The first 50% of your Real Plate: Vegetables and Low-sugar Fruits

There are a few fabulous reasons why I encourage you to fill half of your plate with high-fiber, low-carbohydrate vegetables and low-sugar fruits. Number one is that these foods are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that have been shown to protect against chronic diseases. Number two is that they contain fiber to keep your digestive system running efficiently. And number three is that vegetables and fruit are low in calories per serving so you can enjoy plenty while doing your body good. Real good!

I encourage vegetables and low-sugar fruits are because the health benefits are through the roof! We live in America where diabetes, heart disease, and cancers are killing us left and right. It only makes sense to include foods in your diet that help combat these issues. Adding just 5 servings of vegetables and fruits to your day contribute to a healthy body weight, blood sugar management and reduction, a reduced risk of heart disease and some cancers, and decreased digestive problems. Some say 5 is fine but I say 9 is divine! But let me be clear that the majority of those servings need to come from vegetables to prevent consuming all of your nutrition from fruit. Yes, fruit is good for your body, but 3 servings a day is plenty otherwise you’ll bump out room for vegetables to find their place on your plate. Additionally, if you have blood sugar problems then 1 – 2 servings of fruit a day is maximum.

Next up: Fiber.

By making half of your meal vegetable and fruit-based, you’ve already bumped up the fiber content of your meal without having to take a scoop of some manufactured fiber supplement. Fiber is lacking in so many of our daily diets that it can really create a burden on your wonderful body when we go too long without this key component to a good diet. On average, you should aim for at least 30 grams of fiber from real food each and every day.  How do you know what you’re getting now? Take inventory. Keep a food journal for a day (using an app or a piece of paper will do) and figure out how much fiber is in each of the foods you consume over the course of the day. For a better idea of how much you’re eating over the course of a week, do this for a few days and track only fiber to keep things simple.

The third reason to stick to 50% is that vegetables are incredibly low in calories per serving. There’s only so much raw spinach, cucumber, and raspberries you can eat before you feel full. For instance, 1 cup of spinach contains 7 calories. A large salad with 3 cups of raw spinach is just the beginning of a fantastic meal plus you’ve covered 1/3 of your vegetable/fruit servings for the day. And all for less than 25 calories. That leaves room calorically for grilled chicken, olive oil dressing, 1 cup of fresh raspberries (now your daily serving count has increased to 4!), and 2 tablespoons of chopped raw almonds for some added crunch and flavor. When thinking in terms of calories and energy, consider whether the food is a vegetable or fruit. Vegetables are lower in calories than their low-sugar fruit friends so I encourage you to choose vegetables first and fruits as a add-on to your meal.

 

If you’re still struggling with making dietary changes, here’s a great article from the Harvard School of public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vegetables-and-fruits/ that highlights five quick tips to incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. It may seem daunting at first to go from having a salad once every few days to including 2 servings of vegetables and/or low-sugar fruits at each meal but with steady practice your habits will change and it will become natural for your meals to always include these wonder foods!

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