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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.

              1. something that Michal Pollan said that has really really stuck w/me. "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry".

                when I'm hungry I make sure to eat an apple or orange or banana or raw pepper strips, or even make a salad. I don't keep any junk of snack food in the house (I live alone).

                If you don't purchase "junk" or "snack" food and if you (generic you) don't purchase convenience foods or individually packaged anything, voila, you have saved a ton o $$$$ and have more $$$$ for fresh fruits and veggies.

                I also do not have starch w/my meal, double veggies (even when my heart is screaming "just this one time, a baked potato please" .

                13 Replies
                1. re: laliz

                  I love that quote from Pollan and it's certainly how I'm getting more fruit/veg into my life. But why the big no on a baked potato--they have nutrients too--Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium and excellent fiber if you eat the skin...they are a vegetable too. I top mine with fat free yogurt and think it's a great veg.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    yea, see, a baked potato to me is scary in a restaurant. I want butter, sour cream, cheese sauce, the gravy etc.

                    I'm diabetic, and have had potatoes off the list for some time. I realize they are a vegetable, but to me they are like corn and peas, they count as carbs.

                    1. re: laliz

                      Oh, I understood potatoes could be part of a diabetic diet I grew up in a family that loaded their potatoes with sour cream and butter. I first eliminated the butter and then swapped out the cream for yogurt. Still use a good dose of salt and pepper, but tastes good to me--olive oil on the skin for me.

                      1. re: escondido123

                        anything a person chooses to eat can be part of a diabetic diet.

                        I choose to not eat potatoes.

                        1. re: laliz

                          Well, only if the diabetic doesn't care how high their post meal bg spike is. I care, so I don't eat starches.

                        2. re: escondido123

                          And I really like the baked potato skin

                      2. re: escondido123

                        simple carbs, like a baked potato, have addictive potential to some of us.. . . .
                        also, because of their high glicemic index, they can lead to more hunger.

                        they, like many root vegetables, are much higher in calories than leafy greens or green beans, or snap peas, or, or, or

                      3. re: laliz

                        Michael Pollan is a wonderful writer, but he's no metabolic expert. When I'm hungry, I need protein and fat at every meal and snack.

                        1. re: laliz

                          > something that Michal Pollan said that has really really stuck w/me.
                          > "If you're not hungry enough to eat an apple, you're not hungry".

                          That's great! I've had basically that same observation, just through internal monologue. If an apple doesn't sound good, I'm just bored or something. Like I needed more reasons to like Michael Pollan!

                          1. re: MrBook

                            It sure has worked for me; I've lost 60 lbs. since last year.

                            1. re: MrBook

                              I'm trying to retrain my inner dialogue that way too, but I think hard-boiled egg instead of apple. An apple is sugar and some of us have to treat it that way. Sigh.

                          2. I keep fruit salad prepped and ready to go in the fridge and often have a 1/2 cup to a cup serving with breakfast, lunch or dinner.

                            I also keep prep my onions, bell peppers, carrots, etc for a couple days and keep them in the fridge ready to go for quick cooking. I try to have at least two servings of fruit/veg with each meal.

                            Smoothies and juicing are a great way to get in enough fruits and vegetable each day. I usually mix two fruits and one vegetable for each smoothie, or juice. Like one orange, an apple and one carrot. Cucumber, apple and pear juice is nice. Carrot, apple, orange.

                            My ex husband wouldn't eat vegetables, so when I made soups or stews, I would purée half the vegetables and pour them into the soup or stew. Can't pick that out. Stealthing fruits and vegetables into things you might not usually put them in. I did a bacon (or ham), apple, and cheddar cheese grilled Flatbread. Or if you don't like sweet with savory, a nice ripe tomato is yummy or I even add shredded cabbage that you can buy in a bag for coleslaw. I'm not a fan of lettuce. My dad always made roasted potatoes and onions with chicken. I still do that, but I add chopped carrot and or bell peppers in it as well. I think potatoes get a bum wrap these days, and they don't need to.

                            Even if I decide to bake a treat, I add fruits and vegetables to them. My cookies today, are made with oatmeal, bananas, cranberries, white whole wheat flour, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate. I don't count that in with my fruit/veg intake, but I feel better about eating it. I also do oatmeal peach/carrot muffins.

