How To Always Have Fruits and Vegetables to Serve With a Meal {31 Days to Real Food Reality ~ Day 16}

 

How to Serve Fruits and Veggies

Always, always, always serve a fruit or a vegetable or three at each meal.   Then snack on them throughout the day too.  Fill your body with the nourishment that comes from these wonderful convenience foods!

Without a doubt, eating fruits and veggies is the easiest way to eat healthy.  Yet somehow, it is often the food group that is left out of a meal and forgotten as a snack option.  Why is that?  Why does it sometimes seem hard to serve vegetables with our dinner?  Or to pack them in our lunch?  After all, most of them come pre-packaged!  (Banana, anyone?)

I find that I have to make a conscious effort to be sure to serve enough fruits and vegetables to my family.  Often, we focus on cooking the main dish (which is typically meat and carbs – both good, but only when balanced with fruits and vegetables).  Side dishes in the form of fruits or vegetables are often an after-thought.  Let’s make this easier, shall we?

1.  Buy Them

Duh, but still.  You can’t serve them and eat them if you don’t bring them home from the store or farmer’s market, so I felt it was worth a mention.  Get into the habit of spending several minutes in the produce department each time you’re at the store.  Look for sales, look for a variety, fill your cart.  Shop for them when you’re hungry (something I would not recommend if I were to send you down the candy aisle).

2.  Keep frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer at all times

They aren’t expensive (generally).  They aren’t difficult to store.  When I have frozen green beans and peas in the freezer, I can easily cook them to go with our lunch or dinner.  Our family goes through about two – 5 pound bags of these frozen veggies every month.  It’s one of the easiest foods to prepare, and they taste delicious with our meals.

3.  Corn is not a vegetable

Sorry, but it’s a grain.  Enjoy it every once in a while (with butter!), but don’t rely on it as a vegetable side dish.

4.  French fries don’t count

But you knew that, right?

5.  Keep containers of fruits and vegetables in the fridge, ready to eat

See that picture above?  Cutting those veggies into a bowl took about 7 minutes, and will last our family through a couple of lunches.  Washing the blueberries and grape tomatoes took just a few seconds.  That picture shows what I have now gotten into the habit of putting out to go with our main dish at lunch.  The kinds of fruits and veggies vary depending on what I find at the store that is reasonably priced and looks good.  But quickly pulling those foods out of the fridge to go with a meal is crazy easy.

6.  Serve salads often

Don’t tell me it’s hard.  A two year old can tear lettuce.

7.  Enjoy smoothies frequently

Smoothies are a delicious way to load up on the good stuff!  As an added nutritional perk, I almost always add fresh spinach or other salad greens to my smoothies, along with different frozen fruits and some yogurt or kefir.  You can’t taste the greens, but you still get the nutrients.  Score!

8.  Just do it!

I don’t care if all you do is (lovingly) slap a simple peanut butter and jelly sandwich onto the table or into a lunchbox for your kids.  Take two minutes to serve or pack fruits and veggies too.

By the way, I also try to always have Homemade Ranch Dip in the fridge to put on the table with our veggies.  There are many fruit and vegetable options – and eating a variety, buying in season, and watching for sales is very helpful.  Here are some great, basic options to keep on hand to serve with meals or as snacks:

Apples, bananas, oranges or clementines, blueberries, pears, grapes, cherries, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, fresh pineapple chunks, applesauce, grape tomatoes, carrot sticks, sliced cucumbers, sliced sweet peppers, frozen green beans, frozen peas, frozen and/or fresh broccoli…

What would you add to this list?  What have you found that works best for you to keep you in the habit of serving and eating vegetables?

Like This? Bless Others By Sharing!
Share on Facebook43Pin on Pinterest29Tweet about this on Twitter2Email this to someoneShare on LinkedIn0Print this page

Comments

  1. Pamela says

    Love this list!!! Except for #4. HOMEMADE french fries (sweet potato, that is) fried in coconut oil is super healthy and delicious and we definitely count them as a vegetable.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, definitely. If it’s a homemade sweet potato fry in good oil, it’s definitely healthy!

    [Reply]

  2. Lovegreenbeans says

    Laura,
    Can you please comment on how to store lettuce? I’ve tried the salad keeper Tupperware type things, I’ve tried ripping and drying them first and keeping them in a paper towel, but so far, I haven’t found a solution. We have a large family but can only shop once a week, so I have to make my lettuce last 7 days. Even the fresh vacuum bags go bad after 5 days in the bag! Any advice? I get tired of looking at wilted lettuce in the fridge and having my family not want to touch it (or me either)!

