Jamie Vallone, RD, CDN

You may have memories as a child of your parents not allowing you to leave the table until you’ve finished your vegetables or fruits, and there’s a reason behind it. Vegetables and fruit are an important part of a well-balanced diet.  They are a good source of fiber, which is important for digestive health and they provide vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function properly. According to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended serving of fruits and vegetables for a 2,000 calorie diet are two cup equivalents of fruit and two-and-a-half cup equivalents of vegetables each day unless given specific dietary instructions by your doctor. (To learn about what counts as a cup equivalent or for recommendations on fruit and vegetable intake based on age and gender please

According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 14 percent of Americans are reaching this fruit and vegetable goal daily. If you are not used to eating many fruits and vegetables, try some of these tips to increase your intake:

• Add vegetables or fruits to dishes you already eat. Broccoli makes a great addition to pasta; spinach and onions can be added to your eggs in the morning. And fruit is a great addition to cereal and desserts.

• Use canned or frozen options to cut down on costs. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables are comparable in nutrient content to fresh and are often less expensive. When using canned vegetables, it’s best to look for no salt added versions and for fruit look for those lowest in added sugars.

• Buy fruits and vegetables that are already washed and chopped. Many supermarkets offer pre-chopped or pre-washed vegetables and fruits that can help cut down on cooking and preparation time.

• Get creative with preparation. Steamed and raw are not the only way to eat vegetables and fruits, try roasting or grilling them to bring out different flavors and complement various meals.

• Have children help prepare these items with you. Studies show that involving children in the cooking process makes them more likely to eat what is being served. If you have a picky eater, have them help out in the kitchen next time you’re making something with fruits or vegetables!

Remember, it is important to consume a variety of vegetables and fruits to have a well-balanced diet. Friday, June 17th is national “Eat your Veggies” day so you may want to try some of these tips to celebrate the day!