                            I don't eat much meat at all, so I do consume more vegetables and fruits and legumes because they are easier to eat for me. I'm not really sure why people cannot or do not eat at least 5 servings a day. I just feel like they must not be trying. I average between 7-9 a day.

                            Buying things in season and things on sale can help. I'm sure it can be hard for people on very tight budgets. I cannot eat out, and I really cannot afford to anyway, so I cannot really give you tips there.

                            I just make sure I have vegetables with every meal and some fruit. It's like the Nike campaign. Just Do It. :)

                            1. I do what others do: I cram soups, casseroles, stews with veggies. I learned long ago to put lots of onion, garlic, celery, etc. in anything possible. These are not exotic veggies, don't cost a lot in general, and they qualify as veggies. Otherwise, I'd learn to prepare the veggies your family likes best really well. It isn't economical to prepare food, using energy and time, only to have to throw things out.

                              When eating out, you will have to ask to sub for potatoes. Or order a la carte the vegetable dishes you want to eat. In many restaurants, unfortunately, salads and veggies are low priority items.

                              A good choice for family eating would be a place that allows you to choose your salad ingredients. Kids like to choose what they eat. Sweet Tomatoes has an enormous selection of salad ingredients, and it isn't fancy or gourmet. You could do a lot worse than building a salad for dinner in a place like that. Of course, you have to beware of the carb laden breads and desserts!

                              1. When lettuce is really expensive, I make a salad with chopped up cabbage. I like napa but plain old green will do. It's healthier.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: pdxgastro

                                  GREAT reminder for an overlooked veggie. Cabbage is cheap and so healthy - and it seems uninspiring until you google it...I made my first filipino dish because of a cabbage google.

                                2. Tips for kids - get them to grow a couple of small, simple things - cherry tomatoes, herbs, salad greens, new potatoes, those sprouts you grow on damp cotton wool, chillis, strawberries. Anything that can be done in small pots. I loved this stuff when I was little and it was really exciting when it was finally ready to eat.

                                  I was never really picky about vegetables as a child, but a technique I use on my niece (4) when she doesn't want to eat something like apple wedges or carrot sticks is to say something similar to this "oh wow, carrots! I'm so glad you don't want them, because that means I get all of yours. All of them! Can I just take them now, because you look like you're finished." Granted, this only works because she doesn't actually dislike the foods, she just thinks if she turns down enough stuff she'll be allowed treats just so she eats something. Unfortunately for her, that's not how I operate (although it totally works on her Grandpa).

                                  Once kids are old enough then helping to prepare food and have options about what they are eating (and I mean options like cucumber AND tomato in this salad, or just cucumber?) gets them more involved too. And, something that Mum has always stuck by, is this: "Here is your dinner. If you are hungry, you will eat your dinner. You can stop once you are full, but you can't take extra of something until you finish what you already have. If you say you don't want dinner because you're not hungry or it's yucky, that's fine. Your choice. But don't think you're getting anything else before the next meal."

                                  For grown-ups eating at home: When I feel that I'm lacking in my fruit and vegetable intake, I have to remind myself to take the focus off my starch element. Although I managed to curb my potato indulgences years ago, I still make pasta, rice, noodles, couscous etc too much of a focus in a meal. So now I do that old diet thing of looking at a dinner plate and making it half vegetables, 1/4 protein, 1/4 starch. Or 1/3 protein, 2/3 vegetables and no starch.

                                  When I'm out, I'll have a starter of a non-dairy, vegetable-based soup. At sandwich shops I'll opt for the 'make this into a no-bread salad instead' option. On the go I'll grab a pre-packed salad that isn't pre-dressed.

                                  In terms of fruit - I love it. To get enough I'll buy a bag of apples or some nashi pears at the start of the week and fresh berries or clementines/mandarines dependent on the season. Morning snack and afternoon snack. Fruit quota done.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: ultimatepotato

                                    I like your strategies for eating out, and for building a veggie plate at home. You are right. When you arent' eating enough veggies, you are probably eating too much starch. Well, i'm really talking about me here.

                                  2. Frozen vegetables can be a good alternative in winter to add variety and are usually fairly inexpensive.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: jadec

                                      AND, i've found that being able to whip up a hearty vegetable soup in a matter of minutes using canned tomatoes and frozen veggies (mixed vegetables, cut green beans, and spinach) makes it easy to get something to "fill up on" before looking toward the calorie dense options.

