Live Longer and Stronger Mini Challenge 1: Try a New Fruit or Vegetable

Get ready to say yum!

woman in produce section
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When it comes to fruits and vegetables, you can never have too much, and the more rainbow-y your repertoire the better. “Different types of produce offer different health perks thanks to the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain, so the more you vary your picks the healthier you’ll be,” says Joy Bauer, R.D.N., WD contributor, nutrition expert, and health coach of the 2019 Woman’s Day Live Longer and Stronger Challenge.

That’s why this month, we challenged the five women who are making over their heart health as part of this year’s Live Longer and Stronger Challenge to try a new fruit or vegetable each week. This is the first in a series of mini challenges to help them reach their health goals.

After scouring farmers markets and supermarket produce sections for unfamiliar foods, here are their favorite discoveries. Let their adventurous palates inspire you and you might find something new to love yourself!

“Parsnips are my jam.”

Kerri Riggs, 34, of Pensacola, Florida ate fruits and veggies as part of her daily diet, but mostly because “it’s what you’re supposed to do,” and she didn’t venture much beyond the handful she knew she liked. But after a pleasant surprise in the form of parsnips, a root vegetable packed with fiber and vitamin C, she’s actually excited to eat vegetables now.

“I baked the parsnips, and even though I messed up the recipe a little bit, I was happy to find that they tasted really great," Riggs says. "They’re definitely a new staple for me."

She also decided that trying new foods is fun and not as intimidating as she once thought. “I wouldn’t have changed things up before, but now I’m more likely to grab a ‘weird’ fruit or vegetable to try," she says. "The worst thing that happens is I don’t like it, and the best case is that I have a new healthy and tasty treat."

“Dinner parties just got prettier … with starfruit.”

Marguerita Guerra, 59, of Humble Texas, is a self-professed food lover, which is why it was tough for her to find a fruit or vegetable she hadn’t tried before. But after lots of searching, something caught her eye that — shocker — she ended up loving!

“I absolutely love star fruit, which is originally from the Phillipines and is a beautiful star shape when cut,” says Guerra. “It was crispy and tasted a little sour and a little sweet.”

Star fruit is a refreshing low calorie, low carb, low sugar fruit that’s bursting with vitamin C and plenty of fiber if you eat the edible peel. Besides snacking on it raw, Guerra, who also loves entertaining, is already brainstorming how to incorporate it at her next gathering. “I can add it to a vegetable platter, fruit salad, or even to my homemade sangria,” she says.

"I fell in love with plumcot."

Rolanda Perkins, 52, of Smyrna, Tennessee, has always loved fruit, and the sweeter the better! So it’s no surprise that while she tried some new vegetables that she ended up enjoying (hello, rainbow carrots!), her very favorite new pick was a green plumcot, a cross between a plum and an apricot that’s high in vitamin C and fiber.

“I love that the plumcot was firm yet juicy with lots of sweetness,” says Perkins. “I’ve always seen this fruit at the supermarket but never picked it up. Now it’s definitely on my list of favorite fruits!”

“I’m a jicama expert now.”

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Nancy Zarriello

Nancy Zarriello, 57, of Seabright, New Jersey, now considers herself “the jicama expert,” and her friends and family do too. That’s because when she discovered jicama, a crunchy root vegetable with a texture like a potato-apple hybrid, she tried it two ways and fell in love with both. “I’ve grown fond of that crunch and have become increasingly aware of it in my meals when I eat out,” says Zarriello. "I even have family sending me pictures of jicama that they find on menus or in their meals."

While Zarriello enjoys it raw, she (and a few of the other Live Longer and Stronger ladies!) loves to reach for jicama fries, which are baked and seasoned to become a better-for-you version of French fries. “I’ve really discovered an awareness of and appreciation for food and what I’m putting in my mouth, and I’m really happy about how it helps me make better choices,” she says.

“Bok choy helped me like veggies.”

Jennifer Shreckengost, 43, of Excelsior Springs, Missouri, has always had a love-hate relationship with vegetables. “I tolerated them and forced myself to eat them but I didn’t enjoy them and I stuck to a very small group,” she says.

Now, she’s slowly growing her veggie portfolio and it all started with bok choy, a.k.a Chinese cabbage, which is packed with vitamins A and C, as well as a bit of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.

“I’ve seen bok choy in many recipes but never tried it; now I’ll definitely eat it again! I added it to a chicken stir fry and it gave the dish great flavor,” says Shreckengost.

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