By Chef Dez/Special to Black Press Media
Healthy eating guidelines recommend that as adults we eat an average of seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Children should eat four to eight servings, depending on their age.
This is an ongoing challenge for some people, so to help you out, I’ve put together some helpful ways to meet your intake requirements for healthy eating. Please note that I am not a dietitian and these are just suggestions from a chef’s perspective.
A single serving of fruit or vegetable can be described as 1/2 cup of fresh, frozen, or canned juice (or 1/2 cup of 100% juice). Alternatively, a cup of raw leafy vegetables or salad counts as a single serving, just like a single piece of fruit.
Keep straight juices to a minimum as they have a higher concentration of natural sugars per serving.
The first and most important direction to follow is to make sure you buy fruits and vegetables in the first place.
Chances are, if you don’t have them close at hand, you’ll miss out on a lot of opportunities to get them into your diet: out of sight, out of mind.
A helpful tip is to purchase the recommended servings for each member of your family for the number of days you are purchasing. For example, if you are a family of four shopping for the next three days, you would need to buy a total of 84 servings of fruits and vegetables combined, averaging seven servings each.
Buy them before moving on to the other departments and islands, and prepare your meals based on these initial selections of items.
An easy way to incorporate fresh spinach into every meal is to serve each piece of chicken or fish on a bed of sautéed spinach leaves. Simply heat a skillet over medium heat with a very small amount of olive oil, add a large handful of clean, fresh spinach leaves, and season lightly with salt and pepper. They will cook and wilt very quickly as you stir them with tongs. Plate and serve immediately.
If sandwiches are a regular meal, make sure you always have fresh lettuce, tomato, and onion on hand at all times. Fresh spinach leaves are also great on a sandwich. You can also add a Mediterranean twist to your sandwiches by including roasted peppers or roasted garlic spread.
Fruit can become an easily accessible snack if you always have containers of washed berries and grapes in your fridge at all times.
However, try not to prewash too much ahead of time, as they tend to deteriorate faster after washing. Always have a bowl of fruit to go for those times when you run out the door, like bananas, washed apples, etc.
Grilled vegetable skewers are another tasty, low-fat way to get your daily servings.
Cold, wet weather days are not the ideal conditions to fire up the grill, but the barbecue continues to offer low-fat cooking year-round. If you can rearrange the location of your grill to make it more accessible, you’ll tend to use it more often.
I have mine undercover so I wear it all the time.
Even if there is a member of your family who is a bit of a picky eater when it comes to eating fruits and vegetables, the produce departments seem to always be expanding the selection of imported/exotic produce.
Buy something completely new for your family at least once a month.
The Internet and libraries are filled with a wealth of information on how to prepare and serve almost any ingredient.
Dear Chef Dez:
I am on a diet and looking for ways to add flavor to my meals without adding fat or too many calories. Any suggestions?
Dawn W., Langley
Herbs and spices are the way to go. The dried spice blends and fresh herbs add a ton of flavor without adding calories. Try cooking with fat-free broths. Wine and juices are great for cooking because of their flavor, but remember that they are loaded with calories and natural sugars.
Stay away from condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce, as they are also loaded with sugar.
– Chef Dez is a food columnist and culinary instructor in the Fraser Valley. Visit him at www.chefdez.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or PO Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4
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