Apples. Bananas. Broccoli. Carrots. Chances are you know you need to branch out from these usual suspects—not to mention eat more produce in general—but you don’t know where to start. So this month’s mission was to see which Challenge family, the Avaglianos or the Lehmans, could make the greatest improvement by adding nature’s bounty to their lives. Each week they received a shipment from Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, the largest distributor of specialty produce in the U.S. By the end of the challenge, they’d been introduced to 49 types of fruits and veggies, dropped pounds and boosted their energy. Here’s how they gave their meals a makeover and how you can too!
How the Avaglianos Won
Pre-challenge: “Planning was our biggest obstacle in terms of eating more produce,” says Peggy. With both Peggy and Peter working long hours and Michael and Amanda being busy teens, the Avaglianos often eats on the go. As a result, fruits and veggies aren’t top of mind. But in their best week, the Avaglianos quintupled their fruit consumption and quadrupled their veggie intake to win the challenge. Peggy lost 8 pounds and Peter, a diabetic, stabilized his blood sugar. “My levels were less like a roller coaster,” he says. Michael began eating breakfast (like a mango or strawberry smoothie) and bringing his lunch rather than grabbing pizza.
Their Top Quick Tips
★ Pack It Up. “It only required a little thought in the morning to put carrots, grapes or sliced apples in a cooler,” says Peter, who doesn’t have a fridge at work. The key, explains their nutritionist, Elizabeth, is to make fruits and vegetables easy to eat without much prep. “Fruits like melon should be seeded, sliced and stored in a lidded container,” she says. “With crisp veggies such as jicama, wash and store them in resealable bags.”
★ Shop Smarter. The Avaglianos were surprised to find you can buy healthy foods in quickie marts. “I’ve been eating chicken Caesar wraps and subs from the same convenience stores for years,” says Peter. “But it wasn’t until this challenge that I realized these places sold options like celery or carrots with peanut butter.”
★ Redefine Dessert. “I missed that indulgence less when I had sweet alternatives like berries or yogurt-covered raisins,” says Peggy. Amanda found out how delicious chocolate-covered strawberries and bananas could be, and Michael discovered a love of blackberries. “It was just as satisfying and still felt like a treat to have grapes while watching TV instead of a bag of chips,” adds Peter.
What They Won: The Avaglianos received a $250 gift certificate from T-fal to go on a cookware shopping spree.
How Did the Lehmans Do?
Pre-challenge: The Lehmans were in a produce rut. “I really thought we were being healthy with, say, an orange at lunch and green beans with dinner,” says Tiffany. But their food journals, which revealed they were eating less than half the number of servings needed per day, also confirmed that they needed to shake up their intake.
Then Melissa’s Produce introduced some new food favorites, including jicama, sliced peppers and lentils. In their best week, the Lehmans ate four times the amount of fruit and three times the amount of vegetables they usually do. Both Tiffany and her husband, Andy, felt stronger during their workouts and no longer experienced a late-afternoon energy nosedive. Even more impressive: Tiffany has trimmed 4 inches from her waist, her BMI went down nearly 7% and she shed 8 pounds. Andy lost 11 pounds and buckles his belt on a tighter notch. And Anna has more energy for exercise.
Secrets To Their Success
★ Get Grid-Locked. “If you don’t make a plan for eating fruits and vegetables, you tend to buy fewer, use less and waste some,” explains Stephanie, the Lehmans’ nutritionist. She had the family make a one-page grid showing each day of the week and write down where they would include fruits and vegetables.
★ Go Meatless. Save cash and calories by cooking a weekly vegetarian dinner. “A stir-fry helps you eat a lot of different veggies at once and is a great way to use up leftovers,” says Stephanie. The Lehmans’ favorite meatless meal was quinoa tacos, which combine this rich source of protein with black beans, taco seasoning, baby spinach, salsa and shredded cheddar cheese.
★ Snack Smarter. “I felt full on less when I ate red peppers with Greek yogurt dip rather than granola or other ‘healthy’ bars,” says Tiffany. “Plus, the crunch factor helped me mentally wake up.”
How did you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet? Share your success in the comments below.