In February of last year, the new Canada’s Food Guide was released. It is significantly different from past versions in that they have done away with quantities for servings and instead it simply states, drink water, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (they advocate half of your plate), eat protein foods (one quarter of your plate) and whole grain foods (the other quarter of your plate). And, as always, limit sodium, fat and sugar laden foods.
In the past we were told to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, but keeping track of a serving size was a challenge; half a cup of this, 30 g of that, a cup of the other. In this new food guide the visual of half a plate filled with fruits and vegetables is a powerful one. It empowers us with the tools we need to make healthier choices at each and every meal. The question is simple….is half my plate filled with fruits and vegetables? If yours is not, here are some tips to add more plants to your plate and delight your palate at the same time.
Start Each Day with Fruit:
- Use fresh fruit when you have it on hand, keep frozen fruit available for everyday access.
- Frozen cherries, mangos, and blueberries all keep their colour and flavour nicely when thawed. Add to smoothies, fruit salad, cereal, yogurt or as a side dish to toast, eggs etc.
- Add frozen raspberries to fruit salads, top with orange juice. Allow to thaw. They make a beautiful pink juice that is incredibly tasty.
- Top your toast with sliced fruit instead of jam.
Sneak it into a Snack:
Make it a point to have one piece of fresh fruit for a snack each day: oranges, pears, apples, grapes, they are the ultimate fast food, delicious and portable. If you have more time, slice a mango, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, berries or melon.
Try salad for lunch. Add leftover cooked chicken, cheese or a handful of nuts or seeds as a protein source. Nice combinations include:
- Spinach, goat cheese, any berries, almonds, sunflower seeds or pecans, top with balsamic, maple or poppyseed dressing.
- Mixed greens, walnuts or pecans, pear, peach or apple slices and balsamic dressing.
- Romain or other sturdy lettuce, apple, walnut, celery, topped with cream-based dressing such as blue cheese, ranch, coleslaw dressing
- Coleslaw mix, add apple, raisins and a creamy coleslaw dressing.
- Mixed greens, cooked beets, goat cheese, walnuts and balsamic dressing.
- Romain or other hardy lettuce, cheddar cheese, ham, celery, apple and ranch dressing.
- Romain, avocado, cucumber and chicken topped with cider vinegar and oil or lemon juice and oil, salt and pepper to taste.
- Grate raw Brussels sprouts add lots of fresh squeezed lemon, oil and pecorino cheese.
- Warm salads are nice too and a great way to give new life to leftovers. Top mixed greens with sautéed beef and peppers, chicken and broccoli or ham and pineapple.
Try wraps with egg, tuna, ham, chicken, salmon and a variety of vegetables shredded or cut into match sticks.
Add some avocado to your traditional BLT sandwich. Vary the lettuce; try spinach, swiss chard or kale.
Try a bacon and apple sandwich on toasted raisin bread.
Test out a gourmet grilled cheese – vary the bread and the cheese, add sliced apple, sautéed spinach, kale, tomatoes, onion, pear, peach etc.
Add tomato, cucumber, avocado, sliced beets, or sliced peppers to your favourite sandwich or burger.
Buy two or three fresh vegetables each week. Keep a variety of frozen vegetables on hand to add at each meal. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh but allow for less waste as you can cook only what is needed.
Towards the end of the week, use up your leftover fresh vegetables, whatever you have, in these recipes:
- Omelettes, mini quiche or scrambled eggs. Use whatever is on hand, just a little goes a long way in these egg dishes…1/4 of a pepper, 2 mushrooms, ½ of an onion, one broccoli tree etc.
- Vegetable soups. Sautee bits of finely chopped veggies then boil in broth for a few minutes. Or add veggies to a canned soup such as chicken noodle, beef barley, cream of broccoli.
- Stir fry bits of this and that with some chicken or pork and a little sauce. To make things easy, use a prepared stir fry sauce, there are many varieties to choose from at your local grocery store, or use an oil and vinegar-based salad dressing such as red pepper, lemon pepper or Greek.
Here are some of our favourite non-traditional salad recipes, that pair well with pretty much any meat. For a complete meal, fill half of your plate with salad, add a small amount of protein (meat, cheese, beans, tofu) and a slice of whole grain bread. Bon Appetit!