“Eat your veggies”: a phrase we all heard growing up, yet most of us still find it hard to do. Veggies are such an important part of our diets because they are high in fiber and prebiotics that promote gut health, and are a great source of vitamins, minerals, and powerful phytonutrients. Observational studies confirm that higher intakes of veggies are associated with lower rates of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and all cause mortality. Placebo controlled studies have repeatedly shown the benefits of individual vegetables, specifically their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxifying roles in the body. Eating our vegetables doesn’t have to be a hard! Here are the top 10 ways to get more veggies in:
1. Change where you store your veggies
If you want to make sure that you eat more vegetables, you have to be able to see them. After a long day, you are more likely to pick up what's sitting out on the counter, or front and center in the fridge than the fruits and veggies stored away in the “crisper” drawer. Out of sight is out of mind is more than just an old proverb, it's the reason why so much of your produce goes bad in your fridge. Try putting veggies at the front of a shelf that is eye level. This will act as a trigger and help you make healthier choices.
2. Change how you prepare your veggies
Now that we have our vegetables stored in the right place, it is time to prepare them. If you are having problems enjoying your veggies, perhaps try to cook them in different ways. A simple way to prep them is to roast them whole, with a bit of oil, salt, and pepper. These methods really bring out their natural flavor while delivering a satisfying texture. Also, make sure you season your vegetables (hello Everything But The Bagel seasoning)! The right mix of herbs and spices can really elevate a dish.
3. Prepare them ahead of time
Worried about time? Try preping all your vegetables for the week over the weekend. You can either just season and chop for easy cooking during the week or you can go ahead and cook them for reheat. This way, lack of time will not force you to resort to frozen meals, fast food, or packaged snacks. Instead, you can get a dose of some nutritious vegetables during your busy week.
4. Make a dip
Everyone loves some good chips and dip. A great way to get in a variety of veggies is to make a vegetable-based dip and use vegetables for dipping. Some easy ways to do so are to make a good guacamole, pico de gallo, or hummus, and then use veggies like carrots, celery, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli to dip. This makes for a delicious snack and is great for you too!
5. Make veggies the main course
Vegetables are meant to be the main component of our diets, so we need to start treating them like so. Oftentimes we get caught up in having meat as the main dish, but ideally veggies should take up half to ¾ of our plates. For example, if you were going to treat yourself to a burrito bowl, try replacing the rice with a leafy green as the base.
6. Replacement for wraps and buns
Another great swap is to use vegetables as your wrap, tortilla, or bun. If you decide to enjoy a wrap for lunch or breakfast, instead of using the tortilla use an alternative like a large kale leaf, collard leaf, or lettuce. If a wrap would be a stretch, then try just a simple “boat” with a filling of your choice in lettuce, zucchini, squash, or eggplant. Also, if you just cannot resist a good burger, perhaps try it with a veggie bun using lettuce, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, or tomato.
7. Use zucchini instead of pasta
We all love a delicious pasta dish, but too often pasta will take the place of the vegetables we need. Instead of traditional pasta, try zoodles! All you need is a cheap spiralizer.
8. Eat veggies for breakfast
Most people don’t think of having veggies first thing in the morning, but it’s a great opportunity to get some greens in. Some easy and quick ways to add them to your omelettes or make a smoothie or juice.
9. Smoothies and Juices
Speaking of smoothies and juices, they are an easy way to get a quick nutrient boost. Even if you prefer more fruity or protein smoothies, you can still slip some vegetables in. Spinach, cauliflower rice, avocado, and butternut squash are some of my favorite smoothie additions
10. Bake with Veggies
If you just cant bear the taste of vegetables, try baking with them. Get creative in the kitchen and find ways to make veggie based treats or add small amounts of veggies to your creations. Carrot cake, zucchini brownies, and sweet potato icing are some good options.