How We Make More Produce Work For Our Family

posted by Andrea | 10/11/2019

Earlier this week, I may have mentioned that our family consumes 1 to 2 pounds of butter every week!

Yikes! 🙂

However, one thing we consume even faster than butter is fresh produce — pounds upon pounds of produce! 

Over the last 2 years, I’ve been consciously focused on SLOWLY ADDING more and more vegetables, fruits, and greens into each and every meal (yes, even for breakfast)!

It has been a long process with some complaining from the kids and extra work in the kitchen for me; but in my opinion, we’ve all made BIG strides in a positive direction. 

The kids have found so many new foods they actually admit to likingTHEY even request raw fruits and veggies for snacks on a fairly regular basis!

And since I’ve become diligent at keeping a massive amount of produce prepped and ready to eat in the fridge, this is actually a very easy snack for me to serve up. 

In some ways, I feel like a broken record sharing yet ANOTHER post about our fruits and veggies. However, based on my email inbox, it’s a topic MANY of you are still so interested in learning more about! 

I do still have several post ideas percolating in my brain (hopefully I’ll be sharing those soon too) but first, I feel it will be helpful to share 3 very specific reasons why eating more produce works for OUR family right now… but might not work for YOUR family! 

#1. I waited until the “right” seasons of my life. 

If reading posts about more nutritious eating habits (or exercise routines, or anything else) causes you to feel bad, please stop and consider your current season of life. 

I did not start my healthier journey until after Clara was born, after she was sleeping more regularly, after we were certain we were DONE having more babies, after our older children were old enough to understand what I was doing, and after I felt like I had a little more time, energy, and resources to devote to this “project”. 

We are also home a lot at this point in our life. We aren’t busy with extra-curricular activities in the evenings (yet!), we aren’t gone on the weekends, we don’t travel, we don’t go out to eat all that often, and my kids prefer homemade lunches versus ordering hot lunch — so it’s exponentially easier for me to “control” what foods we eat at this point in my life since I’m making almost all of them in my own kitchen. 

If this is not the best season of life for you to implement new eating habits, that’s OK. Be honest with yourself and don’t try to force it! 

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#2. I started SMALL… and took things SLOWLY!

I realize that looking at pictures of my heaping plates of produce, my over-flowing grocery cart, and my many pans of roasted veggies might seem overwhelming… but let me assure you that these changes to our family’s eating habits did not happen overnight!

Over the past 2 years, I have made drastic changes in our family’s diet… but it took 2 years of steady effort and forward progress.

Even now, looking back to just one year ago, I’ve changed and improved my system so much.

I’ve streamlined my prep process, I’ve gotten faster at grocery shopping, I’ve learned new techniques for cooking and roasting veggies, I’ve found new recipes that we all like… simply because I’ve been steadily pluggin’ away at it day after day, week after week, month after month. 

It’s a work in progress, it’s something I currently enjoy doing, and it’s something I feel is important for me to make the time to do.

If you want to get started but don’t know how, my suggestion would be to simply add ONE BITE of a new fruit or vegetable to your family’s plate — and add the same one for several meals in a row. Then try something new. 

And try to serve at least 1 or 2 things everyone really likes at each meal (even something simple like bread and butter) so the new foods don’t feel as “threatening”. 

Who knows, 2 years down the road, you might just be amazed by all the new foods you and your family have tried! 

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#3. I did NOT eliminate any foods, I just focused on “produce first”.

If you are an “abstainer”, this approach probably will not work for you… but for me and for my family, this is KEY!

Truly, I cannot stress enough that our family does not eliminate anything from our diet (at least not right now). 

We still eat Culver’s, Arby’s and Jet’s Pizza on occasion.

We still enjoy cookies, bars, cheesecake, and other sweet treats on a daily basis.

We still have a designated “candy cupboard” in our kitchen.

We still pack “fun lunches” for school — always with a special treat. 

We still get super excited about bags full of candy at Halloween (and basically every other “holiday”).

We still frequent our favorite local donut shops (yes, that’s plural!)

