We all know we should eat plenty of fruits and vegetables every day. But are we really getting the recommend five to seven daily servings?

Preparing fresh fruit and vegetable dishes takes time, one of the things that caregivers often don't have enough of. Also, our elderly loved ones can have a hard time chewing and digesting tough, fibrous foods.

The good news is there are a ton of tips and recipes out there that can make incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily diet routine much easier.

7 Easy Ways to Add Fruits and Veggies to Your Diet

  1. Talk it out: Have you ever asked your loved one why they aren't too keen on eating fruits and veggies? Maybe they just don't like lima beans. Or, perhaps they've grown tired of eating cauliflower prepared the same way every night. Try having a conversation with your senior about the kinds of foods that he or she likes and dislikes. Use this discussion as a way to plan meals and grocery lists. For instance, if bland flavoring is something they mention, don't be afraid to use spice blends and seasonings as a way to jazz up vegetables. Simply adding rosemary, thyme, fennel, parsley, cilantro, or even Herb de Provence can take vegetables from boring to sumptuous. Communicating with your loved one about improving their diet is a great way to help boost their immunity, improve their disease symptoms and live a happier, healthier life.
  2. Start the day with a green smoothie: Green smoothies are extremely popular in the food and nutrition world right now, with good reason. Although this trend started in 2013, it has continued to go strong into the New Year. Smoothies are a great way for seniors to get much needed vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants. Their creamy consistency makes them perfect for those who have problems with their teeth or chewing. The green smoothie movement might seem scary or intimidating at first, but you can try this simple formula for making green smoothies as an easy way to start your senior's day.
  3. Try steaming veggies: Raw vegetables might be too tough for seniors to digest, so it may be better to try steaming items such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, and other cruciferous vegetables in a little water before serving. Unlike boiling, which destroys the nutrient content of vegetables, steaming will simply soften them, while ensuring that they retain all of their crucial vitamins. Cutting the vegetables into bite-sized pieces for easier eating and digesting can also help.
  4. Make homemade apple sauce in your slow cooker: Applesauce is a fantastic way to convince your loved one to eat more fruit. Store bought applesauce may have added elements that aren't very healthy, but you can make at-home applesauce with nothing but natural ingredients. Simply chop the apples, add a few teaspoons of cinnamon, then mix in a couple handfuls of raisins. Let the apples cook in your slow cooker or crock pot on low for six to eight hours. Stir occasionally to break up the chunks of apple and, before you know it, you'll have a comforting apple puree that tastes delicious. Usually we flock to berries when we want a healthy dose of antioxidants, but apples' antioxidant levels actually exceed that of certain berries, such as raspberries and blackberries.
  5. Prepare a pureed soup: Pureed soups are another soft, easy-to-digest way to help your loved one get their daily dose of vegetables. The texture isn't just warm and comforting—it's also great for older adults experiencing tooth decay or dental problems. If your senior has difficulty chewing, a pureed soup can be a great alternative to raw vegetables. Try this delicious vegan roasted carrot and red pepper soup recipe. The carrots and peppers are a great source of Vitamin A. You can also add root vegetables, such as potatoes and golden beets, to thicken the soup. This is especially beneficial if your senior follows a higher-calorie diet and you're trying to find way to increase his or her daily caloric intake.
  6. Add vegetables to casseroles and sauces: Do you have a favorite rice casserole the whole family loves? Or, perhaps a killer pasta sauce? Use these foods as a way to sneak more vegetables into your senior's meals. Adding mushrooms and peppers to a red tomato sauce will instantly improve the nutritional content of the dish and letting the vegetables slowly simmer will soften them, making them easier to chew and digest. The same goes for your favorite casseroles. Adding carrots and broccoli to a creamy rice casserole, for instance, is another flavorful way to incorporate extra vegetables and nutrients.
  7. Blend up some banana ‘ice cream': One of the best kept secrets in the vegan and vegetarian world is banana ‘ice cream.' Somehow, when bananas are frozen, they become magical fruits that can be blended into all sorts of creamy desserts. Simply peel a few ripe bananas, cut them into pieces and freeze for a few hours. When you're ready for dessert, blend the bananas in your blender. If your loved one has made a habit out of eating dessert after meals, offer this healthy alternative instead of cake, cookies and other processed sweets. Bananas are high in potassium, making them an excellent fruit choice if your loved one has a history of heart disease. Try this frozen banana 'ice cream' recipe for the official recipe and other variations.

Getting an elder to eat healthily is so important. This is especially true if your loved one is dealing with a chronic health condition, since a poor diet will only aggravate any disease or illness symptoms they are currently experiencing.

What are the other strategies you've used to successfully convince your loved one to eat more fruits and vegetables?

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