    Thank you!!!!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Based on what is available to me, I now just buy romaine lettuce hearts, which keep just fine in the bag they come in for up to two weeks. We make salad as needed, otherwise we do find that a prepared salad in the fridge does get wilty quickly!

    Also, I buy containers of mixed greens or spinach, the kind that come in a plastic tub. We also just pull those out as needed and haven’t had trouble with them getting yucky, unless they get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten. Ick!

    [Reply]

    Jill Reply:

    Ugh – wilted lettuce is annoying. I also like shopping only once a week.

    I’ve learned to plan meals around using the fresh stuff first. So we eat salads and quicker to spoil veggies (tomatoes, cucs, peppers, zucchini) as our veggie earlier in the week and I save the heartier veggies that keep longer (carrots, beets, frozen veggies) for later in the week.

    [Reply]

    Lana Reply:

    We eat salads everyday and I have learned a few tricks. Romaine is a good keeper IF it was very fresh when purchased. I wash each head as needed but keep the core on it, Cutting it off causes it to spoil. The bags of baby spinach keep very well if you add a paper towel to the top of the bag and replace it when it gets damp. The tubs of baby greens or spinach that I get at Sam’s Club or other stores keep very well if the top of the tub is covered with paper towels and replaced when they get damp. The key in general is to keep the greens dry. When I wash greens I run them through a spinner. Also any lettuce that is a head keeps better if it is kept intact with the core and washed as needed. I found that removing the core and washing really promotes spoilage. Also, they all keep better in the drawers of the fridge than on the shelf. I usually only buy salad greens every 7-10 days and we always have them on hand by using these methods. I hope this helps!

    [Reply]

    Myra Reply:

    I’m not sure if all glass bowls with plastic lids keep it like this, but I keep my salad greens in my Pampered Chef batter bowl. It’s a glass pitcher with a plastic lid. I’ve even rinsed slightly wilted lettuce, tore it up, and put it in the batter bowl, only to have it lovely and crisp the next morning. I was only trying to save enough for one more salad, but I saved all of that lettuce.

    [Reply]

  3. shannon says

    Love all your tips Laura. I would add buying produce that lasts is a great way to extend grocery shopping. Carrots, celery and cabbage last quite awhile in the crisper, let alone apples. I like to buy avocados in a variety of stages when they are on sale as they last for a long time too.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, very good idea! When we buy berries, we know we need to eat them quickly…then save the apples and oranges for later in the week. :)

    [Reply]

  4. says

    Earlier this year I looked at a lot of research that indicates frozen veggies still retain most of their nutrients. (In many cases they retain more nutrients than “fresh” veggies that have been stored for a really long time.) This was super encouraging because I only grocery shop twice each month, so we rely on a lot of frozen veggies.

    My husband is very picky, but I’ve found that I can bury a lot of veggies in marinara sauces, on pizza, and in casseroles.

    [Reply]

    Angela Reply:

    That has been my biggest problem – my husband does not like fruits or veggies, so it is hard to get the kiddos to eat them. I too have resorted to purees – they like it. They know I do it and always ask,” what is in this mom?”

    [Reply]

  5. Jewel says

    What do you do for super picky eaters? My husband and boys only seem to like carrots, apples and applesauce. I have tried to have a multitude of fruits and veggies, but they do not eat them :(

    [Reply]

    Nia Hanna Reply:

    How do your guys feel about smoothies? Like Laura said you can’t taste greens in a smoothie, but only if you don’t use too much. Maybe you could get some other fruits / veggies into your family via a blender concoction. Laura doesn’t think being “sneaky” with food is the way to go, but I find that sometimes, to use us an ingredient nobody wanted to eat (including me) can easily be blended into a smoothie. My Hubby doesn’t like to eat yogurt, but in a smoothie, he can’t taste it.

    [Reply]

    Jewel Reply:

    My kiddos loves smoothies, but I haven’t made them in awhile. I have never thought of putting veggies in them though. Once I bought a green keifer in the grocery store and thought it was terrible!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    The trick to adding greens to smoothies is to also add plenty of yummy fruit. Strawberries are our favorite!

