The road to better health: Just add vegetables!

Make what you are already eating healthier by adding specific kinds of vegetables.

A grocery basket filled with carrots, corn, oranges, tomatoes and leafy greens.

We have all heard about the importance of fruits and vegetables from the time we were children, but are you getting what you need? According to the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines, most Americans are not meeting their daily requirements for a 2000 calorie diet, 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables. The newest guidelines focus on specific vegetables to increase orange, red and dark green vegetables, beans and peas. So how do we increase our vegetable intake and get the nutrients that we need? It can be as simple as making what you are already eating healthier by adding vegetables!

  • One quick and easy way to increase dark green vegetable consumption is to add a salad to your meal, whether you’re picking up a pizza or cooking dinner at home. Instead of using iceberg lettuce, try a darker green salad base, such as spinach or romaine lettuce. You will be getting more of the nutrients that your body craves.
  • You can increase the number of red vegetables you eat by adding tomatoes to just about everything, from mixing a can of diced tomatoes with chili peppers to your taco meat, adding sliced tomatoes to sandwiches or salads or including cherry tomatoes with your cheese and cracker snacks.
  • Orange vegetables are high in Vitamin A, but are you sick of eating so many carrots? Instead, add sliced orange peppers to salads and pasta dishes, homemade pizza or enjoy them with hummus dip. Mix pureed pumpkin into plain or vanilla yogurt or your morning oatmeal with a dash of cinnamon. Create an interesting bagel spread by adding pumpkin to your low fat cream cheese (this also makes a delicious apple dip). Switch your traditional white baked potato for a sweet potato or mashed sweet potatoes.
  • Beans and peas are high in protein and fiber but low in fat, making them the perfect ingredient to many dishes. Keep canned beans on hand to throw in salads, soups and pasta dishes to increase your fiber. Instead of potatoes or rice as a side, try a yummy and easy bean salad. Choose your three favorite beans, chop a red onion and toss with some oil and vinegar or light Italian dressing! You can also add pinto beans to your salsa or taco meat, lentils and red beans to rice or peas to your tuna or chicken salad to vary your dinner choices.

Look for colors like orange, red and green and mix it up! Visit MyPlate or Michigan State University Extension resources to learn about more ways that you can add vegetables to your diet. Your body will thank you!


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