Eat More Vegetables: 10 Awesome and Easy Tips
I have spent the last 40 years telling clients to eat more vegetables. The suggestion sounds so easy, but client after client usually struggles with this idea. Clients tell me how much they like vegetables, but meeting after meeting their food records and conversations say otherwise. Maybe they do like vegetables, but for whatever reason, it is an ongoing challenge to fit enough of them into an eating plan that is striving to maintain or improve health. And, to back up my comment, the CDC also states only one out of ten Americans eats enough vegetables!
Why you need to eat more vegetables
I think everyone knows that a healthy eating plan should include plenty of vegetables as well as fruit, but they are unclear as to the health benefits. Is that why you don’t eat enough? Vegetables are the most nutrient dense food on the planet. This means that vegetables yield the most nutritional bang for the calorie content. Vegetables are loaded with plenty of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals for very few calories. In fact, one cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables have only 25 calories! Due to the nutrients readily available from vegetables, vegetables can help with:
- Weight management
- Blood pressure control
- Gut health
- Heart disease
- Preventing some types of cancer
- Healthy vision as we age
- And even your appearance as you age
So what’s a serving of vegetables anyway?
It’s hard to figure out if you are eating enough vegetables unless you understand what constitutes a serving size. If the vegetables you eat are raw, fill up a standard measuring cup and you get to say you ate a serving. If you are having cooked vegetables, then a serving size is 1/2 cup. So if you ate one cup of cooked broccoli, you get to say you had two vegetable servings. If you decided to have some vegetable juice, then one cup counts as a serving. I’d suggest at least four servings of vegetables per day. Want to ditch the measuring cups? Then just fill about 1/3 of your plate with vegetables. The key here is to do this daily, not just a few times per week.
10 tips to eat more vegetables
So, let’s get on with this blog post. You know why you need to eat more veggies and what a portion size looks like. If you are not into kitchen measuring cups, then you know to fill about 30% of your plate each day with vegetables. For some, this is a challenge. So here are my professional tips on how to meet that dietary challenge.
Replace your crunchy fatty chips with vegetables for the same crunch without the calories. Buy already prepped vegetables if need be. I think some people don’t use vegetables as a snack because there is some prep involved. As you are trying to revamp your diet, make it easy on yourself in the beginning and consider buying already prepped veggies. Use some lower fat salad dressing or hummus for dipping, or better yet, eat plain. The key here is to have the prepped vegetables ready to go when you need a snack. Consider eating this snack while sitting in traffic or sitting at your desk. You’d be surprised how full you will feel after eating a cup of raw carrots.
I’m not suggesting you go out and get a juicer or make your own juice (but feel free). I am suggesting you consider keeping a supply of low sodium V-8 or tomato juice in your cupboard. These are great options to increase your potassium without increasing your sodium intake. Increasing your potassium is key to blood pressure control and most people do not consume enough potassium. Low sodium canned juices are great “grab and go” vegetable snacks.
Soups are an easy way to include vegetables in the diet without feeling like that’s the objective. You can easily get a nice homemade soup which is lower in sodium by making a quick recipe at home. Here’s my low sodium minestrone soup. While there is really no need to buy packaged soups, I am a big fan of Trader Joe’s low sodium tomato soup. Other vegetable based soups to consider include:
- butternut squash
- carrot and coriander
- split pea
- creamy spinach
- spiced tomato
- sweet potato
- asparagus soup
Many of these delicious vegetable soup recipes can be found here.
Vegetable sides do not need to be boring! If you don’t like plain broccoli or need to drench it in butter, consider some alternatives such as a tiny bit of shredded cheddar or Parmesan cheese added to the plain vegetable. It’s amazing how far a little sprinkle of cheese goes when added to a vegetable.
You can also cook spinach or kale in vegetable broth, and then place the drained vegetable into a greased baking casserole, sprinkle with some grated/shredded Parmesan cheese and bake about 15 minutes. Just add a touch of garlic powder or nutmeg and you have an amazing super food vegetable side dish as pictured above.
5. Eat a green salad
Stick with any dark green variety of lettuce rather than anemic iceberg. Load it up with lots of colorful vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes, red cabbage, and celery. The rainbow of colored vegetables will be a source of compounds that fight cancer and heart disease.
For inspiration on how to put together a green salad, here are a few green salad recipes to get your creative juices going.
6. Entrees always allow us to eat more vegetables
What’s not to love about a huge green salad loaded with colorful vegetables. Make it a complete meal by tossing in some lean grilled chicken, steak, or shrimp. Keep the bulk of the salad the green stuff, and you have a filling and healthy dinner. Just don’t overdo the dressing unless you need to gain weight. Another way to incorporate veggies as the entree is to consider placing on a skewer along with chicken or beef to make kebabs. The diet principles for the entree salad and kebabs is to lessen the animal protein and make the vegetables predominate, hence yielding a healthier entree.
Lastly, tuck the vegetables right in omelettes for breakfast or mix into main pasta dishes such as lasagna. My absolute favorite pasta dish that’s loaded with spinach is here. This dish can be made gluten free with Barilla gluten free pasta. And, don’t forget the staple eggplant Parmesan!
Of course smoothies deserve a place on this list. While I prefer fruit smoothies, fruit based smoothies can pack a punch of vegetables and still taste palatable and count as a vegetable serving. My trick is to pick a darker colored berry to make a smoothie and then add kale or spinach. Getting the right proportions of fruit to vegetable keeps the smoothie from being green (my preference) and it still tastes great. Here’s my berry kale recipe.
While you may not be entertaining much right now, consider vegetable based appetizers for special occasions. It’s an easy way to sneak in vegetables and no one will be the wiser. You don’t need to settle for greasy chips and dip when you can make a nice healthy spinach dip. Or, simply cut up raw vegetables as a party tray and serve with your choice of dip or hummus.
9. Desserts as a way to eat more vegetables!
Dessert? I hope I still have your attention now. My favorite suggestion here is my notoriously famous crust free pumpkin pie. No crust means less calories. I tell everyone that I used to serve this to my kids for breakfast. I now serve this frequently to myself for breakfast. Here is the recipe.
For sweet breads and muffins, consider using zucchini. Pumpkin can be added to cake batter. Creativity knows no bounds with this concept.
10. Just do it!
Eat them raw and simple, or get creative with the suggestions above. Keep frozen vegetables in your freezer as a kitchen staple. Consider adding a vegetable to breakfast and lunch, and several at dinner. Make a commitment to get this part of your diet straightened out. Being consistent is key for better long term health.
Take away on how to eat more vegetables
Eating vegetables is critical to your well being. Those vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. And, you get all that nutrition for very few calories. The nutrients in food work together-and mother nature really does do the best packaging of nutrients. There is absolutely no way you can simply pop a vitamin pill to compensate for a lack of vegetables in your diet. Long term and consistent intake of vegetables can help stave off cancer, heart disease, help your gut, boost your immunity, and keep you looking young!
Use this information at your own risk. Although I am a licensed IL dietitian/nutritionist, I am not your dietitian. The information in my blog Chew on This located at www.mydietmatters.com is for educational and informational purposes only. It is also my own opinion and subject to change in the future. Please consult with your own medical professionals for individual treatment.