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No Excuses: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

9 reasons you're skimping on fruits and vegetables – and how to overcome them.

Excuse No. 3: I'm out of the habit of eating fruits and vegetables.

So much of what we eat and drink, day in and day out, is a function of habit. If you're in the habit of drinking fruit juice each morning with breakfast, adding fruit every time you sit down to a bowl of oatmeal, or starting dinner with a side salad, you'll be a lot more likely to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day. 

How to overcome this excuse: 

  • Make fruits and vegetables part of every meal and snack. Make written signs for yourself if you have to, but somehow remind yourself to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack (or almost every one).
  • Drink a glass of 100% fruit juice or vegetable juice each day. You could have itas a morning or afternoon snack or with a meal. Some of the high-nutrient fruit juices are orange juice, grapefruit juice, and purple grape juice.

Excuse No. 4: I'm not motivated to eat fruits and vegetables.

If everyone knew how much fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of major chronic diseases, maybe more of us would make it a priority to eat at least five servings a day. The truth is that fruits and vegetables may be the most important things you can add to your daily diet to reduce the risk of cancer.

If you want to overcome this excuse, just look at the results from three studies presented at the 2007 American Association for Cancer Research's annual meeting:

  • Among smokers, those who ate the most produce rich in flavonols (spinach, some veggies from the cabbage family, apples, onions, and berries) were 59% less likely to develop pancreatic cancer than those who ate the least. Nonsmokers also reduced their risk.
  • A study from the National Cancer Institute with 500,000 people aged 50 and up showed that eating two additional servings a day of fruits and vegetables -- regardless of the number of servings you usually eat -- can reduce the risk of developing head and neck cancers.
  • More studies need to be done, but a lab study suggests that certain components that result from digesting soy and vegetables in the cabbage family appear to discourage the spread of breast and ovarian cancers by reducing the production of two proteins needed for the growth of these two cancers.

Excuse No. 5: I don't know how to serve fruits and vegetables to my family.

"Our recent study of 1,000 Generation X moms (born between 1965 and 1979) conducted in February 2007, found that the most common barrier for them was that they needed new ideas and inspiration about how to include more fruits and vegetables in their family’s diet," Elizabeth Pivonka, PhD, RD, president of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, notes in an email.

How to overcome this excuse:

  • Vegetables don't have to be boiled (or boring). Try green and fruit salads, dried fruit, raw veggies with dip, juices, or any of the other options mentioned elsewhere in this article.
  • Expand your horizons. Buy some cookbooks focusing on veggies, subscribe to a healthy cooking magazine, troll the Internet for produce recipes ... or just try some of the recipes below. Sooner or later, you'll hit on something that appeals to the whole family.

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