When it comes to your diet, it is important not to forget about fruits and vegetables.
The USDA recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at every meal and snacking occasionally, but most of us struggle to meet this goal.
Including fruits and vegetables every day can have major benefits to your health.
These delicious and nutritious foods provide fiber, which may help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes, and help maintain bowel health.
Your diet will also see an increase in valuable nutrients such as folate, potassium and vitamins A and C, which help keep you healthy and energized.
A couple easy ways to make this happen:
Top off your cereal, yogurt or pancakes with strawberries or blueberries.
Enjoy an apple, pear or banana as a mid-morning snack.
Add more vegetables (broccoli, spinach, peppers, etc.) to casseroles or other dishes.
Keep freshly cut, ready-to-eat vegetables in immediately visible places in your fridge, or in areas of your home where you or your family spend a lot of time.
Making healthy decisions doesn't have to hurt your budget either. That's a common misconception we hear a lot, but in all reality, fruits and vegetables are affordable under almost any budget.
Get to know your fruit and vegetable options and learn to look for in-season items. This is a great strategy in the summer, and works well in the winter, too. Some common fruits and vegetables that are in season right now are brussels sprouts, chestnuts, grapefruit, kiwi, oranges, pears and sweet potatoes.
Another smart way to save money on produce is to keep stocked up on frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. These are packed full of the same vitamins and nutrients as the fresh options, but you don't have to worry about them going bad.
When grocery shopping, read the food labels and look for vegetable options that are lower in sodium and fruit options that do not contain added sugar.
While it may take a little effort, moving toward a diet with more fruits and vegetables can have many benefits for your health. Take small steps toward that goal starting today!
Editor's note: Marielle Calcaterra is a registered dietician with Portage Health.