Summer brings many joys, but one that stands out from the rest is the natural produce that adorns the shelves during this peak harvesting season. The summer also changes activity levels and schedules, impacting daily diets and nutrition as children may transition from structured, packed lunches each day (and adults, too!). Fortunately, June is National Fruits and Vegetables Month, showcasing some healthy and creative ways to mix green (and many other colors) into each day.
While “eat your fruits and vegetables” may sound like a kitschy tagline, an imperative from a parent to a toddler, or a daunting question at the pediatrician’s office, it is rooted – pun intended – in some science.
According to the Harvard University School of Public Health, fruits and vegetables offer important and varying sources of essential nutrition for both children and adults. Consuming more fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease, promote weight loss, help regulate blood sugar, and even prevent certain types of cancer.
With so many naturally occurring options (particularly local ones) to choose from this time of year, June is an outstanding month to teach children the importance of a balanced diet with lots of fruits and veggies. Individuals can even use this helpful guide from the USDA to see what is in season across America.
Additionally, adults can benefit from changing up their meals to include these products too. Here are a few tips about increasing your fruits and vegetables this month, so you won’t even have to worry about it!
Keep them in the open. Snacking is a habit, and with so much time spent at home, grazing for whatever is close by on the counter (usually a nonperishable, bagged good) is inevitable. Try keeping fruit that does not need to be refrigerated for picking. Strawberries, raspberries, and grapes are easy and satisfying options.
Use them where you don’t usually. One of the most significant barriers to fruit and vegetable consumption as an adult is that it can seem strange to have some sliced fruit as a side for a meal. In many ways, adults associate this with early childhood (as do restaurants) and usually opt for starch or grain as a more “mature” side. There are ways to sneakily mix these health-packed ingredients into meals, though. If you’re making a salad, try mixing in chopped apples for a touch of sweetness, mainly if using a super savory or acidic dressing. Big cereal person? Try mixing in sliced bananas or dropping some blueberries in. Another foolproof way to disguise your fruits is the ever-so-trendy overnight oats.
Mix it up, literally. If vegetables are a challenge for you to incorporate into meals, making a smoothie or juice is an outstanding way to reap the benefits. While many people love making their green juice, it can be time-consuming and require additional equipment. Smoothies are always an easy way to just throw together both fruits and vegetables, with the former usually cutting some of the “healthy taste” of the vegetables.
Host a vegetarian dinner party. If you’re finding cooking with an increased number of veggies a challenge, give it a little group effort. Host an outdoor potluck of vegetarian dishes with friends or family. Experiment with different flavors and see what others can bring this June!