper ways to prepare, i.e. complementary seasoning, proper technique). Love my mom, but some of her signature dishes were god-awful and set the tone for how I feel about certain foods... (no offense Mom, I love you just the same!).
  • fortunately for me, I just love raw fruits and veggies and always try to keep lots of both in the house. Other than canned beans and some tomatoes for a few recipes, most of the veggies in our house are fresh with some frozen as well. No canned or jarred fruits in our house - all fresh and if they get too ripe, I toss them into the freezer and then use them (both fruits and veggies) for making a smoothie with my vitamix
  • SUZIEQ963
    Frus and Veggies are so healthy, taste great, low in calories, filling, why not eat them? I can easily eat 5 or more servings a day. The more I try the more I enjoy eating them. Try making vegetarian meals more often, trying new recipes. Feeling Great less swelling, inflammation and pain. I just made a soup with lots of veggies, taste great, very filling and satisfying. Planning on eating it during the week, easy and healthy.
  • I am overweight and have a problem with portion control but I am produce-centric! Food is so much better when it is real! to keep costs down, I am toward to what is in season and on sale. We buy a lot of frozen veg, as well.
  • I have found that the "green produce bags" (some are clear, some are more yellow, etc.) do help my produce stay fresh longer.
  • LUVRUNANDROSES
    I cycle through different ways and methods to prepare my veggies so I don't get bored.
    -For example, I'll pack fresh salads for lunch. One week with romaine, and another with spinach and kale another week, sweet carrot and apple toppings, crunchy almonds, sliced or shredded zucchini, etc.
    -Another week, I may steam kale and add onions and sesame oil, sesame seeds, and soy sauce. Collards, veggies and lentils and brown rice or quinoa.
    -For the fruit , sometimes I will steam a big pot of apples with cinnamon, store in a container and add them to my oatmeal or yogurt. Or take ripe mangos in season, peel and blend them in blender, store in a container and freeze, take down as needed, and spoon into plain yogurt. YUMMM!!!!

    It really doesn't have to be boring. If the person says they don't like fruit or veggies, they're just really saying "I don't know what to do with fruit and veggies in a creative way."
  • Organically grown does not mean that NO pesticides are used. Certified organic pesticides may be used!
  • I love most vegetables, have to hide peas into casseroles or puree them. I love a lot of fruits, except bananas, pears, cherries (the mushy stuff) I put them in breads though~
  • I juice a lot. Fruits and veggies. I also use a Nutri-bullet and make fresh salads.
  • With the vast range in taste, texture, smell, and even cooking style, it's always very hard for me to read/hear about people who "hate vegetables". I mean, there are *some* I don't like, cauliflower and peas really do not go well with my chemistry, but to hate *all* vegetables really just baffles me, not in a judgmental kind of way, just in a way that makes me want to go "But have you tried THIS one? Have you tried it THIS way?? Surely you can't really hate ALL of them in ALL ways??"

    I'm practically vegetarian these days, because meat costs more than even organic vegetables, so I stick mainly to my fruits and veggies, and I can even grow my own. I love vegetables. Growing up, most of them were my least favorite due to how my parents cooked them: boiled to mush. I thought I hated broccoli for the longest time. Nope, just hate it boiled. I love it fresh, steamed, stir-fry, broiled... pretty much every way but boiled. And of course, you can not forget the seasonings! Spices are the... well... spice of life!

    Still can't get past the taste of peas, though if they're well hidden enough I can tolerate them.

    The bulk of my diet is vegetables, some grains, and small amounts of meat, but not necessarily every day. I have raw salads or "snack" trays, stir-fried, in soups, baked/roasted, and blended into smoothies. Sneaky way to get veggies is pasta sauces, salsa, and sandwich/burger toppings.

    And yeah, I buy organic.
  • YVETTE59
    Many people do say fruit and vegetables are expensive. In Australia on pricing labels for each food on the shelves we have the cost per kilo printed. It is great to compare foods for example different brands of washing powder to see which is cheapest and is just like you compare foods on labels at calories/fat etc per 100g. Anyway if you look at chips and chocolate at cost per kilo and compare them to fruit and veg at cost per kilo you will be suprised that the chips and chocolate are far more expensive!
  • A lot of people will complain about the notion of eating vegetables with something on them because they think real butter and real cheese are toxic waste that has no business in one's stomach, much less on one's vegetables. Nothing could be farther from the truth. You need to eat fat with your vegetables so that you can benefit from the minerals and the fat-soluble vitamins they contain. Animal fat is going to be the best kind to eat with them because then you don't have to worry about omega-3/omega-6 imbalance.

