It is no secret that one should eat five servings of fruits and vegetables in order to stay at their healthiest, but how is that even possible? We have three meals everyday: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each of these meals depends on your eating habits. Do you usually eat healthy? Unhealthy? A combination of the two?
According to MyPlate, the USDA nutrition website, the exact servings of fruit and vegetables depends on your age, physical state and gender. A girl who is 14 to 18-years-old is expected to eat 1 1/2 cups of fruit a day and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables. A boy of the same age, on the other hand, needs 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables daily. Therefore, as a 20-year-old woman, I am expected to eat 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day. While this website gives a general idea of servings, be aware that the servings are based on a regular 2,000 calorie diet and a person who gets 30 minutes or less of exercise a day.
Both groups, fruits and vegetables, contain subgroups within them that help give variety in one’s diet. For fruits there are berries, melons, fruit juices and citrus. Vegetables include dark-green, starchy, red and orange and beans and peas.
So then what does eating fruits and vegetables do for your body? For one, they help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but they also help to provide nutrients that assist your body in functioning on a regular basis. For example, Vitamin A is a nutrient that is present in many vegetables. By eating the vegetables that provide this specific nutrient, we are helping to keep our eyes and skin healthy against infections. Sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A, and are only one out of the many examples that one can make in order to fulfill those nutrients. Overall, replacing higher calorie snacks with vegetables or fruit can also help to contribute to a lower calorie intake per day, and therefore, benefit your healthy living lifestyle.
Personally, I tend to go back and forth between healthy and unhealthy. One week I’m eating a ton of fruit and vegetables throughout the day and staying thoroughly hydrated, the next I’m downing chocolate milkshakes and mozzarella sticks. In other words, I get it. It is so hard to stay permanently healthy all the time. Through this understanding, however, I have found ways to stay almost permanently healthy by sneaking in vegetables and fruits into my snacks and meals, and then of course exercising (but that part is up to you.)
On most days, I manage to get in about 3-4 servings of vegetables and fruits. On my healthiest days: 4-5 and on my worst days: 1-2. As you can see, on a regular basis I am usually getting almost all of my vegetable and fruit servings. But how? It was pretty hard, but I cancelled out most of my “junky” snacks, leaving them for special occasions or when I really just need something sweet or salty. After about a week, my cravings for the junky foods went away and were happily replaced by the natural sugars of fruit and the flavor of steamed, broiled or baked veggies.
This is not without saying that I do not have my occasional downfalls. I am not perfect, no one is. For instance, I am currently eating dark chocolate M&M’s. Not too healthy for the body, but at the moment, they just seem perfect. The difference between eating these chocolates now, however, and before, is that I do not feel the need to give myself a second serving. One small handful does the trick and then I’m back on track (usually.)
I have to say, living a healthy lifestyle comes much easier. It’s just the journey that starts out a little rocky. We are so used to living our busy, rushed lives, that our meals are usually effected by it as well. We are much less inclined to make a healthy dinner after a long exhausting day at work or go grocery shopping on a hot and humid day.
There is a saying that my yoga studio uses at the beginning of every practice. First, they congratulate us and then state that “getting onto our mats was the hardest part.” Although this applies to yoga, it can also relate to everyday life activities, especially being healthy. The hardest part about being healthy is starting and then continuing until our bodies are able to confidently do it on their own. So begin your journey and remember that just deciding to commit yourself to being healthy is the hardest part. Take risks and try new things, and then render the old eating habits that you just can’t let go of around the new healthy ones. Create a new lifestyle and help yourself become a better feeling, happier YOU.