Eating more fruits and vegetables isn’t hard to swallow

Gwen - Albany, New York
Entered on December 31, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe it’s not difficult to eat more fruits and vegetables, even though many Americans struggle to consume five servings a day, the minimum amount recommended by experts who study proper nutrition.

Last year, when my cholesterol shot up into the 300s, my doctor urged me to take a cholesterol-lowering drug. With a family history of sudden cardiac arrest, I was a walking time bomb, she said. But I pushed back, opting instead to try an extreme lifestyle makeover.

And that’s how, with the exception of one serving of salmon a week, I came to find myself a vegetarian, despite the fact that I’ve always disliked vegetables.

In my childhood home, vegetables meant boiling up a package of frozen peas and carrots, or munching on a small bowl of iceberg lettuce. My mother never used any herbs or spices, either. After Dad’s first heart attack, she threw out the salt shaker, our only seasoning.

Initially, my new dietary landscape – often called plant-based nutrition – looked utterly alien. But before long I was eating eight or more servings of fresh produce a day, from dark green salads made with Swiss chard, collards and kale, to such exotic fare as sweet potato and curry soup, quinoa-squash pilaf, and marinated kabobs, guaranteed to please even the most tofu-squeamish.

This transformation came at a price, of course. It takes more time to wash, peel, dice, steam, sauté, and simmer than to pick up a roasted chicken on the way home from work. But preparing oversized stews and casseroles on the weekend lets me to squirrel away a good supply of leftovers, handy for busy weeknight suppers.

I also believe whoever invented the slow cooker is a genius.

By taking it one recipe at a time, and being open to new possibilities, my nutritional regimen slowly became second nature. In six month’s time, I felt better, more energized. I also cut my cholesterol nearly in half.

That’s as good as a cholesterol-lowering statin.

We are a nation addicted to high-fat and convenience foods, leading to all sorts of health problems. I believe the solution may be as simple as opening the refrigerator door to a new way of approaching our 5-a-day.

Changing my dietary habits to emphasize fruits and vegetables wasn’t hard once I discovered the secret to great taste: herbs and spices. Trust me, add a pinch of this and sprinkle of that, and voila, you’ll never scowl at cumin-crusted Brussels sprouts again.