    Nia Hanna Reply:

    Yup, that’s the joy of making things at home, you get to add sweet delicious fruits, like pineapple, strawberries, mandarin oranges and a handful or two of spinach, even avocado can be covered up by sweet fruits like banana and others. You probably could have successful added pineapple and strawberry with 1/4 – 1/2 cup of that horrible green kefir and it would’ve been blended into deliciousness! I hope you are able to find some fruit combinations that your whole family can enjoy.

  6. Hanneke says

    Dried fruit, not sure if that counts? My girls eat a lot of raw veggies as snacks too, baby carrots, cucumber, tomatoes (even whole ones). As a family we drink huge amounts of smoothies especially in summer.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Ah yes, dried fruit! We don’t eat a lot of this so I forget about it, but it does count. And it’s great for “on the go!”

    [Reply]

  7. Rebecca says

    Raw cauliflower is a favorite in our house! Pomegranates, mangoes, and blackberries, too.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I wish we enjoyed cauliflower more. I’m going to have to keep trying. :)

    [Reply]

  8. Rebekah Walden says

    I do all the above and especially have the fresh veggies for Grands when they visit but I don’t like raw veggies. Call me weird but if I can roast it I love it if not then I don’t. I have tried with my favs over and over carrots and red, yellow or orange peppers but no.

    [Reply]

  9. Karen says

    I learned the tip about putting cut-up vegetables out on the table or counter while I’m preparing dinner offers a nutritious snack for the family as they are “just starving” before dinner.

    [Reply]

  10. Christy S says

    I keep a brightly colored bowl of fruit on my kitchen table for easy grab and go…I participate in a co-op and get a variety of fresh produce every two weeks, this is a great way to try new things. I roast a bunch of veggies at once and put them in the fridge for easy additions to breakfast (hash…Yum!) and lunches.

    [Reply]

  11. Rochelle says

    I try to serve at least one vegetable with lunch and dinner. We don’t get too adventurous. My kids like broccoli, carrots, green beans and one likes peas. They will eat raw veggies like cucumber, carrots, mushrooms, cauliflower and broccoli but only with dip:0) They love most types of fruit so I usually serve one with all meals. I have not figured out a good smoothie recipe…I like mine pretty sweet so it’s hard not to add extra sugar. Do you add any sweetener to your smoothies?

    [Reply]

    Kristin Reply:

    I do not add refined sugar to my smoothies. My recipe is 1 cup of plain whole milk yogurt, 2 frozen bananas, one cup of frozen mixed berries and 1/2 cup of orange juice to thin it out. I like the texture with the frozen fruit, but my blender could not process it without the added juice. Sometimes I substitute frozen peaches and strawberries for the mixed berries, or increase the size a little. I tried adding a handful of spinach one time, but my husband noticed the taste immediately. I need to try it again.

    [Reply]

    Nia Hanna Reply:

    Have you been able to try liquid stevia extract? If you want to try, it only takes a few drops, depending on the quantity of smoothie you’re making. For my blender full I use 10 drops if I’m using banana. Without banana 15-20. I usually start at 5 and taste test to see if it needs more. Depending on the ripeness of the banana I sometimes need none at all. If you decide to try liquid stevia, make sure it’s pure without any added sweeteners, it’s sweet all on its own.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I usually add just a little maple syrup. But I’m able to cut back to less and less now that we’re getting used to them being less sweet.

    [Reply]

  12. Jill says

    This is where having a “cooking day” comes in so handy. I make up several jars of various dip mixes. In the morning before work, it takes seconds to scoop some sour cream, mayo or yogurt into a tupperware and stir in a spoonful of my pre-made dip mix. If you also, as Laura suggested, pre-wash and cut your dippers, you can just grab a handful and put in tupperwares for all the family members that need to take grab-n-go snacks.

    For fruit, I borrowed the “fruit and walnut salad” idea from the Golden Arches restaurant and take my fruit slices in a container that has a slot for some vanilla yogurt and another slot for chopped nuts. Another easy grab and go produce snack that takes seconds to pack up.

    [Reply]

  13. Sarah B says

    My daughter won’t eat a lot of cooked veggies so we have raw vegetables at almost every meal! When I get home from grocery shopping, that afternoon naptime is spent cutting and storing. We have fresh veggies for the week all ready to go. She doesn’t eat a huge variety but at least she’s eating vegetables.

