It’s safe to say we all heard our parents say, “eat your vegetables,” when we were growing up.
But, let’s be honest, even as adults most of us still have a hard time getting in several servings of vegetables every day. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion actually recommends 2 ½ to 3 cups per day for women and men, respectively. Getting in your daily dose has many health benefits, including preventing cancer, heart disease, and stroke, lowering cholesterol, and aiding in weight management.
It’s time to stop treating vegetables like an afterthought. You don’t have to be a vegan or vegetarian to have a diet rich in plants! In fact, the USDA recommends making half of your plate fruits and vegetables (with a larger portion of vegetables than fruit). So we know what we are supposed to do, now let’s dive into some tips that will have you (and your family) embracing the veggie love!
Yes, you read that correctly. Next time you are blending up a delicious About Time protein shake, throw in a handful of leafy greens. Personally, I find spinach and kale taste mild enough that I barely notice it’s there (except for the color change). If adding fruit, an apple or pear will make a delicious green drink, but if using berries, it will be brownish. Either way, it tasty, so drink up!
You can either bulk up a serving of pasta or use vegetables in lieu of pasta. My favorite alternatives are spaghetti squash and using a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles or “zoodles”. The best part is that you get to enjoy a large bowl of “pasta”, and feel good about it!
For the mash, use a food processor to blend fully cooked cauliflower florets and a small amount of broth until smooth. It can be used in place of mashed potatoes, or added to them to hide an extra veggie serving.
The “rice” can be eaten both raw or sautéed. Using a food processor, pulse raw cauliflower florets until the size of rice grains. This can be used to make risotto, pilaf, or my all-time favorite is an easy cauliflower fried “rice” (see recipe below). If using it as a cooked side, make sure not to over cook as it will get soft and mushy.
Hummus, guacamole, and yogurt-based dressings all serve as great dips for vegetables. Try to stick to just a few tablespoons because the calories can add up quickly.
Don’t like dips? Spread a little natural peanut butter or almond butter on some celery or carrots. You can either slice up your own vegetables, or many grocery stores offer a variety of pre-cut options. Plain vegetables are another great option! I love to snack on sliced cucumber rounds sprinkled with creole seasoning or dill.
Many cities offer several options to participate in produce shares or farm co-ops. With the produce share that I am a part of, I pick up a box of vegetables every two weeks from a host-home a couple miles away. There are a few companies that also offer delivery to your door. A quick internet search for “produce share in your town” or “produce share delivery” should let you know the options available to you. These a great way to increase your vegetable intake because if they’re there, you are more likely to eat them. It also encourages me to include a greater variety of vegetables into my diet, because I have a tendency to grab the same few every time I go to the store. The offerings revolve around what’s in season, and you will often get vegetables in your share that aren’t available at your grocer. An added bonus: you are supporting local farmers!
Department of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Dietary Guidelines: http://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2010/
USDA My Plate: http://www.choosemyplate.gov