Monday, March 29, 2010


Squeezing in fruits, vegetables and whole grains

With all 24 hours of all seven days of the week seemingly filled with work, commuting, appointments, kids and multiple other commitments, it can be difficult to get a meal on the table some evenings — let alone making sure it’s a well-balanced and healthy meal.

The task of increasing fruit, vegetable and whole grain intake can appear daunting. Since March is National Nutrition Month, it’s a good time to try. Hopefully these tips can help:

• Keep the freezer well-stocked with frozen vegetables and add a cup or two to sauces, rice or pasta dishes.
• If the kids are picky about vegetables, try shredding or grating vegetables (i.e. carrots, zucchini) and adding to flavorful casseroles, where they won’t be noticed as easily.
• When you do have vegetables ready with dinner, try to make half of your plate vegetables. If you’re still hungry after the first serving, go back for seconds on the vegetables instead of the protein or starch.
• If you find that fresh produce sits on the counter untouched until it starts to go bad, try cutting up fruit and separate into single-serving baggies or containers that are ready to go and easy to add to a lunch bag or purse for a mid-morning snack. The same goes for vegetables.
• Don’t feel caged-in by recipes. For example, if a recipe calls for “one medium green pepper,” feel free to add a red pepper as well, or even some extra tomatoes.
• Try substituting brown or wild rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta or barley in recipes that call for white rice or non-whole wheat pasta. You can also make half of the flour called for in baking recipes whole wheat flour, with little to no difference in taste or consistency.

Keep in mind that, as with many changes, if you make one healthy dietary change at a time it can be easier to stick with than if you try to make multiple changes all at once. Pick one small change per week (or month) until that change becomes habit, and then tackle the next goal.

Remember, the overall goal of a healthier lifestyle will serve you best when you can maintain it.

Lauren Burdick is a registered dietitian in the Food and Nutrition Department at The William W. Backus Hospital. This column should not replace advice or instruction from your physician. E-mail Ms. Burdick or any of the Healthy Living columnists at To comment on this or other Healthy Living columns, click below or go to the Healthy Living blog at

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