                                      1. re: westsidegal

                                        Agreed. I especially like to do this with my homemade chicken broth. And I've just discovered how good greens are when put into vegetable or bean soup.

                                    2. I try to have fruit or veggies with every meal and if I snack I try to make it fruit or veggies with a protien like cottage cheese or a fruit smoothie. V8 or juicing is an idea... you just miss out on some of the fiber that fills you up. I agree with hiding veggies in everything. Pre-cut fruits and veggies in the fridge helps. Also growing your own veggies is a great idea. You can get a tomato plant already growing for $3 at Walmart and if it dies you can even return it. Get a big pot and soil... water it daily and watch it grow. It is really nice to have fresh veggies for cheap. I grow basil around my tomato plants. Strawberries are the same way and they come back every year so you only have to buy once. Kids love picking and eating strawberries.

                                      4 Replies
                                      1. re: danionavenue

                                        I've discovered that a cup of low sodium V-8 and a palm full (not fist full) of nuts is a very nourishing mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack! I also have a juicer that I use on weekends...and I use the carrot pulp for my salads during the week.

                                        1. re: Val

                                          Spicy V-8 is a great way to kick start the day... in more ways than one!

                                          1. re: monavano

                                            hee hee, I've always thought about adding some tabasco to my V-8 just for a kick & I might do that...though my days start very smoothly, always have..like clockwork, actually...

                                            1. re: Val

                                              I put horseradish and lemon juice in mine. Woohoo!

                                      2. Why Americans in particular? Are vegetables more expensive in the US than elsewhere?

                                        13 Replies
                                        1. re: Peg

                                          I inferred that it was to combat America's obesity problem.

                                          1. re: Peg

                                            Sometimes it is a lot cheaper to buy a can of something than to buy fresh fruit and veggies at a grocery store. This is especially true when you can find sales and combine with coupons. So, if you are on a budget, there is a great tempation to buy processed food rather than spend more on the fresh.

                                            1. re: hala

                                              A canned or frozen pea is still a pea. Not as healthy as fresh, but better than nothing. I would hate for someone to think that they have to spend more on fresh (and eating less) when they don't have much money to spend on food. I think that the message should be "Fresh is better, but don't be afraid to supplement canned or frozen."

                                              1. re: viperlush

                                                Frozen peas are what I use most of the time. Who wants to be shelling peas? Not me! Many vegetables are flash frozen at the peak of nutrition. And they can be an absolute bargain. I know I sound like Rachel Ray here, but spinach is a gangbuster bargain.
                                                I also would never peel pearl onions and buy them frozen. Artichokes? PITA! although I do buy them fresh in season because I want to improve my repertoire.
                                                Things like frozen sliced or chopped onions are silly to me.

                                                1. re: viperlush

                                                  Frozen veggies often have more nutrient value than fresh, studies have found. It's a form of preservation.

                                                  1. re: mcf

                                                    Thanks, didn't know that. I need to start stocking up on frozen veggies before the snow comes and I'm too lazy to drive/walk to the store.

                                                    Do you know how canned compare to fresh or frozen? In terms of nutritional value, not texture/flavor.

                                                    1. re: viperlush

                                                      I don't recall what the stats were on canned, but I think they were lower. Plus, they're soggy and gross texture, IMO. I think it's the arrest of aging that makes frozen more nutritious, while fresh on the shelf veggies continue to age before use.

                                                  2. re: viperlush

                                                    Frozen peas are indeed as good or better than fresh, but canned ones are not. I complain about processed foods, and frozen peas are very minimally processed.

                                                2. re: Peg

                                                  LIke Peg, I think I may be missing the point of the OP, which talks about eating more fruit and veg while on a budget. Surely, fruit and veg are going to be cheaper than most other things you might eat and, therefore, inherently a good thing to eat more of when financial times are hard.

                                                  Short answer then is to eat more vegetarian meals whether at home or eating out.

                                                  1. re: Harters

                                                    Unfortunately, they're not cheaper, particularly in poorer neighborhoods, where they're rarely available, and what is there sells for a premium. Starches are filling and cheap. Unfortunately, as a staple, they're also not healthy, hence the higher obesity simultaneous with worse malnourishment in economically disadvantaged folks.

                                                    1. re: Harters

                                                      If one is a 'mac and cheese' vegetarian, it would be definitely cheaper. But if one wants good health, it will cost you. Right now green peppers are selling for $1.00 ea at my market. Never mind about the red ones. A bunch of radishes--$1.29. Apples are up too. $2.49/lb. or thereabouts. This isn't so bad for small households, but it is catastrophic if there are many mouths to feed at home.

