By Pamela Dimmick

Do pickles and ice cream count as a vegetable? If you’re pregnant, you’re likely to justify just about anything in the name of eating for two. You know you need to make more nutritious choices but it’s hard. As if dealing with morning sickness, food cravings and aversions and a list of safe and unsafe foods weren’t enough, old standards calling for five fruits and vegetables a day have recently been increased to between seven and nine servings.

Getting these extra servings in doesn’t need to be difficult. Here are a few tips to get started.

Breakfast – Add fresh fruit slices or a fistful of raisins, dried cranberries or dried blueberries to oatmeal or cereal. Make a smoothie using yogurt, orange juice and fresh or frozen fruit along with pureed carrots or zucchini and a touch of wheat germ. Freeze any leftover smoothie for a refreshing smoothie pop later in the day by pouring it in a cup and sticking a spoon or stick in the middle.  In the place of maple syrup, use applesauce on pancakes and waffles. Drink your vegetables by stocking up on vegetable or tomato juice.

Snack – Baby carrots and fat-free ranch dressing make for an easy mid-morning snack. Berry flavored applesauce cups along with a disposable spoon are convenient to keep in your purse or car for a quick fruit serving on the go. Dip a few bananas in chocolate sauce and keep in the freezer for a decadent but potassium rich snack any time.

Lunch – Load up any sandwich with alfalfa sprouts, spinach leaves and tomato. Serve with a dill pickle or sliced cucumbers on the side along with split pea or tomato soup. Or make a bean tostada or burrito loaded with vegetables such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes and olives. Top with homemade salsa.

Appetizer – Supplement cheese and crackers with apple slices. Serve hummus or guacamole with pita wedges. Make a dipping sauce out of plain yogurt, mustard and curry powder and serve with artichoke leaves.

Dinner – Keep a baggie of shredded carrots or zucchini handy in the refrigerator and use in casseroles, meatloaf, hamburger patties and spaghetti sauce. Make your own sweet potato French fries. Load up salads with a variety of fresh and colorful produce. For a simple Caprese salad, serve baby spinach leaves with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil. Coat vegetables in olive oil, sprinkle with cumin seeds and roast them in the oven instead of steaming or boiling.

Dessert – Enjoy the frozen smoothie pop from breakfast or serve frozen yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit. Make a zucchini or carrot cake. Top pancakes or crepes with strawberries and fat-free whipped cream.

These are just a few ideas to get you started. Head out to a farmers market and treat yourself to the freshest, most beautiful, produce in your area. Arrange your purchases in a lovely bowl on the kitchen table and help yourself to it anytime. You’ll feel good about yourself, start a healthier lifestyle, and, as an added bonus, you’ll fill up on the good stuff and avoid the junk.