November 5, 2014

How I Eat Healthy #3: Chop Once, Two Tricks to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

To eat healthy now a days takes time, skills and effort! You’ve got to stock up, plan, navigate the supermarket aisles, chop (I do lots of chopping!), prep foods and cook. And if you eat restaurants foods (in or take out), another feat is to put together healthy restaurant meals. Yes, a constant, but rewarding, challenge!

In this blog series, How I Eat Healthy, I’ll share how I, as a mother, wife and chief of shopping, planning and cooking for my busy family, make eating healthy happen every day (or at least most days – no claims of perfection here!). I’ll offer up my time-honed tips and time-saving tactics you can use to set yourself and/or your family to Eat Well, Live Healthy! And please share your tips and tactics on twitter using the hashtag: #howIeathealthy.

#3: Chop Once, Two Tricks to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
As far as I’m concerned (and I think many other nutrition experts would agree), if there’s one thing that’s an open and shut case when it comes to nutrition research and healthier eating advice, its – yes, eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each and every day. A few more servings, if you've got the calories to spare, will be even healther.  You don't need to restrict the fruits and vegetables you to to fresh only. Having some frozen and canned vegetables and fruit on hand means you'll always have them on hand. I encourage you to stock frozen fruits (no sugar added) vegetables (my freezer always has spinach, corn, peas) as well as some canned offerings which satisfy your palate. So for myself and my family eating more fruits and vegetables is goal numero uno.

Two key reasons: 1) Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables offers an array of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. 2) Fruits and vegetables are low in calories, relatively speaking, and if prepared with limited fats and oils, they’re filling. Enough reasons for me!

To eat our fill of fruits and vegetables each week I start by taking stock of what’s in the house and stocking up on what we’ll need for the week (or so) with regular shopping trips.

The next step is to chop, chop. That’s time consuming and what so many people say they just don’t have time for. Please hear me out. I’ve come up with two tricks to minimize the arduous and repeated task of chopping. I’m ready to pass along my strategies in the hopes that you put them into action for you and yours.


When it comes to eating more fruit (and we could stand to eat even more), I chop fruit about once to twice a week to make sure there’s always ready-to-eat cut up fresh fruit. The fruits I typically use are apples, oranges, grapefruit, raisins (add a nice sweet taste), and mango.

For breakfast we each have a bowl of fruit. I usually have some type of berries – strawberries, raspberries, blueberries (they are just oh so healthy!) to top off the dish of fruit. Then for most family members a dollop of Greek yogurt (yes, we’ve joined the Greek yogurt craze).

On to eating more vegetables. Salads, in particular. To me the reason why people don’t eat more salads is the darn chopping of all the vegetables. I’ve figured out a way to make it easier and that’s a good thing because I eat a salad nearly every day for lunch and serve them at dinner, too. (I wouldn’t do this if every time I wanted salad I had to drag all the veggies out and chop again!)

First I start with the fresh and easy-to-use, ready-to-eat organic greens in a box. (Yes, I’ve succumbed because they’re just SO easy!) Then to eat a wide variety of other raw vegetables and have them at the ready to top salads I chop a bunch at a time. The vegetables I usual include are colorful carrots, red cabbage and red peppers. Then I’ll usually chop up mushrooms, cucumbers, and red onion. If I’ve got extra parsley or cilantro around, I’ll chop that in too. I’ve nicknamed these my "salad accessories."

I keep my "salad accessories" separate from the lettuce because this way they stay fresher for longer – at least 5 days. I keep items like tomatoes, avocado and beans/legumes like chick peas, black beans or edamame separate as well because they wouldn't keep well for 5 days.  

With the ready-to-eat lettuce and ready to grab a few spoonfuls of what I call my salad accessories, it’s simple and takes seconds to assemble an entrée salad or side salad. Here’s what one of my typical lunch salads looks like. (That's balsamic vinegar and homemade red pepper vinaigrette in the background.) I added chick peas (made by the bunch in my pressure cooker), roasted beets (I roast a few big beets at a time) and some cheese (feta, cheddar or leftover grilled salmon) for a bit of protein.

Please share your tips and tactics for eating more fruits and vegetables in the comments below or on twitter using #howIeathealthy. Also view How I Eat Healthy: #1 Stocking Up and How I Eat Healthy: #2 The Shopping Trip.