Lauryn Axelrod, HealthSPORT Nutrition Coach
Start the New Year off right by adding more veggies into your diet. The Golden Rule of a healthy diet is that half your plate or bowl at each meal should be fruits or veggies. But many of us struggle to find ways to get enough veggies in our diets. Here are a few tips for making sure you get enough veggies at each meal.
1. Stock up. You can’t eat veggies if you don’t have them on hand. Fill your fridge with fresh produce and you will always have something to eat. Make sure to have plenty of greens, carrots, cucumbers, onions and other staple veggies. But don’t limit yourself to the veggies you already know. Each week, try a new one. Consider it a culinary adventure.
2. Serve raw vegetables at every meal. Nearly everyone likes carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, string beans, apple slices, berries, cherry tomatoes, and/or green pepper strips. They’re healthy, they have a satisfying crunch, and they can substantially cut your consumption of the more calorie-dense main course. So make it a practice: A plate of raw vegetables (or fresh fruits) in the center of the table, no matter what the meal is.
3. Take advantage of prepared veggies. I usually don’t espouse prepared foods. But when it comes to prepared organic veggies — bagged salads, prewashed spinach, peeled and diced butternut squash, washed and chopped kale — I’m all for it. Make your life easier and make it easier to add veggies by using organic fresh or frozen bagged veggies.
4. Sneak vegetables into breakfast and lunch. One reason we don’t get enough vegetables is that many of us consider them merely a side dish to dinner. If you really want to increase your vegetable consumption, you have no choice but to eat them at other meals. How?
- Make salad a part of your everyday lunch.
- Make egg scrambles a regular breakfast, using a scrambled egg to hold together sautéed vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus, or onions.
- Eat leftover veggies from last night’s dinner with breakfast or lunch.
5. Start each dinner with a mixed green salad before you serve the main course. Not only will it help you eat more veggies, but by filling your stomach first with a nutrient-rich, low-calorie salad, there’ll be just a bit less room for the items that follow.
6. Once a week, have an entrée salad. Cobb salad, chef salad or a salade niçoise are good examples of salads that mix protein with your veggies. Just take mixed greens, steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, sliced hard-boiled egg, and tuna or salmon or leftover chicken or beef, top with a simple vinaigrette and some nuts and seeds, and voila! You have a healthy, filling meal.
7. Puree into soup. Potatoes, carrots, winter squash, cauliflower, and broccoli — just about any cooked (or leftover) vegetable can be made into a creamy, comforting soup. Here’s a simple recipe: In a medium saucepan, sauté 1 cup finely chopped onion in 1 tablespoon coconut oil or butter until tender. Combine the onion in a blender or food processor with cooked vegetables and puree until smooth. Return puree to saucepan and thin with broth. Simmer and season to taste.
8. Juice it. Don’t feel like eating your veggies? Make them into a delicious, healthful juice or smoothie. A few handfuls of greens like kale or spinach, cucumber, celery, lemon, apple and ginger make a delicious, alkalizing and energizing juice.
9. Build a sandwich that has more lettuce and tomato than meat. Stack the meat filler in the sandwich to no higher than the thickness of a standard slice of bread. Then pile on slices of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, cabbage or other veggies to the combined height of both slices of bread. If making a wrap, use one slice of meat and fill the tortilla with veggies.
10. Go vegetarian one day a week. They call it Meatless Mondays, now. But you can do it anytime. Merely substitute the meat serving with a vegetable serving (suggestion: make it a crunchy, strong-flavored vegetable like broccoli). Or you can experiment with vegetarian cooking to make a filling, robust meal out of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
11. Use salsa liberally. First, make sure you have a large batch filled with vegetables. One good approach: Add chopped yellow squash and zucchini to store-bought salsa. Then put salsa on everything: baked potatoes, rice, chicken breasts, sandwiches, eggs, steak, even bread. Salsa shouldn’t be just for chips. It’s too tasty and healthy not to be used all the time.
12. Use vegetables as sauces. How about pureed roasted red peppers seasoned with herbs and a bit of lemon juice, then drizzled over fish? Or puree butternut or acorn squash with carrots and grated ginger for a ingenuity and a blender.
13. Add a new veggie. Every week, try one new or exotic vegetable. Maybe it’s a seasonal veggie you’ve never eaten, or a new way to prepare an old favorite. Experiment! You might discover a new favorite veggie!