Food & Drink

Take the Daily Fruit and Veggies Challenge

Man eating a salad

by Lauren Follett, BA, RHN, Registered Nutritionist

Want to make some healthy changes in 2016? The key to success is to choose reasonable goals. For example, instead of saying, “I want to lose 30 pounds” (which is a great goal, but can seem overwhelming), start with identifying a few unhealthy habits to change. Make small changes and you’ll be closer to that goal. How about no snacking after 9 p.m., choosing a new, healthy recipe to make each week, and incorporating more fruit and vegetables into your diet?

Over the holidays I read The Mindful Diet, and it talks a lot about the benefits of switching to a mostly plant-based diet. That means eating less red meat and dairy, and more plant-based foods such as legumes, beans, fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds and whole grains. For those who eat meat protein and dairy on a daily basis, the thought of eating mostly plants may seem overwhelming.

But you don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan. Start with a smaller more achievable goal, such as incorporating nine to11 servings of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day, or six to seven servings of vegetables and three to four servings of fruit. (One serving equals half a cup or one piece of fruit.) With three main meals and two to three snacks per day you’ll soon realize you’re replacing a lot of foods with fruits and vegetables: Amazing!

Most of us seem to be getting our 10,000 steps in a day, but we’re falling short in the fruits and veggies department. Here’s what a day of eating would look like with nine to 11 servings of fruit and vegetables:

Before breakfast or a workout: 1/2 grapefruit = 1 serving fruit

Breakfast: Green Power Smoothie (see recipe below) = 3 servings vegetables, 2 servings of fruit

Lunch: Leftover roast chicken with spinach, red pepper, cucumber and avocado salad = 3 servings of vegetables

Mid-Afternoon Snack: 1 apple with 1 tbsp. almond butter = 1 serving of fruit

Dinner: Almond crusted salmon with wild rice and roast broccoli = 2 servings vegetables

Tip 1: Every time you reach for a snack or you’re preparing a meal, incorporate vegetables and fruit. Keep an ongoing count in your head, and if you need to top up your veggies or fruit at the end of the day, instead of snacking on your kid’s leftover dinner or cheese and crackers, munch on celery sticks, crunchy carrots or sweet snap peas.
Tip 2: When you’re heading out for the day, always bring an apple or banana along for a snack instead of a granola bar. If you’re bored of regular salads, make something like my Thai Shrimp Salad that incorporates lean protein, whole-wheat noodles and raw vegetables. Its’ a fresh spin on a stir-fry and will give you at least three servings of raw vegetables!

In my opinion, the easiest way to get five servings right out of the gates is to have a smoothie for breakfast. This recipe for my Green Power Smoothie is a good one because it gives you three servings of vegetables before lunch!

Green Power Smoothie

Serves 2, 350 calories per serving


1 banana

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tbsp. hemp seeds

1 tbsp. flaxseed

1 tbsp. coconut oil (burns bad fats)

1 tsp. turmeric (liver detox & inflammation)

1 tsp. ground organic ginger (from jar or fresh)

2 spoons plain kefir or Greek yogurt (fermented food – good for digestion)

3 cups organic baby spinach or fill blender to the top with organic greens

1-2 cups liquid (OJ and water)

½ scoop protein powder (Vega One nutritional shake)


Blend all ingredients together and serve.

If you’re looking to make some healthy changes in 2016, but not sure where to start, take the daily fruit and veggies challenge, and aim for 9 to 11 servings per day. Good Luck and Happy New Year!