We still eat birthday treats at school, indulgent foods at church potlucks, and snacks at friends’ houses without a second thought.

However, the VAST MAJORITY of our meals are eaten at home, and they are heavy on produce… which we plate-up FIRST.

No matter what our main dish is, or what meal of the day we are eating, we almost always put fruits, veggies, and salads on our plates FIRST… followed by “everything else” — meat, potatoes, bread, pasta, casserole, etc.

Obviously, this helps us fill up on produce first, versus eating huge helpings of other, not-as-nutritious foods. 

And the fact that nothing is “off-limits” allows the focus to be on the delicious foods we enjoy… and not fixate on the fact that certain things are “not allowed”.

I realize there is potentially an over-abundance of photos in this post — but photos are usually very helpful for me, so I’m hoping they are also helpful in helping you to SEE the many different veggie combinations we have with our various meals each week. 

What More Produce Posts?

How I stretch my grocery trips (and produce consumption) 2-3 weeks

How I keep lettuce fresher, longer.

How I roast our veggies.

How I reheat roasted veggies.

How I store, prep, and serve all our fresh produce

If you’ve ever done anything to change your diet, I’d love to know what worked (or what didn’t work) for you! 

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28 comments

  1. Marie

    10/13/2019

    Thank you for this! I have a 3 and 1 yo. My 3 yo has gotten SO picky! Do you have a lot of waste? Do all of your children eat everything served?

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    Marie Reply:

    Oh! Also, do you make them eat any portion of the food?

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    Andrea Reply:

    we do “make” them try at least 2 bites of every food — but if they don’t like it after that, we don’t force them to eat it.
    That said, if it’s a food we know they like, then they are usually required to eat a bit more. However, I don’t put much on their plates to start with. I figure they can always ask for more if they want

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    Andrea Reply:

    we honestly don’t have a ton of waste — usually only from Clara.

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    Marie Reply:

    Thank you!! Excited to begin implementing this for our meals.

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  2. Natalia

    10/12/2019

    I think it’s brilliant that you plate the food and so you control what goes on them.
    I made the mistake to set everything on the table and then…. we bargain for what goes on their plates. Which is terrible. I’ll have to think of a way to change our method (a little challenging because the oldest is almost 14 and she’s the most difficult eater.
    I love what you’re doing and would love to see our family consuming more fruits and veggies. Thank you for amazing tips and encouragement!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Natalia!
    It took our family A LONG time to get to this point — start implementing a few changes now and who knows where you’ll be in 18-24 months!

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  3. Suzanne

    10/12/2019

    I would love to hear more about how you keep your cut produce fresh for a few days, if you do. We just have 3 in our household, so I keep carrots and celery in water or prebagged, wash grapes and cut them, but find I can’t precut lettuce or other items without them getting silty. I did recently buy a Fresh Vent technology plastic item for berries and like it.

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    Andrea Reply:

    our fruits and veggies usually seem to last for 2-3 days (longer for some). I usually just wash, slice, and that’s it. I keep the different varieties separated in containers so they don’t mix.

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    Stacey Reply:

    do your strawberries usually last 2-3 days too? Mine seem to get “yucky” by day 2 at the longest. unless I single layer them in a container and it seems to help

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    Andrea Reply:

    We eat them pretty fast (and I only cut up 1 pound at a time) but they do last 2-3 days for us.
    I will say that it might depend on where you buy them from. I used to buy strawberries from one Aldi store around us and they ALWAYS went bad super quick. However, we now have a newer Aldi that has much better produce so the berries last much longer

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  4. Cynthia K May

    10/11/2019

    I’m so curious what the kids eat first. Given that plate picture, I’m eating berries and melon before anything else. Do they eat specific things first? I tend to eat what I like best first and in that case, it’s the fruit!

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    Andrea Reply:

    they usually eat the fruit or cheese items first — but they do end up finishing their plates!

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  5. Annette Silveira

    10/11/2019

    I hope you never stop posting about how you and your family eat all the vegetables! It’s so inspiring.

