8 Ways to Up Your Veggie Intake
For optimum health, we need nature’s most nutritionally dense foods. The vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients found in vegetables are critical for metabolic efficiency, mental well-being and overall health. That said, vegetables can be the hardest part of healthy eating to integrate. We might not have experience with the variety of produce available to us or recipes to maximize their flavor. Expanding your palate can be an adventure, but it does take some commitment. The added effort will be worth it, however, when you realize you’ve made your Healthy Way of Eating (and weight loss) journey that much easier and more enjoyable. Check out these ten tips for meeting your healthy half-plate goal.
Substitute them for grain staples.
Vegetables are generally a more nutrient dense choice than grains. Instead of traditional rice, make cauliflower “rice” or celeriac “couscous.” For noodles, think strips of bell peppers, spaghetti squash, zucchini or broccoli slaw “noodles.” Likewise, you know it’s best to skip the buns, bread and tortillas. However, there’s no reason to forgo the convenience of a “sandwich” - particularly when it allows you to fit in another veggie. Wrap those yummy grass-fed burgers, sliced meats with avocado, seared fish, fajita fixings or homemade chicken salad in Bibb lettuce. Cabbage leaves taste great wrapped around nitrate-free brats.
Expand your cultural cooking.
Let’s just say some fun field trips could be involved here. Choose some cultural cuisines that you enjoy or would be willing to try. (The more, the better obviously.) Go sample the menus in local restaurants to see how they use vegetables in dishes. If your area doesn’t have a plethora of choices, check out culturally focused cooking shows or cookbooks to get ideas for combining vegetables with different ethnic seasonings and preparations.
Open up the oven.
For many of us, “hot vegetable” conjures memories of mushy school lunches. We can all thankfully overturn those associations with a little kitchen creativity. One favorite: turn root veggies (minus the starchy potatoes) into chips or fries, but open up the possibilities further with roasted sides like carrots, turnips, beets, rutabaga, celeriac, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, radishes, fennel, leeks and artichokes. A little healthy, heat-stable oil, sea salt and rosemary can make for a deliciously caramelized side or main dish.
Savor vegetable filled soups and stews.
Not only can you incorporate a wide variety of vegetables in soups and stews, but they’re easy to make in big batches, which means no fussing over lunches that week! Think of the classics like traditional vegetable soup or minestrone (minus the pasta), tomato and pepper rich chili recipes, ratatouille, and beef or chicken stews. Beyond the well-known basics, however, consider cream of vegetables soups (with pastured dairy or coconut cream/milk) or blended soups with root vegetables and leeks. Season with fresh herbs and sea salt. For blended soups, use roasted vegetables for extra flavor.
Re-envision your salads.
Sure, you can experiment with different greens, raw veggies, protein additions and dressings, but try some “warm” salads that pair raw or wilted greens with warm veggies and dressings. Cool spring mix and roasted tomatoes with a warm bacon vinaigrette can feel much more satisfying - especially on a cold day. Likewise, shredded or ground pork added to sliced and lightly sauteed cabbage, carrots, water chestnuts, and scallions can be a heartier meal than you’d ever imagine from a salad.
Pack some crunchies.
Yes, enjoy the usual crudite classics like carrots, celery, grape tomatoes, cucumbers and radishes, but try less common choices like snap peas or pickled vegetables.
Use vegetables as layers of flavor.
Too often we think of vegetables as needing added flavor when they can be rich enough in taste (particularly in combinations) to flavor meats, eggs and other vegetables. Salsa with eggs is an excellent breakfast choice. Likewise, you can pair pesto with a salad of mixed greens, peas and shallots as well as a steak or roasted chicken. Don’t forget the endless versions of peppers and onions as well. Read up on all the varieties available in your local stores and markets, and choose a night to try something new each week.
Incorporate a quality greens powder.
While whole foods are best, strategic supplementation can give us all a needed nutrient boost. Try a scoop of Dynamic Greens in a daily protein shake. It’s a great (and easy) way to work in extra vegetable intake each day.
Written by Jennifer Wannen Zotalis, Content Manager