How to Incorporate Springtime Produce Into Your Diet

An apple a day keeps the doctor away – or so the old saying goes. But why stop there? Slice that crisp apple and celery, toss it with fresh cabbage, nuts and a few other toppings to create a healthy apple slaw that packs a nutritional punch.

Morphing that apple, or other fruits and vegetables, into a light meal is just one tactic to increase your intake of a healthy food group. Eating more produce may be a key factor to helping us live longer while reducing our risk for certain diseases, according to data unearthed in a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

The researchers found that consuming more than five servings of vegetables and fruits daily can help extend our lifespan while reducing risk of heart attack, stroke and cancer. The analysis further estimated that 10 daily servings was linked to a:

  • 33 percent reduced risk of stroke.
  • 24 percent reduced risk of heart disease.
  • 13 percent reduced risk of cancer.
  • 31 percent reduction in premature death.

Spring presents plenty of fresh choices to get in those healthful foods, from apricots to turnips, available at the grocery store and farmers markets. Variety is key when seeking flavorful and nutritious ways to incorporate more daily servings of produce and helps provide the mix of nutrients and antioxidants that help protect our brains and bodies from disease.

If the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s advice to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits sounds a little hard to achieve, that’s OK. Small steps over time can lead to big change when it comes to incorporating fruits and vegetables into your meal and snack rotation.

To begin, give one of these recipe ideas a try:

  • Veggies for breakfast: Start your day with a veggie-packed quiche.
  • Fruit with dinner: This study encourages families to integrate more fruits and vegetables into their dinner rotation. Ditch dessert and serve a bowl of naturally sweet orange slices, sliced melon or peaches to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Berry well: Strawberries, one of year’s earliest fruits, are a key ingredient in this twisted smoothie.
  • Turn over a new leaf: Greens such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard and spinach are rich in a variety of healthful nutrients. Try a healthy twist on the classic crunchy favorite with this recipe for kale chips.

Still need a nudge? What if embracing more fruits and vegetables influenced those around you? A 2017 study found when adults ate more fruits and vegetables, their children followed suit.

Visit the USDA’s Choose My Plate site for more produce tips and resources.