                                                      I visited Aldi's (discount grocer in our area) last week, and picked up a bargain pack of green peppers. One of the peppers became moldy and unusable within 2 days. The carrots I bought look OK, but you wonder how old the cheap produce there is. How good for you it would be.

                                                    2. re: Peg

                                                      It's not that vegetables are more expensive here in the US, it's that Americans don't eat enough of it, and it contributes to the high overweight & obesity rates:
                                                      - 33.8% of adults
                                                      - 17% (12.5 million) children and adolescents aged 2–19
                                                      - nearly 40% of children in African American and Hispanic communities

                                                    3. A- Every morning, DH sits our kids at the table and serves them fruit while I pack lunches. By the time I am ready to take the other breakfast foods to the table, the kids have already eaten at least one serving of fruit. In fact, now they are so used to this that when we visit my mom, they refuse to have breakfast before eating their fruit.

                                                      B- Every city is different, but you need to figure out where to get cheaper produce where you live. It could be a farmers market, a non profit organisation interested in sustainability, a CSA, ethnic stores or a grocery store. And, remember, quality produce might be expensive, but if you reduce the amount of meat you're buying and use more legumes you would not need to increase your budget to make place for quality produce.You can also buy cheap in the summer and make preserves, if you like doing that.

                                                      C- Ethnic and vegetarian restaurents. Even fast food places have vegetarian options these days.

                                                      1. Trader Joes sells packaged "just a handful" of almonds, cashews, etc. that are easy to carry and premeasured. It may seem like overpackaging, however, it works for those of us who will "forget" to only serve themselves "just a handful"

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: laliz

                                                          Not for those on a budget, though, if pre packaged. The more you do for yourself and the less pre packaging, the better for a budget, which is part of the OP.

                                                          1. re: laliz

                                                            You can just as easily buy bulk and then count how many almonds you eat. For example, eat 10 almonds as a snack.

                                                          2. How I've attempted to add fruit and veggies:
                                                            Breakfast- Always a bowl of fruit salad or fruit topping (waffles,pancakes, yogurt, etc) and a small glass of juice with meal. It was easier in the spring and summer when more fruits were in season.
                                                            Snacks- Bananas, orange, grapes, apple with cheese or drinkable yogurt (high calorie, but I'm trying to increase calcium). Basically what ever fruit tickles my fancy. I usually drink a couple glasses of cranberry juice a day (dilluted w/club soda).
                                                            Lunch- Left overs from the night before. I try to pack at least one piece of fruit in the BF's lunch bag. My favorite lunch is a baked potatoe topped w/broccoli and cheese.
                                                            Dinner- Always a bowl of salad ( buy the prepackaged box that is half spinach/half assorted greens). Sweet potatoes are cheap and easy to bake so we will have those a couple nights a week. Instead of straight mashed potatoes I'll sometimes mix in kale and leeks. And now that it's getting cold veggie heavy soups,stews, chili.

                                                            1. A nice healthy lunch is to take a baked sweet potato, top it with left over green vegetables from the night before (spinach, kale, chard, broccoli) and they add yoghurt. Top with chopped scallions, curry powder and sriracha.

                                                              I have been using yoghurt in lieu of sour cream for years. Besides being healthier, it tastes better.

                                                              1. Fritattas are the perfect vehicle for veggies.
                                                                The Vitamix is also a great way to get tons of veg and fruit in. I *know* it's expensive, but for health reasons I've justified it. It has been wonderful for soups.

                                                                1. I always have fruit and veggies washed and sliced in "easy to grab a handful" contianers. It is a LOT less expensive to buy veggies and cut them up at home rather than buy them pre-sliced.

                                                                  I cut up melons, celery, wash sugar snap peas and grapes, etc. as soon as I get home from the market and then leave them in containers on the counter or in the fridge. For grapes I just wash them in a colander and then put the whole colander in the fridge uncovered. It's super convenient to open the door and grab them for a snack or put them in a bag for lunch.

                                                                  Snap peas are another great snack. The kids I watch love them and they are delicious raw. They have a good crunch to them and are a good alternative to chips/crackers as an after school snack.