    You are also better off eating many vegetables cooked, and not just lightly steamed either; some contain oxalic acid and some contain goitrogens (chemicals that mess up your thyroid) that are in the plant naturally, because the only way plants can defend themselves is chemically most of the time. Cooking inactivates a lot of the antinutrients you find in plants, and you're much more likely to find antinutrients in leaves and stalks, since those are what herbivores typically eat. (You also find them in seeds, by the way, which is why basing your diet on seeds--i.e., grains--is a terrible idea.)

    But what about water-soluble vitamins, which are destroyed by cooking in water? I would say that as a general rule of thumb you are better off eating vegetables for the minerals and the fat-soluble vitamins and carotenoids they contain, but eating fruits for the water-soluble vitamins. There's not too much in the way of most vitamins that you can't also get in meat, and in a much better form for your body. However, vitamin C is still of some concern. So get that from fruit. You shouldn't be eating scads and scads of fruit anyway; if you don't watch it, you could wind up using the stuff as a sort of candy substitute, and if you're like most Americans you don't get enough choline in your diet, are suffering from fatty liver and the last thing you need to be eating is more fructose if that's your issue. (And you won't always catch it with liver enzyme tests. So eat more eggs and fewer apples, and get more vegetables for your p...
  • AZURE-SKY
    One thing to remember about "fresh" vegetables. You don't know how long it's been since they were picked, and veggies lose nutrients quickly. It can take a week or more to get those "fresh" veggies to your grocery store, and who knows how long they've been sitting in the warehouse before being put on display. Often, the frozen veggies have more nutrients because they are frozen shortly after being picked.

    Canned vegetables are overcooked & have a lot of sodium, so I don't use them at all. I did grow up on them, and didn't know until I was an adult that green beans were crisp and actually a bright green, instead of grayish, like the canned beans..

    If you don't like veggies but want to incorporate them into your diet, try putting them in baked goods. Zucchini, carrots, squash can be shredded & added to muffins/cake, cookies. You can also shred veggies to put into meatloaf, etc. Tomato sauce is a veggie, eat it often. Drink tomato juice or V-8, but watch the sodium.

    Also, don't think you have to eat a salad made of lettuce. I used to buy lettuce & watch it rot in the fridge because I was the only one in the house eating it, except on a sandwich. I make salads of chopped veggies instead.
  • I think a lot of people that have commented here are hung up about eating fruits and veggies because they seem to think (or at least based on some of the comments) that the only way to have them and be healthy is to eat them plain. I personally like a lot of fruits and vegetables, but my kids have quite a few that they have hang-ups with. My suggestion to them is always to take a "no thank you bite" of dishes that have that particular item in it and they may find a way to eat it that they do like. For instance, they both hate spinach. If I cook spinach and put it on their plates by itself neither one of them would go near it with a ten foot pole. But my daughter absolutely loves spinach artichoke dip (so I look for ways to lighten that up a bit because although she's not eating spinach by itself, she's still getting the nutrients from it if it's prepared right). She also loves uncooked spinach on a Subway sandwich. My son doesn't like spinach, but if I make scrambled eggs with spinach and feta for myself, he sits right next to me and begs for bites worse than the dog!! But again, had they not tried one bite of it just because it had spinach in it they never would have eaten any spinach at all. Another option (if someone else prepares your food) is to have them try to come up with creative ways to sneak it into other things you will eat (for example, grating carrots and zucchini really fine and adding them to spaghetti sauce. If you have some meat in the sauce as well, you barely notice the added veggies). Again you are getting the benefits (nutrients) from the zucchini and carrots without having to actually eat a plain piece of zucchini or a raw carrot. Just a few suggestions that may be worth a try--good luck!!
  • Yesterday I posted my recipe for "Colorful Vegetable Quiche". It requires a bit of chopping, but while you're at it, the recipe can be doubled for eating some now and freezing leftovers for a quick, nutrient-packed meal later. A bit of chopped ham or chicken could replace part of the veggies to add a punch of extra protein. Hope you'll try it:)

About The Author

Laura Bofinger Laura Bofinger
As a freelance writer, Laura uncovers some kind of inspiration every day when she writes about health and fitness.

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