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About the Author
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter
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The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating
This week-by-week plan, The Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating, will help you transform your eating habits into a program of nutritious and delicious food choices that can last a lifetime. Applying the latest results from nutrition science, Harvard experts take you by the hand and guide you to create an eating plan to improve heart health, longevity, energy, and vitality.
Tasty ways to sneak in more fruits and vegetables
Few Americans meet the Dietary Guidelines’ recommendations to eat about 1½ to 2 cups of fruit and 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day. Dinner may be the largest meal of the day, and it’s also your last chance to strike a healthful balance of foods for the day. If you didn’t eat many or any fruits and vegetables at lunch, now’s your chance to meet your produce quota. Plus, piling on the produce means there’s less room in your dinner for unhealthy options. Here are some tasty ways to boost the produce in your dinner.
Roast vegetables along with whatever entree is in the oven.
Roasting is a great way to let the deep, rich flavors of vegetables shine through because their starches convert to sugar, releasing a deep, nutty sweetness. To roast, just drizzle olive oil over cut-up vegetables and bake at 450° F for 15 or 20 minutes or until they’re lightly browned. Any vegetable is a roasting candidate—for instance, mushrooms, onions, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, broccoli, or carrots—so don’t limit yourself. You can add some dried herbs or spices for more flavor. Enjoy roasted veggies as a side dish or toss them into pasta dishes and other recipes.
Poach veggies in lowsodium vegetable or chicken broth and white wine.
To poach, boil enough liquid to cover the vegetables. When it boils, add the vegetables. Turn down the heat to just below boiling and cook the vegetables for about five to seven minutes, until they’re brightly colored and tender-crisp. To retain nutrients, keep a watchful eye on the pot or set a timer so you don’t overcook. Add garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, or tarragon for a flavor bonus.
Add fresh-cut vegetables to main dishes.
Try adding mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, onions, or carrots into pasta sauce, casseroles, soup, stews, scrambled eggs, and chili.
Smuggle finely chopped or pureed vegetables into recipes.
Add chopped vegetables to classic foods like casseroles, macaroni and cheese, or even a loaf of bread to boost veggie consumption. Pureed cooked vegetables can easily be used as sauces, soups, spreads, and toppings.
Replace grains with vegetables.
Cauliflower “rice” or “pasta” made out of spiralized zucchini, butternut squash, or sweet potato can be a great substitute for grains.
Have a salad with dinner.
Stock your salad with dark green leafy lettuce and toss in petite peas, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, and peppers. Bonus: in addition to the nutrient bonanza you’ll get, studies show that starting meals with a healthy salad can help you avoid eating too much. A healthy salad consists of dark leafy greens, along with a variety of vegetables (for example, ½ cup carrots, a tomato, and ¼ cucumber) and an oil-and-vinegar dressing.
Choose fruit for dessert.
Fresh or frozen, stewed or baked, minimally processed fruit counts toward your daily produce quota. Try making homemade popsicles with blended fruits in the summer, or have some berries with a small amount of dark chocolate. Dried fruits are healthy, but may have added sugars, so check the ingredients.
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