5 Simple Ways to Get More Nutrients In Your Diet Right Now
We're all eating a little bit differently right now. Trying to only go to the store every couple weeks, means that we may be buying less fresh produce and wondering what to eat if we aren't getting our daily greens fix. But fear not, you don't need a big salad to eat healthy (and FYI—it's OK to be skimping a bit on fruits and veggies right now).
Pictured recipe: Carrot-Peanut Noodle Salad
Now that most of us are more than a month in to our new "normal" you probably also want to find easy ways to eat healthy and feel good. Here are some tips to get your nutrient fill, even if it may not look a little bit different.
1. Buy salad greens—eat them first
If what you miss are big salads, you don't have to give them up entirely. If you bring home delicate greens and toppings like tomatoes or cucumbers, eat them in the first few days. You'll get your salad fill for a little bit and won't let your vegetables go to waste.
Basically, eat your highly-perishable fruits and vegetables first, then move on to heartier foods. Some greens last longer than others, romaine can stay fresh for up to one week but more delicate lettuces may only last 3-5 days.
2. Buy heartier produce too
Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, beets and bell peppers will last longer than many other veggies. Broccoli and cauliflower are pretty hearty too. And while these may not feel as light and fresh, you can use them in creative ways. Try creating salads with carrots, chopped broccoli or beets.
Fresh berries need to get eaten quickly, but apples and clementines last a long time in your fridge. Bananas ripen fast, but—can be frozen or turned into banana bread or muffins for an extra yummy way to eat some fruit.
3. Eat frozen and canned produce
When you're not heading to the store as often, these foods can deliver plenty of nutrients. In fact, frozen fruits and vegetables are picked and frozen at their peak to retain vitamins and minerals. Canned tomatoes have more lycopene, a heart-healthy antioxidant, than fresh tomatoes. (Get our test kitchen's top tips for making frozen vegetables taste just as good as fresh.) These options are typically more affordable too, so they're a long-lasting and inexpensive way to get your vitamins in. Look for no-salt-added or lower sodium options for vegetables and try to buy fruits without any syrup (read: added sugar).
4. Don't forget about fruit
We often think the only way to eat healthy is to eat our vegetables. And it's true that vegetables are a very healthy food group. But, if you're out of them—fruit also delivers lots of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber. Fruit doesn't have quite the same reputation as vegetables because fruits have some natural sugar. But, that's OK (here's why you should still eat fruit even though it has sugar.)
If it's a few days before you head back to the store and you're out of vegetables, focus on adding some fruit to meals and snacks. Smoothies, made with frozen fruit, and dried fruit are two ideas to grab nutrients straight from your freezer or pantry. Who knows? Eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a side of apple slices may make you feel like a kid again!
5. So many foods have nutrients—not just fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are very good for you. No debate there. But, so are plenty of other foods! Whole grains deliver B vitamins, protein, minerals and fiber. Cheese gives you calcium and protein. Meat? Zinc and protein. Beans are a good source of fiber. You'll get probiotics, calcium and vitamin D from yogurt. If you're out of fruits and vegetables for a couple days that's OK. Try and still eat a variety of what's left (tuna served with bread or crackers instead of just a bowl of tuna fish) and make a plan to pick up more produce when you can.
Do you need to take a supplement?
A question I've been getting a lot is if we should all start taking vitamins since our diets look a little bit different (here were my thoughts on supplements pre-pandemic.) A multivitamin and mineral supplement feels like a good insurance policy if you're skimping on fruits and vegetables more than normal. Ideally, you would chat with your doctor before starting any supplements and just know that some research on your part is required. The FDA doesn't verify supplements contain what they say, so look for one that's been third-party tested (the USP seal is one example).
Welcome to The Beet. A weekly column where nutrition editor and registered dietitian Lisa Valente tackles buzzy nutrition topics and tells you what you need to know, with science and a little bit of sass.