How to Start Eating More Vegetables and Enjoy Them
Do you eat two to three cups of vegetables a day?
If so, congratulations! You’re part of the 10% of Americans meeting the daily vegetable requirement set by the U.S. Dietary Guidelines.
If you’re in the other 90%, you might be looking for ways to eat more veggies.
There are loads of good reasons to eat more vegetables. Among them, a large 2017 epidemiological meta-analysis of 95 studies from around the world determined that the more fruits and vegetables we eat (up to 10 servings a day in the study), the lower our risk is of a number of the most serious health issues, as well as premature death.
Regardless of why so many of us have trouble eating these remarkable plant foods that contain the nutrients our bodies need to live long and healthy, the challenge is the same: How do we start eating more vegetables?
Here are some ideas.
Go slow and easy at first. Pick out a few vegetables you like (or at least don’t hate) from the market. Don’t go overboard.
Begin by adding some vegetables into several of your meals during the week. That’s all. Keep doing this.
The time it takes to prepare vegetables can be an obstacle. It’s wise to remove that obstacle by following these tips:
- Get a prewashed bag of greens, or on the weekend, wash, dry, and store your lettuce for easy use.
- Chop up some veggies on a Sunday to have available during the week.
- Load up your freezer with frozen vegetables you enjoy.
Think about how you can make vegetables more appealing and desirable.
- Shop at a farmer’s market or store that’s known to carry excellent produce. High quality vegetables have more nutrients and often taste better!
- To make a salad you’ll want to eat, you might need to buy your favorite dressing, or, to make your own dressing, include items for texture and flavor like avocado, feta, or hemp seeds.
- You might need to pair vegetable snacks with something really delicious like nuts, a slice of cheese, or fresh hummus. Make it something you look forward to.
- Flavor sautéed or steamed veggies like green beans with little olive oil, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and lemon. Find flavors you like.
Start looking, asking, and listening for vegetable ideas and recipes. Ask people you know what vegetables they enjoy and how they prepare them.
Try to enjoy this new change.
Best Vegetables to Eat Daily
Not all vegetables are created equal. Colorful vegetables are loaded with nutrients and polyphenols, which are anti-inflammatory and health protective. The fiber, vitamins, important minerals, and phytochemicals in these colorful veggies support heart health, digestive health, immune health, brain health, healthy weight, and more.
Make sure you include these types of vegetables as often as possible:
- Deep purple vegetables such as red cabbage, beets, purple cauliflower, and eggplants. They’re loaded with anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant.
- Green veggies, such as spinach and Swiss chard, are among the healthiest foods you can eat on the planet. Cruciferous greens like broccoli and kale are too.
- Orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, and squash are loaded with nutrients and beta-carotene – which converts to vitamin A in the body and supports eye health.
- Red vegetables like tomatoes have lycopene, which is heart healthy and immune protective.
- White vegetables – such as onions, leeks, shallots, and garlic – contain the heart healthy phytochemical allicin. They’re great for immune health too.
After adding some veggies to your meals for a week or two, turn up your “veg-centricty” with the following preparation tips.
3 Tips for How to Start Eating More Vegetables!
- Veggie Noodles and Rice
If you own or choose to invest in a food processor and/or spiralizer, you can swap out high carb foods such as pasta and rice with vegetables.
Just insert any type of vegetable into the spiralizer, and it will cut them into noodle-like shapes. Use them as you would pasta.
Also, you can “rice” vegetables in a food processor with either the grating blade or the cutting/chopping knife blade. Cauliflower rice is very popular and delicious.
- Bake, Roast, and Air Fry
Try out different methods for cooking (baking, roasting, and air frying) your vegetables to determine what you like best or simply to add variety.
- Consider retooling your favorite baked dishes. Cauliflower or broccoli make delicious additions to mac and cheese. Swap the pasta in your lasagna for thin long strips of zucchini (which you can cut with a vegetable peeler).
- Try a baked vegetable dish. Drizzle a glass casserole dish or pan with olive oil. Chop up some veggies like onions, zucchini, carrots, celery, and bell pepper and add a little tomato paste. Season to taste. Bake for an hour and voila!
- Try “smashing” your vegetables on a baking sheet, add olive oil and seasonings and bake until crispy (check online for recipes).
- Bake extra of any of these dishes and keep the leftovers for meals during the week.
You can also experiment with roasting vegetables. Roasting vegetables differs slightly from baking in that the vegetables are more exposed and baked at higher temps so that they get a little crispiness to them. Try any root vegetable – chop them up and brush them with some olive oil and seasoning and roast them according to your favorite recipe.
Air frying is a wonderful invention. You get similar results as frying, but without the negative health effects of traditional frying. The hot air creates a frying effect, and it uses only a small amount of oil (1-2 teaspoons of olive oil). Try it with carrots or zucchini!
- Soup It Up
Soup provides a great way to combine many types of nutrient-packed vegetables.
- If you’re short on time, you can doctor up a canned soup, such as lentil soup, by adding some spinach and chopped carrots – or toss in some of your favorite frozen veggies.
- If you have the time and inclination, there’s a world of soups to make – and a gazillion recipes available online. Broccoli, butternut squash, zucchini, and asparagus all make for delicious pureed soups. They’re hearty and delicious, especially this time of year.
- Try out a vegetable soup with beans. You’ll get a protein and fiber punch from the beans, which can help provide satiety. Leeks, onion, and garlic make wonderful nutrient and flavor additions too.
Keep It Going
If you get away from your vegetable eating, simply get back to it as soon as you can. It’s not a diet, but a new habit to keep practicing, much like learning a new skill or sport.
Imagine actually desiring vegetables because you crave them and they make you feel good.
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