Challenge Yourself: Eat More Fruits and Veggies

Grilled Peaches, Beans And Arugula With Warm Bacon Dressing

The first challenge is over! While the Avaglianos emerged as the winners, both families were ultimately victorious in getting healthier and losing weight.

You, too, can follow their lead. Use these tips as your guide to working more fruits and veggies into your meals:

How to Get Your Fill
★ Put it on top. Puree fruit to use on pancakes and waffles in place of syrup, and mash fresh berries to spread on toast instead of store-bought jam.
★ Bake it in. Mix frozen berries into muffin, pancake and quick-bread batters.

★ Refresh old meals. Put a new piece of produce, like chopped clementines or kale, into a familiar dish, such as your favorite salad.
★ Get saucy. Dipping veggies in low-fat “sauces” makes produce more appealing—especially to kids. Try marinara, vinaigrettes, low-fat ranch or slightly sweetened yogurt.

★ Follow the half-plate rule. If you have a choice of two sides when you’re out for dinner or lunch, opt for two veggies rather than one veggie and rice, bread or pasta.
★ Start on Sunday. Roast large amounts of veggies on the weekend and use them as no-fuss side dishes for dinner throughout the week.
★ Bring fruit to the dinner table. Make a fruit salsa with mangoes or peaches to serve with grilled meat. (Get our recipe for the grilled peach and bacon salad, shown above, here.)

Fruit and Vegetable Daily Serving Guidelines
Confused about how much produce to feed your child or yourself? Here, the latest recommendations for those who average less than 30 minutes of activity per day:

Fruit Guidelines
Kids (9–13 years old): 1.5 cups daily
Girls (14–18 years old): 1.5 cups daily
Boys (14–18 years old): 2 cups daily
Women (31–50 years old): 1.5 cups daily
Men (31–50 years old): 2 cups daily

Vegetable Guidelines
Kids (9–13 years old): 2 to 2.5 cups daily
Girls (14–18 years old): 2.5 cups daily
Boys (14–18 years old): 3 cups daily
Women (31–50 years old): 2.5 cups daily
Men (31–50 years old): 3 cups daily

What’s been your most effective way to work fruits and veggies into your diet? Share in the comments below.

Peggy, Week 4: Our Winning Secrets!

The Avagliano Family

So, what did we learn from this challenge? A lot. Here are the top five tips I’m taking away that I wanted to share with you all:

Tip #1: Variety is the Spice of a Healthy Life
If you are going to eat salads on a daily basis, switch things up. You would not eat the same sandwich every day, so why make the same salad? Mix sweets and sours, crunchy and soft. (If you need ideas on what goes well together, look at any chain salad store’s popular mixes).

  1. Sweet: fresh fruits: strawberries, grapes, or kiwi; dried fruits (cranberries, cherries)
  2. Crunchy: Try nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)
  3. Tart: pomegranate seeds
  4. Look at your salad dressing label; you may be adding much more than you think.
  5. Buy some cheese you enjoy on salads: feta, blue cheese, etc. An ounce or two makes a big difference!

Tip #2: Retrain Your Sweet Tooth
Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and granola is a reasonable alternative to a high calorie dessert; and you feel better after you’ve eaten it. Frozen yogurt is a treat!

Tip #3: Don’t Forget To Dunk
Kids will eat fruit. The trick is dipping it in caramel or chocolate. You could also try low-calorie salad dressings and sauces.

Tip #4: Be a Quick Cook
Frozen vegetables in steam bags taste fresh. Fresh vegetables do not take long to make –try a stir fry of all of your favorites

Tip #5: Plan Ahead.
Planning your snacks makes the biggest difference in what you eat. Bring fresh fruit to work or school!

Leave a comment and let me know what which of these tips you might try!

Tiffany, Week 4: We Didn’t Win, But…


Challenge #1 is over and the Lehman’s did not take home the prize from Family Circle but we didn’t walk away LOSERS either! We gained so much and won so much through this challenge.

We learned that it is just as easy to grab a piece of fruit and go as it is to grab a “healthy bar” and go. It’s just changing your mindset. I know after we eat a lot of those good-for-you bars I’m left feeling more hungry than what I was before I ate it. Not to mention a serving is two bites (ha!).

Now that I personally have incorporated a lot more fruits and vegetables into my daily diet I feel more satisfied, not deprived, no crazy cravings. I feel like some one has cleaned house on the inside of my body. Andy said he feels the same way. His job is pretty physically demanding and he’s a big boy so he needs a lot to keep him satisfied. So for him to feel not full but not starving is great for him. This, too, has helped us both shed some much-needed inches off our waistline.

