In response to a photo that I posted on Facebook, RB asked, “How can I learn to eat like this?” The simplest and best first step is to aim for eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
This is the first step because it is better to focus on what you need to put in rather than worrying about the things you need to take out, which can leave someone feeling deprived or controlled. If you make an effort to eat at least 5 servings of produce every day, you will have less stomach space (and time!) to eat the other things that aren’t as healthy for you.
And just for a little added motivation, increasing your fruit/vegetable intake is a big deal for your health for several reasons:
- They are loaded with micronutrients (the fancy word for vitamins and minerals) and phytonutrients (tiny nutrients in food like carotenoids and phenolics that we still don’t measure in people’s diets, but are crucial to the proper functioning and well-being of the body). No other foods are as dense in these nutrients as fruits and veggies.
- Fruits and veg are made mostly of water, which we always need more of. Some examples: apple = 84% water, spinach = 92%, strawberries = 94%, white potatoes = 79%. This is also why their Glycemic Load tends to be so low… because water is making up the majority of the fruit rather than things like carbohydrates that contribute calories (see my previous post about GI vs GL).
- Produce is abundant in fiber… especially if you leave the skin on. Fiber is critical to the proper functioning of our digestive systems, and most people get less than 50% of the fiber they need each day. Plus, the fiber works with the water to help fill you up.
Note: Unless you have a specific medical condition that requires you to limit your fruit intake, I find that fruit is the most convenient thing to snack on during the day and is the easiest way for me to increase my intake of fresh plant foods. Vegetables take a little more effort, although they are more nutritious than fruit (not just from a natural sugar perspective, but also because they have more vitamins/minerals/phytonutrients). So, if your choice is between a cookie and a banana, eat the banana. If your choice is between a banana and a bell pepper, eat the bell pepper. Everyday it’s about choices, and making the best choice you can at that moment.