I came across this recent NYT article about how America is still not eating enough vegetables, and it just drives me nuts. Even though over the last 20 years there have been so many health initiatives, record growth of farmers’ markets and organic brands, and the introduction of convenience products like bagged veggies and salad mixes, we still can’t seem to fit veggies in our busy schedules, and we continue to pay the price with our health. The baby carrot industry even rolled out a $25 million advertising campaign to boost their product’s popularity. Check out this ad!
So I imagine if you’re reading a blog about nutrition, you already know that vegetables are not just good for you, but they’re essential to your health, growth and vitality, so I’m going to spare you that lecture. Instead, I want to talk about some practical ways to up our veggie intake on a daily basis.
Here are a few ideas to help you get more servings of veggies each day. Even if you’re already making an effort to eat well, you might see something here that inspires you to get in an extra serving here and there.
- Throw them in a smoothie. I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion the benefit of drinking a high-quality protein shake for breakfast. In addition to starting the day with a healthy protein, this is a great way to sneak in good fats, fruits and veggies. I throw a handful of raw spinach leaves in my shake every morning, and I don’t even taste it (and your kids won’t either!). It feels good to know I’ve already gotten a healthy serving of green vegetable in before 8 a.m. I also recently started experimenting with juicing. My sister Alice brought her juicer to work and has been making me carrot/apple/ginger cocktails, which are delicious! Moral of the story, get those veggies in, even if you have to drink them!
- Bag them up. When it comes to eating veggies throughout the day, it’s all about preparation. I’ve been known to make individual baggies of sliced carrots, celery, peppers and cucumbers so that I can just grab one and throw it in my purse each day. They go great with hummus, salsa or a healthy salad dressing if you have access to a refrigerator at work.
- Let them simmer. Early on in this blog, I told you guys about my Working Woman Soup, which is my go-to healthy lunch. You can dump all the ingredients in the crock pot before work and a hearty, nutritious dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. You can also make it on Sunday night and take it for lunch all week-long or freeze it in individual, grab-and-go tupperware containers. Slow-cooked soups, stews and sauces are an easy way to pack in lots of vegetables, and they’re the perfect comfort food for this time of year.
- Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to add in extra veggies where you might not ordinarily use them. Who says only lettuce and tomato belong on a sandwich or wrap? Jazz them up with avocado slices, sprouts, peppers and cucumbers! Make your salads exotic with artichoke hearts, olives, beets, hearts of palm or fennel. Your body craves variety and every vegetable has different nutritional benefits, so don’t keep eating the same ones over and over. (Remember the five-color rule I discussed here!)
- Don’t over-think it. Many people admit to being a little intimidated by vegetables, especially the more exotic ones, so they stick to hum-drum microwaved broccoli every night. You’re missing out, people! Fortunately, when it comes to preparing veggies, less is often more, meaning that lightly steaming them is the best way to maintain their nutritional properties. Give them a few minutes, add a few spices or a little cheese, and you’re ready to go. I’m also a big fan of roasting veggies. I’ll take asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, and bell peppers, spread them out on a cookie sheet, drizzle some olive oil and spices and pop them in the oven for about 10-15 minutes to make a tasty side dish. Don’t feel like you have to do anything super fancy or cook all the life out of your veggies!
- Pump up the flavor. You might think of veggies as kind of bland, but they don’t have to be. Spicy veggies like garlic, peppers and onions really dress up your common recipes. Using fragrant herbs and spices like ginger, basil, parsley and my personal favorite, cilantro, will also make your dishes more flavorful and make your veggies more appealing.
The World’s Healthiest Foods website is a great resource to learn the nutritional value of your veggies, the best way to prepare them and simple recipes you can incorporate into your busy schedule.
Our country is failing in the veggie department, and it’s time to step up our game! Do you have any tips to share for convenient ways to incorporate more veggies into our diets? We could use all the help we can get!
Have a great weekend everyone. I’m heading to Vegas to take my final exam and practical tomorrow, so wish me luck!