Anna, LOVES all things sweet. It doesn’t matter if it’s good for you sweet or bad for your sweet. If it tastes like sugar she’s on it! She has grown to LOVE and CRAVE things like pineapple, oranges, tangerines. She loved the mango’s Melissa’s Produce sent to us, she loved the dried fruits.

Jack is our tough eater…He has just a few things he will eat. It doesn’t help too that he has severe food allergies. He is allergic to dairy, eggs and peanuts. His peanut allergy is so severe that it could, if he went untreated, kill him. So he/we are very set in what he eats, what brands he eats, etc. He didn’t eat much of the fruits and vegetables but he would try some things. He did like the dried fruits–it reminded him of the fruit snacks you can buy in the store that are loaded with sugar and nothing good for you. He also liked the baby cucumbers Melissa’s Produce provided. They were bite size, fit in a small hand nicely, had great flavor and crunch.

I’m not going to leave you thinking that I am a happy loser because I don’t like to lose. Show me someone that doesn’t mind losing and I’ll show you a loser. I think I was about to drive some of the staff at Family Circle a bit crazy with my competitiveness: fear of failing Family Circle, fear of failing our family and fear of failing you but someone told me that we/I are not failing.

To remove the challenge/contest part out of my mind and remember this is about making changes in our lives, not to win a prize but to win our life! So go out there, give it all you’ve got and when you have those times of feeling like you’re failing step outside of yourself and think: “What positive changes am I making in the process and what is my progress?” I guarantee you’ll see success and you’ll be a winner!

Post a comment and tell me about some positive, healthy change you’re making in your life!

Is It Ever Okay To Drink Your Calories?

Kiwi-Honeydew Smoothie

After reviewing the Lehman family’s food journals the past few weeks, I’ve found that they get more fruit servings a day when they drink a smoothie for breakfast. Their smoothies usually contain a banana, a cup of berries and orange juice—3 servings of fruit! Sometimes they put spinach in their smoothies, adding a serving of vegetables.

Although smoothies can be a healthy drink, some are better than others. In fact, I usually tell people to eat, not drink, their calories. I say this because beverage calories add up quickly and for many of our favorite drinks–sodas, caramel lattes, shakes, energy drinks, cocktails–those calories come in the form of sugar.

Plus, it’s easy to forget those calories and not count them. In fact, drinks are often left out even when people keep a food journal. When I review logs and ask people about their beverages intake, they are shocked to find out how many calories they’ve been drinking each day.

So if you want to jump on the smoothie bandwagon, here are the top two smoothie do’s I shared with the Lehmans:

Do Ask How it’s Made. Smoothies sold at shops or health clubs may be comprised of sugary mixes rather than real fruit. Ask about the ingredients before ordering or, better yet, make your own smoothies at home so you know exactly what’s in them.

Do Add in Protein. That makes it more filling. To boost the protein, pour in some regular milk, soy milk or plain Greek yogurt.

Go here for more smoothie do’s and dont’s.

What’s your favorite smoothie combination? Post a comment and tell me!

The #1 Secret To Expanding Your Taste

Spinach with Asparagus & Goat Cheese

They say familiarity breeds contempt. And that’s the last thing you want when it comes to fruits and vegetables. But if you eat bananas day after day, you may get sick of them and quit eating fruits altogether. Or you could go to the other extreme, trying some exotic new vegetable, hating it and leaving your diet lacking. So we asked Miki Hackney, corporate chef at Melissa’s Produce for some tips on expanding your repertoire of fruits and veggies. Her advice: take baby steps.

“Let’s say you don’t like prunes,” says Chef Miki. “Consider that they’re related to plums.” Then follow a progressive food chain to get from one to the other. “Go from eating plums to eating more grapes. Then go from grapes to raisins. And then go from incorporating more raisins in your diet to working in prunes,” she explains.

Another easy, slow transition? Get from iceberg lettuce to dark leafy greens. “Iceberg doesn’t have much nutritional value,” explains Chef Miki. “But you could start by adding mixed greens to your salad.” Once you get accustomed to that, try adding in spinach or arugula, finally progressing to kale and collard greens.”

In a food rut? Post a comment and tell us what fruit or veggie you’ve gotten stuck on.

In addition to sending our Healthy Family Challenge teams weekly bundles of new fruits and vegetables to try, Melissa’s Produce offered up corporate chef Miki Hackney as an advisor to our families.