One more serving of fruits or vegetables each day.
Self-care. It’s not a new term, but it’s one that we have been hearing a lot over the past few years. What do you think of when you hear the term self-care? Bubble baths and going to the spa? Having a good bedtime routine and getting enough sleep? Doing yoga? The truth is, these all count as self-care. There are many definitions for the term self-care, but one I like is what people do for themselves to establish and maintain health, and to prevent and deal with illness. (WHO, 1998)
Although most of us know what we should be doing to take care of ourselves, it’s not always easy to do. Everyday factors like work, household chores and taking care of our families take up our time, and our own needs can shift to the bottom of our priority list. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of everything else effectively. We don’t have as much energy to do everything we need to do, and our health can suffer.
You probably already know all of this, but may be wondering how you can possibly fit self-care into your already busy schedule. I get it. When your to-do list is a mile long, it’s hard to add more to it.
I’d like you to think about nutrition as a form of self-care.
You are already eating several times a day (I hope!) so this isn’t about adding one more thing you have to do – it’s about being a little more conscious about what you’re putting into your body. Over the next few months I’ll be exploring different ways to practice self-care through nutrition.
I’m writing this during September, which is National Fruits and Veggies Month, so let’s focus on how eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to practice self-care through nutrition.
Actually, if there is one thing most people could do to improve their eating habits, it’s to eat more fruits and veggies. It’s my #1 recommendation, and here’s why:
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients our bodies need to run optimally.
- Vitamins and minerals, which are involved in everything our bodies do (Building muscle? Yep. Keeping bones strong? Yep. Fighting off germs? That too. Pretty much everything!)
- Fiber, which most Americans don’t consume enough of, but is so important because it helps our digestive systems run smoothly, keeps cholesterol levels in check, and helps us feel satisfied after meals.
- Water is important for our bodies, but we don’t have to drink it all – fruits and veggies contain that too.
- Phytochemicals are special plant nutrients that enhance our health by keeping our body’s cells working optimally, and may help fight off chronic disease. There are too many of these little wonder-nutrients to put into a supplement. The only way to get them is to eat plant foods like fruits and veggies.
Have I convinced you that you should eat more fruits and vegetables? Good. Now, how to actually do it without making life more difficult?
Most adults should aim for at least 2 cups of fruits and 2 ½ cups of vegetables each day. Whether you’re close to that target or nowhere near it, don’t despair. I encourage you to work toward that goal, but you don’t have to reach it tomorrow.
Start with ONE – One more serving of fruits or vegetables each day.
Pick a meal in which it’s easiest for you to do so. If you like eggs for breakfast, throw in some leftover veggies and make an omelet. If you pack a lunch, add a small container of carrot sticks. Bring an apple for a mid-afternoon snack. Or cut up some melon and serve it as dessert after dinner.
Once you get the hang of that one change, add another. Keep going until you get to the target intake. See if you notice any changes in how you feel. Are you sleeping better at night? Does your skin look brighter? Are you more satisfied with your meals? Do you feel less anxious? More energized? Is your blood pressure a little lower? These are some of the benefits that people are looking to get from self-care. And these are all changes that can happen when you get more nutrients in your diet from fruits and veggies.
If you want extra motivation to make that one change each day, take the Have a Plant Pledge. Learn more at: https://fruitsandveggies.org/stories/take-the-pledge/
- Nutrition can be a form of self-care.
- Eating fruits and vegetables is a great way to practice self-care through nutrition.
- Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients our bodies need to run optimally.
- Start with ONE – One more serving of fruits or vegetables each day.