    [Reply]

  14. Carolyn Stutz says

    My “kids” ages 21 and 18, will eat veggies if I prepare them, but not “weird” ones like Brussels sprouts. (I am on a kick with roasted Brussels sprouts lately. Actually, any vegetable roasted calls my name.)
    I have to disagree about not tasting greens in smoothies. I stuff them in anyway, but there is not one fruit that will disguise the taste – even bananas. I love kale and spinach, both raw and cooked, but in smoothies? eh, I’ll drink it, but I’ll never get my kids to do so. The only thing I’ve found to cover the taste is a flavored protein powder. There’s still a strange background flavor, but it’s for me and I’m a big girl so I force myself to drink them – and like them! LOL
    Been enjoying the series, Laura, thanks for taking the time :)

    [Reply]

  15. Lana says

    I see a lot of comments here that husbands won’t eat veggies. My husband was the same almost 36 years ago when we got married. He only ate green beans, period. I made them every. single. day. After about 2 years I told him that I was not eating another green bean. Enough was enough. I was not disrespectful but I was letting him know that I would be eating other things. I continued to make the green beans everyday but I started making other veggies for me. After awhile he began to eat a few bites here and there and learned to eat everything. It really turns out that his mother overcooked veggies to the point of mush so that was his impression of them. He will eat anything now and we have been eating a real foods diet for years. Give those young men time and maybe they will come around. Just keep putting them on the table and feed yourself healthy in the meantime.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Thank you for sharing your wisdom and advice on this!

    [Reply]

  16. Kristin says

    I would add avocado, pea pods, squash, sweet potatoes, celery, onions/shallots/leeks, mushrooms, blackberries, grapefruit and cantaloupe. We do our best to eat locally, seasonally or in the winter at least buy mostly items grown in the US. Last week I was able to snag fresh green beans that were grown in Florida for .99/lb, Yeah! Needless to say we were snacking on raw green beans all week. Other times I cheat and buy the occasional cantaloupe or fresh berries in the winter, so my kids don’t burn out on apples and oranges. Though, unfortunately winter produce rarely tastes as good as the stuff we buy at the farmers market late spring through fall.

    I too like to have the veggie portion of dinner ready for my kids to snack on while I finish cooking the main course. I also find that caramelized onions are super sweet, so I add them to dishes or increase the amount called for in recipes. Though technically a legume, my kids also like to eat black, red and garbanzo beans. I buy cans of organic beans, then at the end of the week if I am low on veggies, I simply rinse and serve.

    [Reply]

  17. Kristi says

    My favorite way to make sure we eat plenty of fresh fruits and veggies is to join a co-op or grocery delivery service if possible. I think it might cost a little extra, but I think knowing that makes me appreciate the veggies even more so I end up basing all of our meals around the vegetable instead of around the meat! So, if I have onions, celery, carrots, and potatoes I would make chicken pot pie or stew. If I have peppers, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes I would make spaghetti or some sort of Italian casserole. If I have kale and carrots I make a yummy soup! I love soup and casseroles for dumping all sorts of veggies in. Then I always serve sort of fruit with our meal also.

    [Reply]

  18. Star says

    Okay, okay…. We eat real foods, we love real foods. I make all our bread (usually sourdough), we buy milk from the farmer, have chickens for eggs, bulk buy grass fed beef, etc. My confession- I had no idea corn was not a vegetable (really LOL) Laura, I always learn something new from you :-) We don’t eat tons of corn, but I have 2 kids with food allergies (1 is allergic to many foods) and so we do use it more than I would like. Your post taught me a lesson and challenged me to serve more fruits/veggies, thanks!

    [Reply]

    Linda Reply:

    I have never heard that either! We eat it quite often! In all the reading I do about food, I have never seen it called a grain and not a vegetable.

    [Reply]

  19. says

    I had never heard that corn is not a veggie – had to do some research. According to wholegrainscouncil.org, fresh corn is usually considered a vegetable and dried corn is considered a grain. My husband only likes peas and corn – I was hoping it was not only actually one veggie :) Love all the great advice – you have helped our family so much.

    [Reply]

  20. ms.p says

    I get my daughter and hubby to eat Kale by making them into chips. Only veggie I can get her to eat witout a struggle.

    [Reply]

  21. virginia says

    When our veggies start to get close to their expiration date, another meal I like to make besides soup and stew, is stir fry. I add whatever protein I have in the freezer, ie chicken, steak, shrimp, and put a can of water chestnuts in and viola! So not authentic, but delicious served with rice or noodles, and everyone likes it. Also, no guilt over wasted produce!
    One of my faves for breakfast is steamed spinach in my cheesy scrambled eggs. Kids like cheddar, I love feta.
    Thanks for all the great ideas!

    [Reply]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *