fruits and veggies

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!

Peggy, Week 4: We Won The First Challenge!

“Winning is not everything, but the effort to win is.” – Zig Ziglar

As you may have already guessed, we believed we had lost the first challenge. We had a lot going on this month. The challenge began as Amanda and I left for a week-long trip in London visiting my middle daughter, Katie, who had the week off for spring break. She is doing her first year of college abroad. (Christina, my eldest daughter, spent her spring break in London as well. Our last night, was her first, and we all went to see Wicked on the West End).

the avaglianos at wicked

My husband, Peter, and my son, Michael stayed home to work on the set for a high school’s production of the musical, Into the Woods. (Michael desires to be a Broadway set designer). Michael helped Peter design and build this year’s set. Each character came out of their fairy-tale books. One of Michael’s design contributions was the pop-up book for the bakery. This set pops up from the central book pictured below the bridge in the first photo.)

into the woods set

into the woods set

Although we added fresh fruits during the trip, and my husband brought fruits and vegetables to the theater to snack on, we were not incredibly strict on our diet.

Once we were home, and the show opened, more small changes occurred on a daily basis. We added salads to our pizza nights, and fresh vegetables with dinner. Amanda began to make smoothies for dessert using berries, yogurt and ice, and to dip fruits in chocolate. Michael’s favorite: the chocolate covered bananas. Peter started to eat apples or carrots and celery, with peanut butter or ranch dressing for dipping, instead of chips on his road trips related to work. In the end, small changes, in my case swapping bagel sandwiches for 3 cup salads I brought from home, pushed us into victory on the challenge.

Our prize: a T-Fal gift card worth $250! T-Fal makes pots and pans that are reasonably priced. A full set of pots and pans for induction cooking costs under $145; this leaves plenty of opportunity to get a big stock pot. The company also makes AirBake cookie sheets, and small appliances such as toasters and bread makers. I discovered that the factory for T-Fal is here in New Jersey. I plan to shop at the factory store, once I have a free day! (Maybe when Christina and Katie are home).

Bottom line, small changes make a difference.  In my next post I’ll share our winning secrets. In the meantime, post a comment and tell me about some small changes you’ve made this month.

Challenge #1, Eat More Fruits and Vegetables: The Winners Are…

Avagliano family

The Avaglianos!

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.


the Lehmans

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.