                                                                  Also, spinach is inexpensive and is a no brainer to add to a warm dish like pasta. If you're kids aren't into spinich try peas (also good in pasta) as I find them to be more "kid friendly."

                                                                  As for eating out, a veggie pizza can pack in an extra serving. I also do a lot of thai, chinese, or vietnamese food when eating out. I ask for veggies in my pho or order a dish like broccoli beef that incorporates vegetables.

                                                                  1. "Most Americans don't consume the recommended quantities/variety of fruits and vegetables."

                                                                    Which Americans are you speaking of? North Americans? South Americans? I have spent a significant amount of time in Central America and have consumed plenty of fruits and vegetables.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. when veggies and fruits are in season freeze or can them.

                                                                      1. I'm very much against 'hiding' vegetables in other dishes. Kids should grow up knowing what's in gtheir food and if they get fed real food from the start without the "OMG kids don't like vegetables, don't tell sonny that his dinner has vegetables in it". I grew up eating a fairly wide array of them, as a matter of course, way before I was in school and learned to hate any food other than by taste. When I'd had a long day at work when my son was a little shaver I'd cook some spinach and put it in his frozen mac & cheese. It was actually wonderful-tasting and I still do that from time to time, although we don't eat many frozen entrees. Make kids feel special for getting to eat at a restaurant, don't get them the same damn chicken nuggets- don't give them chicken nuggets at all, in fact. Chicken nuggets are to food what sodas are to drinks. They ought not to be given to children, and used rarely in adults.

                                                                        1. vegetable soups!

                                                                          roasted fresh veggies are the best. sweet potato, fennel, apple (along with onions and garlic, of course) is my favorite combination. i also love carrot, to which i add grated ginger and a spoonful of frozen orange juice concentrate.

                                                                          peel and cut up in big chunks, toss with a little olive oil, s&p and roast at 450 for 20 minutes. transfer to soup pot, add stock (or water) and simmer, then puree.

                                                                          another good combination is roasted broccoli and leeks (with a parm rind added to the stock. just remember to take it out before pureeing).

                                                                          while you can't roast them, frozen veggies -- carrots, broccoli, butternut squash, spinach -- are economical and make great soups. so do canned tomatoes.

                                                                          sliced apples (granny smiths are my favorite) are great in a grilled cheese on whole wheat with a grainy mustard. apple slices are also great with hummus (instead of pita bread) --- broccoli crowns and carrot sticks too. also love blue cheese on apple slices topped with a few chopped hazelnuts or pecans.

                                                                          1. The easiest way for us to add more veggies to our diet, both for adults and kids, was to simply take away the option of NOT having veggies, fruit, etc.. Every lunch and dinner - and sometimes breakfast - has at least one veg, preferably green. So it's not, "Should we add veggies to this meal?" but "We're missing a vegetable. What should we add?" Our son isn't quite old enough to verbally choose yet, but even as an infant, he gets spinach mixed into his eggs, or peas into his sweet potato. If he doesn't like it, he can pick a different vegetable to eat, and he does - he'll shake his head no at the peas, and then resign himself to eat the broccoli because no vegetable is not an option. It's so second nature to us at this point that if we go to a sports bar or something with friends where the menu consists of nothing but chicken wings and french fries, we feel very strange about not having greens on our plate, and usually end up making a salad when we get home.

                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                            1. re: thursday

                                                                              I agree — if junk food isn't presented as an option, then it won't become the norm. I normally stuff everything into one dish, not as a side.

                                                                              There's no junk food in our house, only ingredients, and a lot of vegetables. We have a chest freezer full of CSA/garden/farmer's market produce to use this winter. I normally have enough put away to last through the end of February/early March. Then we have a few sad expensive months of sub-par vegetables before local produce comes into season.

                                                                              1. re: thursday

                                                                                thursday, you've nailed it. Great post.

                                                                              2. According to the USDA's new MyPlate guidelines (which replaces the food pyramid): Make half your plate fruits and vegetables!

                                                                                Some general tips:

                                                                                1. Fire up the grill
                                                                                Use the grill to cook vegetables and fruits. Mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, and garlic area all awesome on a skewer. Grilled fruits like peaches, pineapple, or mangos add great flavor to a cookout.

                                                                                2. Expand the flavor of your casseroles
                                                                                Mix vegetables such as sauteed onions, peas, carrots, or tomatoes into your favorite dish for extra flavor.

