How to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet this summer


By Elizabeth Villalta, MS, RD, LDN
Duke Center for Metabolic and Weight Loss Surgery

The average person needs four servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and summer is the perfect time to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet because so many are in season. You can use fruits and vegetables to spice up a recipe, or if you have picky eaters, hide them in a recipe. However you do it, eating more fruits and vegetables is a great way to boost the nutrition of any dish. Many fruits and vegetables contain soluble fiber, which helps carry cholesterol out of the body. They also contain vitamins needed for everyday health, including the antioxidant properties of vitamins A, C, and E. Flavonoids and carotenoids give fruits and vegetables their color and also act as antioxidants in the body. Antioxidants help fight off free radicals created in your body that can cause cancer. Here are some ways to add fruits and vegetables to your diet this summer.

Fruit glazes or marinades: Blueberries, cherries, peaches, apricots and raspberries are all fruits that pair well with the savory flavor of meats and BBQ sauce. The juicy acidity of the fruit will help tenderize your meat. Check out recipes for a blueberry bourbon BBQ sauce and for peach chutney.

Fruit salsa: Peaches and mango can be a sweet addition to your salsa this summer. Peaches and mangos not only contain vitamins, but also an array of minerals that act as cofactors to keep normal body functions going. Try out this recipe for avocado-mango-salsa.

Grilled fruit and vegetables: Kabobs are a quick and easy way to combine fruits and vegetables together in the same meal. You can put onions, pineapples, peaches, bell peppers and tomatoes on a skewer and throw them all on the grill for a sweet and savory meal. Try this for dinner, honey chicken kabobs.

Soup: Cold soup in the summer is an easy way to beat the heat. You can make traditional gazpacho with tomatoes, or switch it up with a watermelon gazpacho that gives the perfect balance between sweet and salty. Try this recipe for watermelon and cucumber gazpacho.

Smoothies: For picky eaters who do not like vegetables, try adding kale or spinach to a fresh smoothie. The sweetness of the fruits hides the flavor of the greens. Kale and spinach add additional potassium, calcium and iron. Here is a recipe for a blueberry spinach smoothie.

Vegetable puree: For picky eaters who do not like vegetables, adding a puree of individual or mixed vegetables will help increase the servings you need daily. The best vegetables to puree are steamed or boiled carrots, cauliflower, yellow squash, broccoli, zucchini and spinach. Pulverize any combination of these vegetables and add them to sauces, casseroles, soups or stew. Try out barbell burgers or cauliflower puree.

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