Looking for a simple way to eat healthy that doesn’t require counting calories, points, grams or macros? Start with just 7 servings of fruits and vegetables. By aiming for a serving or more of nutrient-filled fruits and vegetables at every meal, and swapping afternoon energy bars and trips to the vending machine with a nutrient-packed piece of fruit or serving of vegetables, you’re on your way to one healthy day.
When you structure your meals around powerful plant foods, the rest tends to fall in line. Vegetables and fruit are full of filling fiber; just add a lean protein, a whole grain if you tolerate them, and a healthy fat and you have an effortless, healthy meal. Of course, you can’t score your 7 servings and then hit a pint of Cherry Garcia while catching up on Netflix (and no, there aren’t enough cherries in a pint for it to count as a serving of fruit!) and expect to feel good, look lean and keep your energy levels high, but in my experience, you’re less likely to pick up the Ben and Jerry’s if you eat to satiation with a focus on whole foods.
Does 7 servings seem insurmountable? That’s an awful lot of broccoli, after all, and let’s not even talk about the volume of spinach you’d have to eat. But I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be difficult. It can even be fun, quick and social. How? Logging food and snapping pics in Argus (and following my 7 tips below, of course!).
1. Seeing is believing
Use the camera on your smartphone to snap quick shots of your meals and snacks, right from Argus! It’s common knowledge that keeping a food diary and tracking what you eat boosts weight loss and healthier eating, and there are a lot of journals, trackers, apps and websites that can help you track everything from calories to grams of sugar and fiber. For my fellow on-the-go Argonauts, I challenge you to track your 7 in pictures and see how everything else falls into place. Less time tracking means more time hitting the trails, the pool or the track.
Seeing those 7 servings pop up on your feed is a great encouraging boost, and if you’re using Argus socially (if you’re not, here’s why you should be!), seeing the healthy snacks and meals of your friends and family can help rev up your competitive engines.
2. Eat the rainbow
For best results, aim for a wide variety of colored fruits and vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. It’s no coincidence that many so-called superfoods are also colorful. Blueberries, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens are just as nutritious as they are colorful.
But don’t feel as though you need to keep a list of superfoods in your pocket or scour the Internet for whatever current fruit or vegetable is currently in vogue. Shoot for a balance of colorful plant foods for maximum benefit. Plus, seeing that gorgeous rainbow of healthy foods on your Argus feed is sure to make you smile.
3. Eat in season and locally whenever possible
Try to eat with the seasons and support local farmers whenever possible. Aim to eat fruit and vegetables at their peak for maximum nutrition and flavor. After all, nothing beats a ripe summer peach!
We get it, though. Two months into winter and it’s pretty easy to be sick of kale, no matter how fresh it is. When you can’t meet your dietary needs with fresh, local produce, opt for frozen.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are often flash frozen at their peak of ripeness, meaning you don’t have to completely sacrifice flavor when you’re craving a mid-winter strawberry smoothie post workout. Make sure the frozen fruits and vegetables you pick up are free of additives like added oil, sodium and sugars.
4. Blend it up and drink it down
Speaking of smoothies, there’s no easier way to start your day with several delicious servings of fruits and vegetables. A quick whirl in your blender and you’ve got an easy breakfast on the go.
Opt for blending instead of juicing to keep the healthful fiber in the fruits and vegetables you use in your smoothies. Fiber can help you prevent a blood sugar spike (and crash) and will keep you feeling full longer. Smoothies are also a great way to sneak in greens.
Start with a handful or two of fresh baby spinach in a sweet, tart fruit-filled smoothie. You won’t taste the greens, but you’ll get all the benefits.
Just make sure to focus on whole and minimally-processed foods when building your smoothie, and use fruit, not added sugars, for sweetness. Do feel free to add a little paper umbrella at the end for an extra special smoothie.
5. Snazz up your salads—without all the heavy, processed toppings and dressings
We love a good spinach salad as much as the next health nut, but boring food can lead to burnout and trips through the drive-through. Instead of starting your salad with lettuce, spinach or kale, try a base of shaved Brussels sprouts or broccoli. Or go one step further and mix up a healthy salad base by combining greens with other filling vegetables.
Add in some lean protein, a healthy fat and a bit of fun, and you’ve got a salad that’s anything but boring. As a bonus, dressed salads built on sturdier bases like Brussels sprouts and broccoli last longer in the fridge, so you can pack your salads ahead of time and enjoy a healthful lunch at work every day.
6. Try something old in a new way
For most of us, there’s a fruit or vegetable we think we just don’t like—probably stemming from the way we ate it as children. Let’s face it, boiling can make for bland, soggy vegetables. But give those fruits and vegetables you hate another chance, prepared a different way. Shave beets into thin slices and bake into chips. Try grilling, roasting or even pickling.
Opt for raw if you don’t like a certain vegetable cooked. Different cooking methods can bring out the best flavors in both fruits and vegetables. Think you hate Brussels sprouts? Try roasting them with garlic and olive oil. Stir fry green beans instead of steaming. Try that broccoli or cauliflower raw with a nutritious dip, like hummus.
If you’re still not into fruits and vegetables, get creative! Spiral slice zucchini into noodles to use in place of pasta. Go paleo with cauliflower rice, cut down to rice-sized pieces in your food processor. Stir butternut squash puree into cheesy dishes for extra nutrition and richness. Wrap up tacos in dark leafy lettuces. Let the other flavors in the dish take center stage, while still getting the nutritious benefits of fruits and vegetables.
7. Snack smart
Many fruits and vegetables have the benefit of coming in their own easy to take along packaging and often times, that packaging is healthy too! Whole fruits like apples, plums, peaches and pears are quick to pack and easy to snack on anywhere. Their skins keep them protected in your lunch bag and are also full of fiber. Win, win.
Chop up larger fruits, like melons, and your favorite vegetables a few times throughout the week and divvy up into sealable containers for quick grabbing in the morning. To get the most out of your snack, pair your fruit or vegetable with a healthy fat and protein source like yogurt, hummus or a cube of cheese. Many vitamins are fat soluble and need fat to be absorbed and used by your body. Plus, adding in a bit of fat and protein will keeping you feeling full and energized throughout the day.
Using these 7 tips and tracking with an app like Argus is a great way to stick to your healthy eating goals and feed your body the nutrients it needs. Do you have a favorite way to use Argus for food tracking or a useful tip? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.
Main Photo Credit: Udra11/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Lars Zahner/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: pilipphoto/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Fotosr52/shutterstock.com; Fifth Photo Credit: Verca/shutterstock.com; Sixth Photo Credit: Josie Grant/shutterstock.com; Seventh Photo Credit: Stockcreations/shutterstock.com; Nitr/shutterstock.com