Fruits and Veggies in the Fast Lane

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Jacqueline Marcus, MS, RD, LD, FADA, Nutrition Consultant in Northfield, Illinois, has shared these tips to get more fruits and vegetables in your diet without spending more time preparing food.

With only a few minutes to shop, prepare and serve dinner, you can still your daily allotment of 4-4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day with the help of pre-cut fresh or frozen vegetables. They can be lightly steamed, microwaved, roasted, or dry-pan fried and added to bread, pie shells, tortillas or pitas to create quick pizza or calzone. They can be mixed with beans or leftover lean poultry or fish to “beef up” canned or frozen low-fat broths for fresh-tasting minestrone, chili, curry or stew. Serve them cold with garlic sauce, hummus or yogurt, or hot over pasta, rice, couscous or potatoes. Use them to save time in stir fry dishes, fajitas, or tacos or added to main course poultry or fish salads. Toss them into a low-fat quiche

You’ll find pre-cut broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, red or green cabbage, quick-cooking beans & kettle vegetables, baby sun chokes, zucchini or crookneck squash perfect for quick meals with little waste. Some pre-cut salads are pre-washed, ready-to-eat and free of preservatives or sulfites. Salad kids offer convenience and include all of the ingredients from greens to toppings to dressing. Decrease the fat by using half the dressing or substitute fat free dressing, balsamic vinegar or salsa in its place. Add more pre-cut veggies for more fiber, nutrients, color, taste and texture.

Frozen meal kits found near the frozen vegetable section of your grocery store,  are more substantial. Stir fry dishes, pasta meals, and other ready-made kits in bags can be used with or without added protein in the form of beans, lean poultry or fish. Reduce the sauce by half to lower fat and sodium and add more vegetables or fruits to further increase the amount of fruits and vegetables to get you to 4 or more cups a day.

Be creative.Use pineapple to liven stir fry dishes or main course salads; fresh or dried figs or dried apricots add excellent flavor to grain and bean dishes. Fresh-frozen peaches are a nutritious addition to fruit compotes or chutneys, perfect with egg white omelets.

While prepackaged meals and salads save you time, making your own one dish meals from pasta, vegetables and fat-free salad dressing cuts your cost in half on the average. Consider the grocery store salad bar to help you save time and money, too.

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