Eat your vegetables!
How many people does this send into some sort of panic? Visions of your mother force feeding you peas until your plate is clean?
While everyone has different needs and concerns when it comes to nutrition, there is one common theme that can almost always be applicable. Eat more veggies. I don’t care how many you eat already, you can always eat more. And with so many variations on cooking techniques, seasonal veggies, and ways to disguise them, there are almost no viable excuses as to why you aren’t getting enough of these wonder-foods in your life.
Vegetables provide us with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients that help our bodies to be highly functioning, disease fighting machines. But, I am well aware that that fact alone is not enough to get some people to eat enough vegetables. Some people don’t like the taste of many veggies, some don’t know how they should cook them, and some feel that they aren’t convenient. Today I’m going to give you 7 of my favorite tips to include vegetables in your life, and no matter what your excuse is, you’ll be a veggie eating machine in no time.
1. Green up your smoothies. Adding spinach or kale into any berry smoothie (1-2 cups) is a great way to add a nutrient punch without altering the flavor. Yes, the color will be a little off, but I promise you the flavor will not suffer. Spinach is a great source of iron, which many people (vegetarians especially) may not eat enough of, and Kale is a great source of Vitamins K, A, and C just to name a few benefits.
2. Prep and Store Smartly. Don’t have enough time to chop bell peppers and carrots every day? Prep your favorite veggies early on in the week. Store them in clear containers and place them on the front of a shelf in your fridge. You’re more likely to eat what’s right in front of you, and veggie strips dipped in a little hummus can be a very satisfying snack mid day (the fiber is filling and will help keep you full longer than a sugary snack).
3. Beef Up Your Salads. Many people think that a salad for lunch is not nearly enough… And those people are usually the ones for whom a salad consists of a few pieces of lettuce, maybe a tomato or two, and a couple slices of cucumber if they’re lucky. Personally, I eat salads almost every day of the week for lunch, but they are not wimpy bowls of wilted lettuce… They are overflowing with filling veggies, protein, seeds, and other goodness. On a typical week day, my salad consists of spinach, grilled chicken, black bean salad, broccoli slaw, bell peppers, carrots, cucumbers, feta cheese, hard boiled egg, and sometimes salsa. (Salsa is an excellent alternative to dressing, by the way). If you beef up your salad with enough vegetables (that you can pre-cut at the beginning of the week, as per point #2!), add some protein and healthy fats (avocado, egg, etc.), and you’ll be golden. With plenty of fiber, protein, and fat, it’s not just a salad, it’s a meal chock full of essential, and healthy, nutrients.
This is my usual salad… Look at all of that flavor and nutrient packed goodness!
4. Disguise them in other foods. If you’re a pasta eater, chop up a few extra bell peppers and mushrooms and hide them in the sauce. Add some roasted veggies to a home made pizza. As stated above, add them into your smoothies. Add more than a recipe calls for into soups, stews or casseroles. If you don’t love veggies, there are plenty of ways to combine them with other foods so that you can hardly even taste them, you just have to be a little creative!
Ok, didn’t make this one myself, but this is a pizza we ordered recently. Salad on a pizza? Ok by me!
5. Include them in your breakfast. Eggs and veggies make an excellent combo. In particular, broccoli, eggs, and spinach are a flavor match made in heaven if you ask me! Other great add-ins to eggs are sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, and even asparagus. I recently cooked up an awesome scramble with spinach and broccoli-slaw, and it was a delicious and quick meal, with extremely little prep time or clean-up. Veggies can be a great way to add a little more of a nutritional value to an otherwise bland or predictable breakfast, and can give your meal that staying power to keep you satisfied until lunch rolls around. Another quick and sneaky way to add a tiny bit of veggies to your eggs? Salsa! I swear, salsa with eggs is one of the best flavor combinations ever.
Eggs, broccoli, spinach, and feta. Quadruple yum!
6. Get creative with cooking methods. Veggies can be cooked in so many ways! Roasting, steaming, stir-frying, the list goes on and on. I’m a fanatic when it comes to roasting veggies, especially broccoli, asparagus, and brussells sprouts. Every time someone tells me that they hate brussells sprouts, I ask them if they’ve had them roasted yet. It improves the flavor by about 1000% and turns them into a tasty addition to any lunch or dinner. All you need is an oven, a little olive oil and seasoning to your taste, and about 10-30 minutes for cooking time, depending on the oven and type of vegetable you’re preparing.
7. Challenge yourself with variety. Many people struggle with eating enough vegetables because they get stuck eating the same ones over and over again, or they just remember horror stories of peas-gone-bad from their childhood. Adding in a little variety can open you up to a whole new world of flavors and textures, and experimenting with these can add new elements to recipes you’ve been making for years. One way to do this is to commit to buying a set number of veggies each week (say, 3 veggies each week, one of which you haven’t tried before). Doing this can add a fun challenge to grocery shopping and cooking, and may even lead you to new recipes! You could also consider joining a local CSA or farm share, in which case you have no control over the veggies you receive, so it’s kind of a tough love approach to trying new things.
8. Spice it up! No need to reach for the heavy, creamy dressings or fake cheese sauces to make the veggies go down easier. It’s amazing how just a few spices can turn your everyday vegetable dish into something delicious. Curry powder, chilli powder, ginger, rosemary, oregano, or my personal favorite, Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, all turn veggies into something new. Take, for instance, the veggies that Will and I cooked up last week. Instead of the usual sautee of zucchini and squash that we do pretty much every week, we followed this recipe (substituting sweet potatoes for regular), added in a few more spices, and voila! A whole new way to enjoy our veggies. And you know what? It was scrumptious.
So there you have it: My top 8 ways to include more veggies in your diet. It’s really not that hard, right? Even if you can’t afford fresh produce every week, frozen vegetables are an excellent and healthy alternative. Including more vegetables in your diet can yield positive changes in every aspect of your health, so what are you waiting for?
Did I miss anything here? What’s your most creative way to include more vegetables in your diet? How many servings of vegetables would you say you eat per day? Do you tend to eat the same ones again and again or do you eat a large variety of veggies?