                                                                                3. Add vegetables (or even fruits!) to your pasta dish
                                                                                Put peppers, zucchini, asparagus, squash, onions, etc into a traditional tomato sauce. My friend likes to put yellow raisins in his spaghetti with almond and olive oil. (I know, sounds strange, but it's good!)

                                                                                4. Look into Asian recipes
                                                                                Explore Chinese and Japanese preparation of veggies. I grew up eating lots and lots of napa cabbage, baby bok choy, radishes, Chinese broccoli, pea shoots, etc. They're super easy to prepare, and can be incorporated easily into soups, stir-fries, and 1-pot meals. Sukiyaki and Chinese hot pots are my go-tos for a fairly quick and easy dinner.

                                                                                5. Be creative with baked goods
                                                                                Add apples, bananas, blueberries, pears etc. to desserts.

                                                                                1. One suggestion tha I might make for tips for getting your kids to eat more fruits and veggies is to start early... and don't over stress when a kid doesn't like something, just move on and try to make up for it later in the day or even later in the week

                                                                                  also, take your child shopping with you and have them pick out fruits and veggies that look and sound good to them

                                                                                  when my kids were little, we'd do "rainbow" veggies and they'd do their best to get a fruit and vegetable of every color of the rainbow into the cart. Then they would help me prep the fresh veggies to make a rainbow veggie platter. (fruit was never a problem for them, they always loved all kinds of fruits)

                                                                                  1. I've also realized that I eat more fruit and vegetables as snacks because we have almost no other "snack" foods like crackers, chips, candy, ice cream or anything you can pop into the microwave like pizza pockets and such. My one downfall is nuts, but I keep that to a handful a day which they say is good for you.

                                                                                    1. For kids I tend to keep it simple. Boil/saute/steam with some simple seasonings. A mandatory sample/serving goes on the plate and they can eat it with whatever topping they'd like. A dusting of romano cheese is popular in our house, along with balsamic dressing or just balsamic vinegar. Some things get cheese sauce, or ketchup, or tartar sauce. If it's around, they can have it, and dip makes everything more tolerable.

                                                                                      Eating out - I choose restaurants where I can get a lot of vegetables, or I chose vegetarian options. Asian restaurants are often happy to bring a side of steamed broccoli instead of rice (sometimes for an extra charge). Or we order a dish with meat and one with just vegetables and share them around. Start with salads or a vegetable soup, then split an entree and a side or two of vegetables. If the vegetables sound good, it's easy to work in ways to order them. If you aren't the type to share, order a side of vegetables and take more of your entree home for lunch the next day.

                                                                                      I do most of my eating at home. The single best tool for eating more vegetables is good cookbooks that have a focus on vegetables. Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday and Lynn Rosetto Kasper's Italian Country Table occupy prime space on my cookbook shelf. They both offer easy ways to make vegetables taste every bit as enjoyable as the "main attraction". The more I cook with those books, the more vegetables start to drive the meal creation process. It's not "Oh, I have pork chops, what should I make with them?" It's "Gosh, brussel sprouts. I love the way the loose leaves get crunchy and caramelized when I roast them with garlic. What could I eat with that?" I see greens and I think of corn tortillas stuffed with sauteed greens and onions. It's a change of perception that I don't think is possible if "vegetable" means boil it and plop it on the table.

                                                                                      Toward the end of the week, accumulated leftover veggies (cooked and uncooked - anything that's lingering) are made into vegetable soup. A can of plum tomatoes and a good simmer go a long way toward melding disparate seasonings.

                                                                                      Fruit is what I use to fill in the gaps of the day. I often have yogurt in the morning, and instead of sweetening it, I break open a pomegranate and sprinkle a good handful of arils on top. Or a sautee an apple or pear with a little cinnamon. Or I slice a banana. If that doesn't tickle my fancy, I have dried apricots, dried unsweetened cherries, raisins, etc. Not much of the dried fruit, you have to remember what it looked like fresh or you're going to overdo. Some nuts or seeds for crunch and I'm set.

                                                                                      After school snack? Banana or apple with peanut butter. Or fresh mango, sliced pear, pineapple strips.. It's easy, and takes no more time than dishing out some cookies.

                                                                                      Looking for something to nibble on after dinner? Baked apple, clementines, pear with walnuts and blue cheese, citrus supremes, poached pear with ricotta cream, berry soup, whatever fresh fruit is in season blended with lots of ice and a little citrus or sugar to balance it.