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How can Americans incorporate more fruits & vegetables in their diets on a budget?

Most Americans don't consume the recommended quantities/variety of fruits and vegetables. (I could go on and on about the reasons, but I'm looking for practical solutions here from fellow hounds!)

Please share some practical tips on how you've added fruits & vegetables to your diet without spending a lot of money. I'm looking for:

A. Tips for kids
B. Tips when eating at home
C. Tips when eating out

Thanks in advance!

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  1. 1) Hide veggies! Meatloaf, soups and even baked goods hide them very well. I also start many dishes with a mirpoix. Make mac and cheese with cauliflower; they'll never know. Also, blend it into mashed potatoes. I like to make mashed potatoes with a yam thrown in to boost nutrients.
    Roast the veggies to make them taste totally different. Kale chips and roasted cauliflower, eg. Heck, even brussel sprouts turn into something magical with roasted (I LOVE them).
    Of course modeling good eating helps.
    2) I do a lot of shopping at farmers markets, which frankly is generally more expensive than grocery stores. THAT SAID, I also shop at grocery stores and look at the circulars for the loss leaders and stock up on them.
    The best way to get more vegetables is to plant a garden. It definitely helps to get the kids invested in it.
    3) Ask for another helping of vegetables in lieu of starch when eating out. Replace potatoes in all forms with veggies. I wish I could have the will to do that every time I order a burger!

    3 Replies
    1. re: monavano

      I love all the suggestions for "hiding" vegetables in things - instead of changing your whole eating pattern, sneak vegetables into dishes you already eat.

      My suggestion (also a completely traditional Italian dish, maybe Roman?): instead of having pesto with just pasta, you can boil small potatoes and green beans in the same water as the pasta and toss the pesto sauce with that (n.b. not necessarily for the same amount of time as the pasta - I go potatoes first, then pasta, then beans). More recently, I figured out that you don't have to actually use any pasta at all, and you can use any vegetables at all, and also they don't have to be cooked at all. Good pesto makes everything taste good.

      1. re: Sarah Perry

        I love pesto on well drained and blotted spaghetti squash and on sliced tomatoes, with our without fresh mozzarella.

        1. re: Sarah Perry

          Sarah, you reminded me, that if you like pesto, you can also sneak a handful of baby spinach in with the basil. I have gotten that past many people who do not eat veg, and say that they would never eat spinach.

      2. I buy nuts and dried fruit in bulk at a local health food store. It's much cheaper than a grocery store and sometimes I can find raw nuts as well. I carry a baggie of fruit and nuts in my briefcase for lunch.

        1. Buy local and in season, buy whole items and do your own cleaning and prep work.

          I, too, order double veggies and no starch at restaurants, same way we eat at home. Appetizer course is always a salad, too.

          Make "fauxtatoes" from a whole head of soft cooked pureed cauliflower; add butter, s and p, and one medium baked Idaho spud with the skin for a great mash taters sub.

          For kids, involve them in prep and cooking as much as you can, and roast veggies like cauli, broccoli, root veggies at 425 coated with olive oil, s and p; the high heat carmelizes the surface and the natural sugars make them very sweet.

          Bake cauliflower florets with a bit of cream on the bottom, and 6 oz by weight shredded cheese on top, s and p, at 425 til cheese is browning... GREAT winter side dish.

          Use canned pumpkin to make a soup with chicken stock, sweated onions and garlic, fresh thyme and some andouille sausage or kielbasa; very filling winter meal. I add cream before serving.

          Saute sugar snap peas or serve them raw with dip; sweet, lots of fiber and kids usually love them, IME.

          Kids often like ratatouille, which is great roasted or stewed, hot or cold, in an omelet or as a dinner side dish.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mcf

            I want to add on that I substitute high fiber, low carb veggies for dishes that I used to serve over pasta. Baked shrimp with feta and olives is great over spaghetti, meat loaf and pot roast great over pureed rutabaga or white turnips, spaghetti squash with putanesca sauce, etc. I make very meaty and veggie loaded Thai curries served in a chili or soup bowl, no rice...

          2. I go to my local Farmer's Market and buy what's in season. Last week that included stone fruit, apples, zucchini, tomatoes all at less than $2 a pound. Since I pick them myself and can look for what I consider the best and choose some ripe for now and less ripe for later in the week. I also buy carrots and spinach every week at the local grocery for salads and eating raw. I eat a piece of fruit at breakfast, a raw carrot or two at lunch, and another piece of fruit for afternoon snack. Today that means 1 apple, two carrots and a plum--all before dinner. For kids, I'd throw fruit into a blender and make smoothies for breakfast/snack, give them raw to crunch on when they come home or are hungry for dinner and then add dark greens to salad along with tomatoes at dinner. I don't have kids so maybe they won't eat this way but it's what I can offer.

            1 Reply
            1. re: escondido123

              Farmers' Market is my choice too, fresh and economical. I get Asian vegetables for a buck a bundle, stir fry with garlic and oil. Can't beat a buck for a dish.

              Fruit is $1.50/lb at my market. And they last longer than the ones from supermarkets.

              For kids, try grape tomatoes. They are bright red, oval shaped tomatoes that are so sweet. Set them on the dining table for snacking. Kids seem to love them.

            2. A. Have it sliced up and ready to go. Make that the ONLY thing available to snack on (no junk food anywhere.) But I had a habit of slathering a banana in peanut butter and chocolate sauce for a while in HS....

              B. Shop at ethnic stores, if possible. They are usually much cheaper.