Tara Gidus

Are You Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables?

We all know fruits and veggies are important in our diet, but are we getting enough to maximize our workouts, stay healthy, manage our weight, and prevent chronic disease? According to current MyPlate nutrition recommendations from the USDA, Americans should be consuming two or more servings daily of fruit and three or more servings of vegetables per day. Sadly, only 33% of adults meet the recommendation for fruit consumption and only 27% get the recommended servings of vegetables. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure, and prevent diabetes and some types of cancer. In addition to an array of health benefits, fruit and vegetable intake significantly impacts athletic performance.

How do fruits and vegetables affect athletic performance?

Vitamins and minerals within fruits and vegetables play an important role in maintaining overall health. Strenuous exercise causes more stress on the body, which increases the risk of illness and infection. Athletes training intensely may need higher amounts of fruits and vegetables to help combat excessive stress on the body. High fruit and vegetable intake optimizes exercise performance, energy production, and tissue recovery during periods of physically demanding exercise. On the other hand, inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables can increase the likelihood of fatigue, muscle damage, lack of muscle strength, and impaired immune function.

How do I get more fruits and vegetables into my diet?

Here are seven tips to boost your daily intake:

  1. Create a goal amount. If fruits and vegetables rank low on your daily menu, start by eating one extra fruit or vegetable a day, slowly building to the recommended amounts.
  2. Pack snacks. In between meals, munch on fruits and vegetables. Try carrots and hummus, a banana and almond butter, or Greek yogurt and raspberries.
  3. Boost your breakfast. Instead of a bagel or donut, make an omelet with your leftover veggies. Or add blackberries, strawberries, or dried fruit to cereal, oatmeal, or yogurt.
  4. Try a fruit smoothie. Whether in the morning or afternoon, a fruit smoothie with leafy greens (I promise you won't taste it!) is a delicious and healthy way to incorporate more fruit and veggies into your diet.
  5. Roasting does wonders. Roasting veggies at a high heat brings out nutty, sweet flavors. Add olive oil, salt, pepper, and any other spices to enhance flavor. My favorite—roasted broccoli! Preheat the oven to 425 and bake broccoli for 20 minutes until tops are slightly browned. Amazing!
  6. Try something new. Variety is the spice of life. Check out exotic fruits or vegetables you've never tried or something new that's in season.
  7. Sneak them in! Add veggies to macaroni and cheese, tomato sauces, smoothies, and even desserts (such as zucchini bread, carrot cakes, etc.) for an added boost of nutrition to your favorite foods.

How many fruits and veggies do you eat a day? If you have questions or comments, tweet me @DietDivaTara.

Known as the "Diet Diva," Tara Gidus is a nationally acclaimed nutrition expert and the official nutritionist of runDisney.