Everyone with a passion for healthy living knows that veggies are some of the best things we can put in our bodies, as they are rich in fiber and essential nutrients. People who incorporate lots of fruits and veggies into their everyday diet have a reduced risk of chronic diseases, notably reducing their risk for stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers, according to the USDA. Veggies in particular are naturally low in fat and calories, and none have cholesterol, which is great for folks watching their waistlines. Sadly, however, most of us eat far too few veggies daily.
As we eagerly await spring, I think a fantastic goal for the health-conscious is to incorporate more veggies into our diets. Helping us toward this goal is the fact that farmer’s and gardener’s markets are opening back up, providing us with row upon row of fresh and organically-grown spring veggies like carrots, artichokes, asparagus, greens, snap peas, lettuces and radishes. While we’re at it, we can pick up grass-fed beef, free-range eggs and other goodies from local vendors.
Steps to Eating More Veggies
Eating more veggies doesn’t happen on its own. It requires some advance planning. Here’s some ways I’ve managed to up my veggie intake this year.
1.) Always have vegetables on hand around the house.
For those who don’t hit the grocery store or farmer’s market every week, you may need to get in the habit of making short veggie runs so you always have fresh produce on hand. As an alternative, keep plenty of frozen veggies in your freezer. To eat more veggies, they need to be an option around your house.
2.) Start planning meals in advance.
By doing this, you can plan a vegetable companion to every meal you make. Doing this not only keeps your fresh veggies from going bad, but it helps you plan a variety of vegetables so you don’t get bored eating the same ones again and again. Bonus: when your meals are planned in advance for the week, it keeps you from being tempted to go out to eat, saving you money in the long run.
3.) Add a salad to every dinner.
Salads are the easiest thing to whip up and you can use spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, arugula, sunflower seeds, sprouts and host of other toppings to dress it up. Boiled egg, nuts and grilled chicken add heft and help you turn an appetizer salad into a full meal. I went to a salad buffet last month at a restaurant and gleaned some great ideas for types of salads I could make at home. Bonus: if you eat a salad before dinner, you’ll get fuller faster, helping you consume less calories overall.
4.) Try going vegetarian for a week or two.
For the first two weeks in January, I wanted to start the year off right, so I committed to a diet that consisted entirely of fruits, veggies, beans, nuts and brown rice. I completely excluded meat, bread and wheat products from my diet, subbing in sweet potato and corn pastas (thank goodness for the gluten-free aisle, which I never had a need to appreciate before). I also avoided processed foods. The diet forced me to get creative in the foods that I ate, going beyond the occasional canned veggie sides of green beans and corn that I used to have with dinner. Now that I’ve brought meat and bread back into my diet, I still find that I’m eating more veggies than ever before out of habit.
5.) Hunt for veggie recipes online.
Google is your friend. Veggies like artichokes and turnips can be tricky to work with and turn out bland if you’ve never cooked with them before, so go online and look up recipes and watch videos of how to prepare veggies you’re not accustomed to.
6.) Try anything once.
Just because you hated something as a kid, doesn’t mean you’ll still hate it today. Try new veggies at least once and see how a different method of cooking can make you love the Brussels sprouts or cabbage you once despised.