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“Eating the rainbow” keeps you healthy

The phrase "Eat your veggies!" likely conjures up an image of a parent or a grandparent wagging a finger (or wooden spoon) at a child who is resisting eating his or her vegetables. But it’s good advice for all of us—a large part of the population doesn’t get enough fruits and vegetables in their diet for one reason or another. But eating more greens doesn’t have to be difficult.

"Eating your fruits and vegetables can be hard with so many other tempting foods and snacks out there," explained Gina McArdle, RDN, LDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Geisinger Community Medical Center. "For most people, I recommend ‘eating the rainbow.’ This means eating foods that are every color—from reds to yellows and everything in between. Generally, the darker the color of fruit or vegetable, the better it is for you. I’ve met a lot of people who tend to think of fruits and vegetables as ‘boring,’ but that doesn’t have to be true."

Try these three tips to plant more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Make smoothies

This is a great way to get both more fruits AND more vegetables in your diet. It’s easy to pack a lot of nutrition into a single smoothie.

Believe it or not, vegetables like spinach and kale are able to go by virtually undetected in a tasty fruit smoothie. Try being creative and researching new smoothie recipes — like this peach pie green smoothie.

Use bananas for sweetness and thickness — a single banana can give your smoothie a nice consistency.

"Smoothies are a great way to get a lot of nutrition in one shot," said McArdle. "Since they’re quick to make and very filling, they’re a great breakfast item that help you get your day started off on the right foot. Try using all types and combinations of fruits and vegetables to find a recipe you like."

Be sneaky

Depending on the vegetable, the flavor may range from very mild to very strong (like from lettuce to a radish). The same goes for fruits. By adding mild fruits and vegetables in your favorite recipes, you can sneak them past even the pickiest of eaters.

For example, cooked or sautéed carrots are a great addition to tomato sauce. Zucchini can be too. Try adding spinach to an omelette. What about adding very finely chopped green peppers or carrots in your ground beef?

"If you’re trying to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, try adding just one more fruit or vegetable to every recipe you make. That adds up over the day," said McArdle. "A helpful hint is to cut the fruits and vegetables into really, really small pieces — this helps them fade into the background of the flavor profile so that it isn’t overpowering. When done right, it sometimes isn’t even detectable at all."

For a more drastic change, try substituting vegetables for noodles — like spaghetti squash, zucchini lasagna and more. With sauce, spaghetti squash tastes almost identical to its namesake. Try "ricing" vegetables or using a spiral vegetable cutter for another fun twist on texture.

Add some excitement

Chances are, the reason that people aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables is because they’re lacking good preparation. Sure, frozen or canned fruits and veggies are convenient, but eating them straight isn’t doing your taste buds any favors.

"The biggest issue I find is that people aren’t making their fruits and veggies exciting enough. You can eat a raw pear, but you can also grill it. Try making interesting casseroles. Add spices, garlic, infused oils and more to amp up the flavor of your fruits and veggies," said McArdle.

Online recipes are easy to find. Try preparing your veggies in a variety of ways — sautéeing, grilling, baking and more. You’ll be surprised by how good they taste.

Gina McArdle is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Geisinger Community Medical Center. For more information, please call 800-275-6401 or visit Geisinger.org.

Family eating fruits and vegetables