Eat vegetables with every meal?! Eat 5+ servings of colorful vegetables every day? How is that even possible?! And why do I need so much?
Many of us grew up (myself included) swallowing our peas like bitter pills with milk at dinner and gagging at the mere thought of brussels sprouts as we were told "Eat your vegetables"! I can only hope that your taste buds have developed a bit since then, your palate has expanded ever so slightly and that abhorrence of veggies has subsided to allow a little bit more variety into your diet...and for good reason! Read on for the What, Why, Where, When, How's on eating more veggies.
Colorful. That's what we're going for here. The more color the better. Think dark leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, red, green, yellow or orange bell peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow summer squash, eggplant, cucumbers, leeks, green beans, brussels sprouts, broccoli, beets, etc. Why? Please see below...
Nutrients. Minerals. Vitamins. Fiber. Antioxidants. Good digestion. Phytonutrients. Cancer-fighting. Eyesight preserving. The list goes on and on. Vegetables do our bodies a LOAD of good and it's one of the only food groups that I can comfortably tell the vast majority of people that the more they eat, the better! If you want the science behind why you should eat more vegetables, either ask me or google for more information, but I assure you, there is a boat load of it.
- You can get fresh, frozen, canned or home grown produce year-round at grocery stores, no matter where you are. I was in Ireland - land of fried fish, potatoes - in March and still managed to stock up on some fresh colorful veggies at a supermarket to keep on hand and made it a point to find restaurants that at least had a salad option.
- Start a garden and have produce most of the year, depending on your location.
- Find and visit local farmers markets. Join a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture. http://www.localharvest.org/csa/
- At home: Get prepping, get cooking, or outsource. If chopping and cooking veggies just isn't your thing, look for convenient options at stores like Whole Foods or Trader Joes that offer pre-cooked veggies like roasted brussels sprouts and beets, a salad bar, and a whole plethora of other prepared vegetable options. The caveat here is that the more prep you don't do, the more you will have to pay, in general. I do a lot of cooking, not only because I like it, but because it's a big money saver! You could also subsist off of the likes of pre-washed salad greens, grape tomatoes and baby carrots for the most minimal of all vegetable preparations, but that just gets boring in my opinion.
- At work: Whether you work at home, in an office, or are in a car most of the day, with a little prep time on weekends, you can have veggies on hand for snacks & meals. Pack your lunch and snacks at home and keep them in the shared fridge at work (might want to put your name on them so those pesky lunch thieves keep their paws off your roasted brussels sprouts!) or keep a cooler in your car if you're on the road or going from one place to another all day long.
- At restaurants: Leave that side of mashed potatoes and ask for double the veggies. Roasted, steamed, or baked is ideal. Those sweet potato fries don't really count here...sorry folks. Salads...duh. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions. If you see some tasty looking side of green beans somewhere on the menu, that means it's available in the restaurant, so ask your server if you can swap your side of mayo-laden cole slaw for those crisp, fresh green beans.
- While traveling: bring cut up veggies on planes, trains and automobiles to save you from the perils of terrible airport or rest stop food. Stop at a grocery store at your destination or en route to stock up on prepared veggies to stash in your hotel mini-fridge or cooler with ice packs. You can even pick up veggies now that don't have to be refrigerated. Granted they are a bit less watery and a have a fair number of ingredients, but there ARE some good options out there. For example: http://rhythmsuperfoods.com/
Start with breakfast.
What? Don’t want to put spinach in your cheerios? Well, lucky for you there are many other ways to squeeze in 1 or 2 servings first thing in the morning to start your day off on the right foot. Here are just a few examples:
- Super Shakes: Here's a great formula on how to make a veggie laden shake that tastes amazing and is great for you too! http://www.precisionnutrition.com/super-shake-creation-infographic TIP: Spinach is my favorite addition - it doesn't give the bitter aftertaste that kale can. :) Here's a pic of one of my favorite combos: spinach, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 Tbsp peanut butter, 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, and just a bit of granola on top for some crunchy texture. I like to chew my smoothies - it helps me slow down and enjoy them more.
- Load up a frittata with veggies like my Mediterranean Vegetable & Egg Bake
- Try a smoothie bowl - like a super shake, but in a bowl, with some of the toppings on top instead of mixed in. It makes for a more complete meal experience if you like chewing your food and putting spoon to mouth more.
- Eggs on sautéed veggies instead of eggs & toast (pic of eggs with mushrooms & peppers)
- Add some veggies to your oats. Check out my carrot cake and zucchini overnight oats recipes or try a savory option like this: http://cookieandkate.com/2016/savory-steel-cut-oatmeal-recipe/
Don't forget snacks.
This is another biggie for a lot of people. Most traditional, convenient, quick snacks don’t include veggies. You might have to get a little intentional and creative to get your veggies between meals.
- carrots, cucumbers, celery, cherry tomatoes, sliced bell peppers or zucchini sticks with cottage cheese, nut butter, hummus or an herby greek yogurt dip.
- Combine with beans to turn veggies into hummus!
- Think of snacks as a mini meal! Only have a 1/2 portion of dinner leftover from the night before? Have that as a snack!
Dinners AND Lunches (yes, both...)
Add more vegetables as sides or part of the main course!
- Roast veggies:
- Saute veggies:
- Grill veggies:
- Make a veggie wrap: Use some collard greens or swiss chard to wrap up your fillings instead of that big ol' tortilla. http://minimalistbaker.com/rainbow-chard-hummus-wraps/
- Turn veggies into noodles like these zucchini noodles or this spaghetti squash bolognese: http://www.katheats.com/easy-spaghetti-squash-bolognese
- Turn veggies into soups: http://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-veganuC-creamy-curried-cauliflower-soup-187007
- Try cauliflower rice!
- Make a stir fry
- Turn veggies into taco shells! https://www.tastemade.com/shows/healthy-af/cauliflower-tortillas
I'm always looking for fun new ways to eat more veggies, so share away if you have some awesome ideas I missed here! Now make like a bunny and go eat some veggies!