It’s a tough time of year for fruits and vegetables.
They are competing with sweet treats such as sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, cookies, brownies, candy and more.
The average person consuming 2,000 calories per day needs a total of two cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables every day, reports the University of Georgia Extension.
So, how can we enjoy tasteful, but healthy meals and snacks?
Here are some tips from UGA Extension:
* Smoothies are an easy way to include a whole cup of fruit without even trying. Whip 1 cup of frozen mixed berries, ½ cup of non-fat milk or yogurt and a few ice cubes together and you are good to go.
* If you eat oatmeal, add a diced apple, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a packet of no-calorie sweetener. It will taste like apple pie in a bowl.
* Drink a 4-ounce glass of 100 percent fruit juice to get a half serving of fruit. Just be sure to watch your portion size. Many people drink too much leading to a lot of extra calories.
* Add vegetables like bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and spinach to an egg white omelet.
* Put a half cup of frozen mixed vegetables in a small microwavable dish sprayed with non-stick spray. Whip in two eggs. Cover and microwave on high for 2-3 minutes or until eggs are set.
* Dip carrots, celery and broccoli in hummus, low-calorie salad dressing or even plain yogurt with added spices and herbs like cayenne pepper or dill.
* Dip sliced apples, pears and bananas in a tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter for some extra flavor.
* Stir vegetables such as grated carrot and zucchini or chopped spinach, kale or bell pepper into pasta sauces or canned soups as they heat. Also add grated carrots, zucchini, or yellow squash into meat loaf and burgers.
* Store cut-up fruits and veggies such as melon, apples, raw turnips, celery, carrots, or bell peppers in snack-size plastic storage bags in your fridge for easy access. When you’re running errands around town, take a baggie with you instead of going through the fast-food drive-thru.
* For work or school, cut-up and package some fruit and vegetables the night before to take for convenient and healthy snacks the next day.
* Dip strawberries or cherries in a small amount of melted dark chocolate.
* Make a fruit parfait with yogurt and any combination of fruit such as berries or diced peaches, pineapple, mango or kiwi. Alternate the layers of fruit and yogurt and top with a sprinkle of low-fat granola.
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The increase in holiday cooking and baking this month also can help area schools.
The “Labels for Education” and “Box Tops for Education” programs offer a listing of participating schools on the websites:
Sandra Stringer is a nutrition educator with the UGA Extension office in Hall County. Call her at 770-535-8290. Her column appears biweekly on Wednesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.