It’s National Fresh Fruits and Veg Month!!

Fun & creative Ways to Eat Healthy

By Michelle Cullen RDN, LDN

Welcome to National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month! The timing couldn’t be better, given that your local farmer’s market is probably now in full swing and rife with fresh, in-season produce. Whether you pick it up at the local market or stop by your regular grocery store, this produce only pulls its nutritional weight if you actually eat it. And sometimes when you’re busy, it can be hard to fit in your daily servings of fruits and veggies—the USDA recommends two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of veggies for the average adult.

If you’re vowing to eat more produce in honor of National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month, here are a few fun ways to do it.

Veggie “noodles”

You’ve probably seen them at the store, or maybe even spotted them on the menu at your favorite restaurant. Vegetable “noodles” are all the rage. If you have a spiralizer at home, you can make them out of everything from zucchini to butternut squash, or you can go old-school and simply scoop out the innards of a spaghetti squash. You can also pick up fresh or frozen versions at the grocery store. Either way, these “noodles” offer a higher fiber, lower carb alternative to traditional pasta with an added boost of vitamins and minerals.


Cauliflower everything

Cauliflower is having a real moment right now in the world of healthy eating, and for good reason. It’s relatively bland, which is actually a good thing. Due to its mild flavor, cauliflower can stand in for lots of grains, which is why you’ll find riced cauliflower (probably in the frozen section) and even cauliflower pizza crusts at the grocery store. Again, swapping a standard grain for a vegetable cuts down the carbs, adds some fiber, and gives you a good boost of antioxidants! You can even make your own cauliflower crust if you’re feeling extra adventurous.


Fruits for dessert

Instead of skipping dessert, rethink the way you view it. When berries are in season, they’re super sweet. Make strawberries or blueberries the basis of your dessert instead of something loaded with added sugar. The berries’ natural sugar should satisfy your sweet tooth, especially if you pair them with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla Greek yogurt.


Smoothies (or smoothie ice pops)

One of the quickest ways to slurp down your daily servings of fruits and veggies? Toss all (or some) of them into a green smoothie! Using a base like kale or spinach and a naturally sweet ingredient, like a banana, you can instantly create something satisfying and healthy. A fun way to enjoy smoothies in the summertime is to freeze them in ice pop molds—it’s easy to enjoy your smoothie to-go when it’s on a ice pop stick! Try these lightly sweetened green smoothie ice pops with mango and banana, and feel free to skip the honey for a little less sugar.


Avocado ice cream

Obsessed with all thing s avocado? You’re not alone. Packed with healthy fats, avocado has quickly risen to a place of prominence in pop culture. Its mild flavor also makes avocado surprisingly versatile—you can even create chocolate ice cream out of it! Just add a few other ingredients to the avocado, including maple syrup and milk, then blend everything to creamy and freeze the concoction. While avocado ice cream isn’t necessarily lower calorie than traditional ice cream, it does provide more nutrients. Give this recipe a go.

Armed with these creative ideas, infuse your diet with more produce this National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month!

Baking Swaps

Ingredient Swaps to make your baking more nutritious......and still delicious!

Do you find yourself always reaching for something sweet after dinner? It’s true, many of us have that sweet tooth- but the question is, how can we make that cookie a little more nutritious. Being aware of simple swaps like the ones below can help you easily spot how to quickly make your average recipe more supportive of brain and digestive health, and overall well-being! Many people don’t even notice the change in flavor. Try some of these swaps out in your next recipe- but be aware of ratio changes when making these swaps- you’ll often need more or less of your average ingredient.

Substitutes for refined white flour:

White flour has been shown related to inflammation via the upper gastrointestinal tract. In our gut health post, we discussed how to keep your gut healthy. Replacing white flour with options such as almond, oat, or coconut flour for your average white flour may help you gain some of the benefits associated with a healthy gut!

1.     Almond flour: Made from (you guessed it!) almonds ground up into a flour, this substitute is lower in carbs than traditional white flour, high vitamin E (¼ cup i 35% of your RDI), magnesium and fiber (3 grams per ¼ cup)!  Almond flour a great alternative for individuals consuming a gluten-free and grain-free diet.  Sub 1 cup of almond flour for 1 cup white flour in your next recipe to reap the benefits.

