We have all heard about the importance of fruits and vegetables from the time we were children, but are you getting what you need? According to the USDA 2015 Dietary Guidelines, most Americans are not meeting their daily requirements of fruits and vegetables. The newest guidelines focus on specific vegetables to increase orange, red and dark green vegetables, beans and peas. So how do we increase our vegetable intake and get the nutrients that we need? It can be as simple as making what you are already eating healthier by adding vegetables!

   One quick and easy way to increase dark green vegetable consumption is to add a salad to your meal, whether you’re picking up a pizza or cooking dinner at home. Instead of using iceberg lettuce, try a darker green salad base, such as spinach or red leaf lettuce. You will be getting more of the nutrients that your body craves.

   You can increase the number of red vegetables you eat by adding tomatoes to just about everything, from mixing a can of diced tomatoes with chili peppers to your taco meat, adding sliced tomatoes to sandwiches or salads or including cherry tomatoes with your cheese and cracker snacks.

   Orange vegetables are high in Vitamin A, but are you sick of eating so many carrots? Instead, add sliced orange peppers to salads and pasta dishes, homemade pizza or enjoy them with hummus dip. Switch your traditional white baked potato for a sweet potato or mashed sweet potatoes.

   Beans and peas are high in protein and fiber but low in fat, making them the perfect ingredient to many dishes. Keep canned beans on hand to throw in salads, soups and pasta dishes to increase your fiber. Instead of potatoes or rice as a side, try a yummy and easy bean salad. Choose your three favorite beans, chop a red onion and toss with some oil and vinegar or light Italian dressing! You can also add pinto beans to your salsa or taco meat, lentils and red beans to rice or green peas to your tuna or chicken salad to vary your dinner choices.

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