How to Get Your Five a Day, Plus Some

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Strawberry SaladAccording to a new report from the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) only one in seven people within the United States currently eats enough fruits and vegetables and gets enough exercise. Their survey of over 350,000 people found that he fairly relaxed targets of five or more fruits and vegetables a day, and moderate exercise (gardening, brisk walking or … vacuuming!) for 30 minutes, five days a week or vigorous exercise (aerobics, running, heavy yard work, etc.) for 20 minutes, three days a week, were being met by only 14.6% of the population.

Breaking out of the fruit and veggie rut can be much easier than it seems, and luckily dairy-free and vegan dieters have a head start with more open space in the diet left from the removal of milk, cream, and cheese.  The following are some suggestions and recipes to hep you incorporate more fruits and veggies in your diet … 

SoupKeep the fat in check and up your veggie intake by pureeing vegetables for a creamy soup base.  Perfect for cooler temps, try Creamy Asparagus Soup, Creamy Broccoli Soup, Butternut Squash Soup, Roasted Tomato Soup, or Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup.

Be a kid again… enjoy a peanut butter and banana sandwich, top some whole wheat toast with almond butter and sliced apples, or make your favorite ants (raisins) or red ants (cranberries) on a celery log.

Top your cereal, hot or cold, with fresh fruit.  Some of our favorites: blueberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries, pineapple chunks, or chopped or grated apple.

Incorporate a green salad every day.  As your main course or a side, just try to get one platter or bowl of the green stuff a day. Get creative, use a variety of greens, and top with sliced bell peppers (red, yellow, or orange), chopped tomatoes, cucumber slices, dried cranberries, apple chunks, coleslaw, baby carrots, frozen peas, organic corn, green onions, avocado, etc., etc., etc.  For some interesting variations, try an Arugala, Strawberry, and Snap Pea Salad, or a Mexican Citrus Salad.

Of course, who says every salad must contain greens to be healthy?  What about Asian Broccoli and Ginger Salad, "Yankee" Tropical Salad, Moroccan Carrot Salad, Eggplant Salad, Sweet Potato Salad, or a Crunchy Fruit & Veggie Salad.

Purchase fresh fruit in quantity and prepare it immediately upon arriving home to ensure it gets eaten and is convenient.  For example, cut up any melons into bite-sized pieces and store in the refrigerator for quick snacking.  Flash freeze any excess fresh fruit in bite-sized pieces for snacking (frozen grapes, yummy!) or for…

SmoothieSmoothies!  Disguised with the sweetness of a desert, smoothies are an awesome way to pack two or more servings of fresh fruit and vegetables into anyone's diet.  Try a Berry Banana Breakfast Smoothie, Down Under Fruit Smoothie, or for a homemade "V-8" give this Vegetable Smoothie a whirl. For a real dessert treat with an added healthy bonus, enjoy some Vegan Pumpkin Nog or an innocent Piña Colada.

Don't forget the comfort food either.  Just because its healthy, doesn't mean it can't satisfy some cravings.  One of my personal favorites is roasted vegetables …. Herb Roasted Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes w/ Apples & Walnuts, even Roasted Turnips.

Get sneaky with vegetables, even for yourself.  Finely chop or grate zucchni, carrots, and onions for a flavor addition to tomato sauce in your favorite spaghetti or (dairy-free) lasagna.  It will add a nice texture without tasting too healthy.  Blend peas and avocados into that guacamole for a seamless substitute.  Mash steamed cauliflower into mashed potatoes and get a two-for on an old favorite. 

Once a week, make a giant vegetable stir fry, and use any leftovers for lunches during the week.  Really, you can throw in almost any vegetables you have on hand (great way to use up extras before they go bad!), and even the simplest flavorings make a delicious meal.  Sometimes, I just use some garlic and soy sauce (or wheat-free Tamari) when I am feeling less creative.

Don't frown upon convenience.  While fresh fruits and veggies are essential, a few frozen ones are better than nothing!  Plus, ready to toss in at any time, they may just help to up your healthy intake by a serving or two. Though I rely on fresh, I always keep some frozen fruit and veggies in the freezer for smoothies and a quick back-up.

Purchase or make a healthy dip (such as Spicy Chickpea!) or salsa, at the beginning of the week to encourage raw veggie snacking.  Enjoy carrot sticks, celery, cucumber, salad tomatoes, or cauliflower and broccoli florets with your favorite dip when the munchies strike.

Invest in a rice cooker.  MIne does double duty on most meals, providing both the grain and some freshly steamed veggies with one click of a button.  We alternate grains (brown rice, millet, quinoa, etc.) and place some veggies (timed accordingly) in the steamer basket.  When it clicks off, we have two courses ready to go.  Some steamed favorites include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, sweet potatoes (with skins), butternut squash, green beans, ah really, I could go on all day!

If steamed veggies don't sound indulgent enough, drizzle them with something more inviting, such as a healthy oil and some sea salt or your favorite seasoning mix.  Top with pesto, or just share some sauce from your entree.

Dried and fresh, keep an abundance of fruit on hand for snacking.  Apples, pears, nectarines, oranges, and bananas make great, easy fresh fruit snacks, but when out of season, pack along a baggie of the dried versions, but hold the added sugar please.

Need a drink?  Try some 100% fruit and veggie juice.  No, I am not talking about the one packed with apple juice and grape juice, the pure ones.  100% blueberry, pomegranate, and sweet cherry juices (once again, no sugar or high fructose corn syrup added) are pretty tasty on their own, but I love to make homemade sodas by mixing them with some sparkling mineral water.

Top or infuse (pumpkin puree and mashed bananas work great) waffles, pancakes, and desserts with the fresh fruits of your choosing.  For a special Sunday brunch, prepare Berry French Toast or Strawberry Crepes.

Come to think of it, why stop with the topping, just bake a fruit dessert.  Try Mixed Fruit Crisp or some Stuffed Apples.

There are a million ideas, so have some fun with it.  Create new recipes, experiment with new-to-you fruits and vegetables, add in new flavors….

… as for the Exercise, Get Moving America!

About Author

Alisa is the founder of GoDairyFree.org, Senior Editor for Allergic Living magazine, and author of the best-selling dairy-free book, Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living. Alisa is also a professional recipe creator and product ambassador for the natural food industry.

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