2.     Coconut flour:  Created from ground-up coconut, this flour is gluten-free, grain-free, lower in carbs (16 grams vs 22 grams in one cup of white flour) and super high in fiber (a whopping 10 grams per one cup!).  Coconut flour is also a great source of iron and potassium, about 2 mg and 350 mg per one quarter cup, respectively!  Because this flour is highly absorbent, it cannot be subbed at a 1:1 ratio.   Sub  ⅓ cup coconut flour plus one extra egg with 1 cup white flour.

3.     Oat flour: Who knew your go-to morning staple could be used in baking?  Oat flour is simply made by blending oats in a food processor until flour-like consistency.  Oat flour is gluten-free (make sure your oats are certified gluten-free to avoid cross-contamination).  With 10 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein per one cup, this flour is way more nutrient-dense than white flour!  Sub one cup of oat flour for one cup white flour.

Substitutes for sugar:

Despite the bad rap sugar gets in our society, our bodies DO need sugar. Thinking “consume it then use it” when eating sugar can help us to utilize it for the energy we need in our day to day lives. Sugar has been shown to be a calorie dense, quick-source of energy when utilized in the right way. 

1.      Pure maple syrup: Research shows that pure maple syrup (not talking about Mrs.Buttersworth here!) has a higher antioxidant capacity than sugar and a lower glycemic index.  Plus, a little goes a long way!  Sub ⅔ cup of pure maple syrup for every one cup of sugar in your recipe.

2.     Raw honey: Besides containing sugar, honey contains amino acids and antimicrobial properties.  It’s higher ratio of fructose to glucose makes sweeter than normal sugar, meaning you can use less!  Sub ½ cup of raw honey for every one cup of sugar.

3.     Date sugar:  made from dried chopped up dates, date sugar is technically not a sugar at all, but it acts like one!  This sugar contains all the health benefits of whole pitted dates such as potassium, calcium, fiber and antioxidants. Sub ⅔ cup of date sugar for one cup of white sugar.

Substitutes for oil or butter:

Though butter has recently become hot topic in the health world- regarding possible cardiometabolic benefits- there is still much research to be done on the topic. Of course- everything in moderation, but if you have the opportunity to reduce some saturated fat with other beneficial foods, why not try it out! It may seem unlikely- but bananas, applesauce, nut butter, and canned pumpkin can serve as excellent substitutes for oil or butter!

1.     Mashed banana: You’ll add in potassium, fiber and B vitamins while tremendously lowering the calorie and fat content! Sub up to 1 medium-sized mashed ripe banana with one stick of butter.

2.     Unsweetened applesauce: By substituting ½ cup of applesauce for oil, you save over 900 calories, 109 grams of fat and add in vitamin C and some fiber!  Sub ½  cup of applesauce for 1/2 cup of oil or softened butter.

3.     Natural nut butters: Nut butters won’t lower the fat content, but you’ll increase the good fats (aka monounsaturated) and lower the bad ones (saturated fat)! You’ll also a considerable amount of fiber and protein (6 grams and 12 grams, respectively). Make sure you use the smooth, natural kind!  Sub ¼ cup of nut butter with ¼ cup of butter or oil.

4.     Canned pumpkin: Yup, canned pumpkin is not just for pumpkin pie. Similar to applesauce, you save loads of calories and fat.  Additionally, pumpkin is a terrific source of vitamin A (280% of your DRI in ½ cup!).  Sub 1 cup of pumpkin for one cup of oil.

How are these cookies different from your average chocolate chip cookie?  These cookies are made with almond flour instead of white flour, almond butter in place of butter, banana in place of the egg (and for sweetness) and only 2 tablespoons of maple syrup for sweetness, as opposed to at least ½ cup white sugar.


These delish cookies are made with these nutrient dense ingredient swaps: almond flour, mashed banana, almond butter and maple syrup!  They are also gluten-free and grain-free

Simple 6 Ingredient Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies


●      1 cup almond flour

●      ½ tsp. baking soda

●      1 ripe banana, mashed

●      ½ cup almond butter (or any nut butter)

●      2 Tbsp. maple syrup

●      ½ cup mini dark chocolate chips

1.     Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

2.     Combine almond flour and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine mashed banana, almond butter and maple syrup in small bowl and mix well.

3.     Add mixture to dry ingredients and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and combine. Make topping by combining all ingredients together. Spoon batter into 12 cookies.

4.     Bake for 15 minutes or until done.


Blog by Bethany & Taylor - PLN interns