    I have a question about the types of produce you buy. Do you try to stick to what’s in season, do you buy whatever looks good at the store, or what’s got the best price?

    Also, I want to put in another plug for imperfectproduce.com. They sell surplus or “ugly” produce and other items so they don’t get wasted. Go to the website and put in your zip code to see if they deliver near you.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Annette!
    I always buy grapes, strawberries, bananas, apples, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, cabbage, and various types of lettuce even if they aren’t on sale or local or in season. We all really love those fruits and veggies so I always keep them in the house.

    And thanks for mentioning the imperfect produce again — they are not available in our area, but still a cool idea!

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  6. Ashley

    10/11/2019

    I’m curious: Does everyone sit at the table to eat the fruits and veggies first before the main and other side dishes are served? Or do you simply dish them first so they take up the majority of the plate? You’ve definitely inspired me to incorporate more veggies!

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    Jennifer Reply:

    I lay out veggies while I cook the main part of the meal so anyone can snack on them. I love cooking and my husband and I chat so much that it ends up taking a long time, so the kiddo will start hunting for junk if I don’t have something healthy out ready. We still have more at the table, too.

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    Andrea Reply:

    great idea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    good question — we eat everything together, but I put the produce on the plates first so it takes up the majority of the plate.

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  7. Barb

    10/11/2019

    You said that you serve up the fruits and veggies first. Does that mean you put only fruits and veggies on the plate and serve it, and then when that is finished dish the main meat potatoes etc. onto the plate?

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    Ashley Reply:

    Haha! I think we were typing at the same time!

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    Andrea Reply:

    good question — no, I just mean that I plate up the fruits, veggies, and salads first so they fill most of the plate. Then I add the main dish foods and we sit down with everything on our plates at one time.

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  8. Cynthia

    10/11/2019

    I am an older reader. No kids at home. I didn’t change our diet. I use smaller plates and watch our portion sizes.

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, Dave and I sometimes use the kids’ plates for smaller meal portions!

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  9. Sarah

    10/11/2019

    I don’t get bored of reading about increasing fruit and veggies into family diet and can relate to the small steps approach to pretty much everything – the battle is real!

    I don’t roast veggies often as whilst I adore them they give my hubby indigestion, and our dentist said they’re as bad as fizzy drinks for teeth due to the increase in acid levels. Keeping my kids teeth in good shape is a priority for me but I do serve roasted veg with our Sunday dinner a few times a month. I don’t try to hide veggies, for example my kids still refuse to eat parsnips, squash or mushrooms but when I serve them I always add a small piece to their plates to try and one day hopefully they’ll start to eat them without grumbling!

    Sweet treats are kept to mealtimes and not snacked on through the day here. I can’t interest my kids in snacking on teeth friendly cheese unfortunately but they like carrot sticks and hummus. Eating most of our meals at home helps in controlling junk but I don’t want them to feel deprived of treats either.

    Like you I also try and prep as much as possible at the weekends to make it easier on rushed weekday nights. My plastic tubs were worn and scratched out from the dishwasher so I bought glass food savers from Ikea and they stack in the fridge well. So far they haven’t clouded or scratched, I can’t manage without my beloved dishwasher!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Sarah — did your dentist really say that roasted veggies are so bad for teeth? Oh my word, I’ve never heard this before, but now I’m wondering about it!

    I eat them every day (sometimes multiple times a day) because I love them so much! Do you know hat would make roasted vegetables more acidic than baked, steamed, or raw veggies?

    Also, I might have to look into your glass containers (although I do like the light-weight plastic for now!)

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  10. JJ

    10/11/2019

    After your other post, I started trying to have raw veggies prepped for easy lunch sides. It has been great! At dinner, I am trying to get to where half of our plates are vegetables. If they want seconds of any food, they have to clear their plate. That has motivated my hungry crew to get through the vegetables so they can have seconds of what they like. And they don’t always choose seconds after eating everything. Because I make the rule for them, it forces me to eat better, too. Thanks for all your tips!

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    Andrea Reply:

    way to go! and yes, we do the same thing with seconds — they have to eat their produce first!

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