Divide and Conquer: How to Get Your Daily Fruits and Vegetables

05/18/2013 08:34 EDT | Updated 07/18/2013 05:12 EDT
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Fresh vegetables sit on display at a stall in Lehel Piac fruit and vegetable market in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday, May 15, 2013. Hungary's economy posted quarterly growth in the first three months of the year for the first time since 2011, helped by an increase in construction output. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Canadians are not meeting the Food Guide recommendations, especially when it comes to eating enough fruit and vegetables. Part of the problem is knowing how many fruits and vegetables we need to eat in a day and what a serving size should be. Guess what? We all have a terrific tool at our disposal to help us eat healthy -- our dinner plate. Divide your dinner plate in half and fill one half with fruits and vegetables. If you are using a bowl for your meal, it will work the same way and don't worry about counting how many servings you are eating, just follow the rule.

We all know that fruits and vegetables are good for us. They help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers. They provide a great array of nutrients including folate, vitamins A and C and potassium, along with powerful antioxidants. They are mostly low in calories and are a great way to add fibre to your meals. So how come only 26 per cent of Canadians ages 2 and over are meeting the minimum number of daily servings recommended for their respective age group and gender? Boy, I wish I had the answer to that question. All I know is that we all need help in meeting our fruit and vegetable requirements.

Here are some tips:

For breakfast, prepare a bowl of cut up fruit the night before so it is ready to eat as is or add to your cereal or yogurt.

For lunch, you may choose a full meal salad. Just mix prewashed lettuce or spinach, add in peppers, carrots, tomatoes or whatever veggies you have on hand and include a protein such as cheese, chicken, hard cooked eggs or chickpeas. Bring along a small container of oil and vinegar salad dressing.

Making a sandwich? How about filling it with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocadoes or whatever veggies or fruit you fancy. Bring some cut up veggies and a dip to accompany the sandwich. Fresh fruit makes a great dessert or snack later in the afternoon.

For dinner, try to have a variety of veggies and fruit to fill up half your plate and concentrate on those that are darker in colour. Dark colours mean more nutrients. Mix up the colours to get a variety of nutrients.

Make fruits and veggies the easy snack. Keep a bowl of fruit on the middle shelf in the fridge so it's the first thing your family will see when they open the fridge looking for something to eat. Cut up veggies and put those in plastic containers so they are ready to eat. Have some interesting dips available to make the veggies more attractive.

When you are doing your weekly shopping, ensure you are buying enough fruits and vegetables for the whole family to make sure everyone can meet their food guide requirements. Plan to use the fruits and vegetables that are most likely to spoil quickly at the beginning of the week.

As we move into summer, delicious local fruits and vegetables are widely available at farmers markets and in your supermarket. It's a great time to try something new and involve the whole family in selecting, preparing and eating delicious produce. Make fruits and veggies the star of the plate. It's good for everyone's health.