By Maris Callahan
August 09, 2010

Five ½-cup servings of vegetables every day-that's the USDA Food Pyramid recommendation for the average adult. Sounds easy, right? A salad here, a handful of baby carrots there, and you're covered. But in our fast-paced, carb-crazed world, who gets that? Most of us aren't meeting the daily requirements of a balanced healthy diet, even with a green salad for lunch and a vegetable side at dinner.

If you find yourself struggling to squeeze in all your veggie servings, check out these clever and surprising ways to build a balanced healthy diet. Think beyond the salad bowl (or, check this out if you want new ideas for salads; there are plenty of greens (and reds, yellows and oranges) that are versatile and tasty enough to work their way onto your plate morning, noon and night.

Balanced Healthy Diet Boost: Beat Breakfast Boredom Many of us think of vegetables as a staple at lunch or dinner, but starting your day with something green and good for you can keep you sated all morning long-and give you a head start on those five vegetable servings you're looking for. Spruce up your fiber cereal and skim milk routine and slip some fiber-filled vegetables into an A.M. omelet or breakfast sandwich instead. Try a frittata with broccoli rabe and sun-dried tomatoes or forgo the bread in your next breakfast with this tasty casserole with asparagus and mushrooms.


Balanced Healthy Diet Boost: Spruce Up Your Sandwich Two slices of whole wheat bread layered with turkey and a small slice of cheese is a fine midday nosh. But with some added green power, it can leave you feeling full until dinnertime. Fiber-filled veggies help you curb mid-afternoon snacking and bring you one serving closer to the USDA food pyramid's daily recommendation. Make your midday meal count by adding lettuce, tomato and cucumber to your favorite sandwich standby. Or try adding avocado (technically a fruit, but dense with nutrients) in place of mayo on any sandwich and you get extra flavor with your huge dose of nutrients. To get your veggies and satisfy a comfort food craving try this delicious grilled spinach cheese panini.


Balanced Healthy Diet Boost: Sip Smoothies If you're a fan of the DIY-smoothie, slip a few handfuls of spinach into your beverage. Don't let the color scare you; with the right balance of ingredients, spinach will complement fruit's natural sweet flavors, giving you a unique new taste (your waistline will like it, too). Try a Vitamin-C packed Mango Dream Smoothie or the ever-popular Green Drink of Oprah fame.


Balanced Healthy Diet Boost: Make Dessert Even Sweeter Don't limit healthy and delicious sweet potatoes for dessert to the pie at Thanksgiving. You can take advantage of the Vitamin A and fiber in this superfood all year round. Turn sweet potatoes into a smooth, silky pudding [recipe below] that will take the edge off your sweets craving without adding saturated fat or a ton of calories.

Sweet Potato Pudding

Serves 4

2 cups baked sweet potatoes pulp, scooped from the skin

1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup milk

1 tablespoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 tablespoon corn syrup, light or dark

1/4teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup chopped pecans, if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish or four individual ramekins on a large baking sheet.

With an electric mixer, beat together all ingredients (except the pecans) until smooth and blended. Pour into baking dish or ramekins. Transfer to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

Sprinkle the pecans over the pudding and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, until the pudding is set and slightly puffed. The top will sink as the pudding cools. Serve warm or at room temperature. For an extra treat, garnish with ¼ cup vanilla low fat frozen yogurt.

With Pecans:

Per serving: 320 Calories; 7g. Fat; 1g. Saturated Fat; 5g. Fiber; 60g. Carbohydrates; 7g. Protein; 107mg. Calcium; 100mg. Sodium.

Without Pecans:

Per serving: 220 Calories; 2 g. Fat; .5g Saturated Fat; 3 g. Fiber; 46 g. Carbohydrate; 5 g. Protein; 80 g. Calcium, 80mg. sodium.

Bonus recipes: