A Fruit and Vegetable Diet —
Any bennies in it for You?

What can a fruit and vegetable diet do for you? Great question, since a lot of us grew up hearing (although probably not chanting!) the fruit-and-veggie "mantra." But many of us also may have heard way more commands than specifics relative to these foods: "Because they're good for you, moron—now, down the hatch!" Or words to that effect...

So, were Mom and Granny just yanking our chains way back when? Nah. Loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, fruits and veggies not only help people stay healthy but also can help them slim down. Best ones for dieting? Click here to check.

green salad: a fruit and vegetable diet
Here's the bottom line with a fruit and vegetable diet: it's generally a win-win proposition IF you keep it up. If you don't, though, kiss that winning streak good-bye. So—how can you keep those fruits and veggies safely in your corner?

Getting Started
My advice? Start with your dinner plate. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains or legumes should claim most of the space on that plate. If they do not, start replacing some of the meat, cheese, white pasta, or rice you may be eating now with legumes and/or steamed, grilled, or fresh veggies.

This will reduce the total calories in your meal without also reducing the amount of food you eat. And please use a normal-size plate (or even a smaller one) rather than the type of platter we increasingly see in restaurants. Every calorie you ingest does count, even when it comes from veggies. Like you didn't know that, but sometimes all of us need the occasional reminder.

Sure, fruits and veggies have fewer calories than many other foods—no question about it. But they do contain some. So if you're adding fruits and vegetables to what you already eat, you’ll be adding calories and may also add some weight. Which is SO not the objective here, right?

Keep It Balanced
Unless you’re undertaking this diet as a cleansing exercise, don’t confine yourself strictly to fruits and veggies. Eat according to the Mayo Clinic "healthy weight" pyramid, which may actually be a better bet than the clinic's vegetarian pyramid. Just use a meat substitute, if you want to stay in the vegetarian camp. (Click here for good sources of vegetarian protein.)

And keep a good color mix on your plate: not all green, or all yellow, or all purple and red. That way you’ll likely also balance your starchier (and sweeter) veggies with green and leafies. In other words, don’t eat exclusively beets and sweet potatoes! Or all legumes, either. Just like calories, colors "count" as well.

Without a good color balance, for example, you’re less likely to reap the full range of possible nutrients: fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C.

So, over a two-day period, you might arrange to eat spinach, chard, or asparagus (green), tomatoes and squash blossoms (red and yellow), sweet potatoes (orange), beans (black, white, or pink), corn (more yellow), eggplant (purple), and leeks (green/white). And throw in some parsley and fresh basil here and there to liven things up. Click here or here for some veggie lists.

What all this mainly involves is some thought and also perhaps some changes of habit. Sure, sometimes you don't want to bother. But we're not talking rocket science here—simply awareness, intent, and probably some planning. All of which most of us can probably handle most of the time.

And thus endeth this particular contribution to your fruit and vegetable diet. Except to remind you that such a diet needn't be an all-or-nothing deal. If you're not ready to become a complete vegetarian, be a "flexitarian" for a while. Maybe forever. Just take all of this only as far as you truly want to go. Which in turn will give you a much-better chance at maintaining the good habits you do adopt.

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