Courtesy of Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Team

If you are trying to lose weight, one of the first steps you might take is to cut certain foods out of your diet. However, adding a serving of fruit or vegetables with each meal can actually make it easier for you to attain a healthier weight, especially if you substitute low-calorie produce in place of food items that are higher in calories.

Fruits and veggies are high in nutrients and tummy-filling fiber. Not only can they help you reduce your waistline, they can also boost your energy and lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other serious medical conditions. Therefore, make sure you consume enough produce each day by following these simple tips:

Bump up your breakfast

Try blending your favorite fruit into a morning smoothie. Simply blend frozen blueberries or mango with plain yogurt and milk or milk alternative. For an extra shot of fiber and Vitamins K and A, add half a cup of spinach – you won’t even taste it! If you’re more of an egg eater, add veggies to your morning scramble or omelet. Instead of using cheese, try to substitute popular add-ins like peppers, onions or mushrooms.

Lighten up lunch

An easy way to consume multiple servings of vegetables in one meal is to turn them into a soup. When making a sandwich, add leafy greens, thin sliced cucumbers, juicy tomatoes and sprouts to liven up your tastebuds while filling you up. If you have leftover veggies from last night’s dinner, you can aways roll them into a wrap with some hummus or avocado. Make sure you also pack at least one piece of fruit in your lunch bag. Keep prepped fruit at eye level in the refrigerator or in a bowl in your kitchen so you don’t forget to leave home without it.

Dishing up a healthy dinner

You can add roasted, grilled, steamed or raw vegetables to just about any meal, whether it be casseroles, stews or sauces. If you eat a lot of pasta, give Zoodles (zucchini noodles) or spaghetti squash a try. Both cook quickly and can be served with tomato sauce or olive oil and savory herbs. Riced veggies like cauliflower and broccoli are also popular as a base and are lower in carbs than white rice. In addition, enjoy a healthy dessert by grilling fruit, such as pears, apples and pineapples. Grilling will caramelize the natural sugar in fruit, making a deliciously sweet alternative to higher calorie treats.

There is no better time than right now to increase your fruit and vegetable consumption – start with the ones you grow in your garden and try the ones your Western New York neighbors grow on their farms. A list of local farmers’ markets is available on the New York State Department of Agriculture website.

Buy more green, get some back!

Independent Health is proud to offer a Nutrition Benefit*, which our members can utilize to receive $1 back in rewards for every $2 they spend on fresh fruits and vegetables at Tops Friendly Markets. The rewards dollars are paid out quarterly in the form of an in-store rewards card that can be used on future in-store grocery purchases, excluding tobacco products.

Members can earn up to $1,000 on their produce purchases each year on a family plan and up to $500 on a single plan, with the benefit rewards tracked through the Tops BonusPlus® program. Please visit our website to learn more about our Nutrition Benefit.

*Benefits vary by plan.