In our hurried days, we don't always make the best food choices. However, it is possible to meet the demands of our busy lives and still make healthful food choices.
The guidelines recommend eating red, orange and dark green vegetables such as, respectively, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli. They also recommend eating fruit, vegetables or unsalted nuts as snacks, as those foods are considered nature's original fast foods (www.dietaryguidelines.gov).
Along with tasting great, fruits and vegetables are low in calories and fat and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables as part of a low-fat, high-fiber diet might help reduce blood pressure, manage weight and reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
Have fruits and veggies on hand. It's hard to choose grapes over cookies if grapes aren't around. Studies show that households that have fruits and vegetables available for meals and snacks will eat more of them. Put a few extra fruits and vegetables into your shopping cart this week.
Drink fruit juice instead of soda or coffee. One cup of 100-percent fruit juice can be considered a cup of fruit from the fruit group; however, you should try to keep the amount of fruit juice you drink to less than half of your daily fruit intake. You can keep 8-ounce to 12-ounce cans or bottles in your refrigerator, chilled and ready to go.
Bring with you fruits and vegetables that can be eaten by hand. Try these convenience foods — apricots, grapes, apples, nectarines, bananas, orange segments, broccoli, pears, carrots, plums, celery stalks, strawberries and cherries.
When purchasing fruits and vegetables, take advantage of easy options such as precut, cleaned and packaged fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen, diced or canned fruits and vegetables are also easy to use.
Buy low-fat yogurt, fruit juice and fresh, canned or frozen fruit to blend a quick smoothie in the morning. Drink it at home or pour it into an insulated cup to keep it cold and take it with you.
Buy pre-cut vegetables (packaged or from the salad bar) for brown bag lunches and try dipping in low-fat salad dressing.
Buy frozen bags of berries, peaches or melon balls and use as needed.
Remember, the more fruits and vegetables, the better. Go to www.fruitsand veggiesmorematters.org for lots of great ideas for including more fruits and veggies in your daily diet. You can also check www.choosemyplate.gov for its 10 tips series for kid-friendly fruits and vegetables, smart shopping tips and ways to liven up your meals with fruits and vegetables.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.