It’s not terribly surprising that upping your vegetable intake will boost your immune system and improve your odds against cancer and heart disease. You might be surprised to find that eating more veggies also plays a role in reducing depression and even Alzheimer’s disease. Vegetables contain no preservatives or additives, and they’re chockfull of vitamins, antioxidants, and healthy fiber to keep you full longer.
The benefits that come from working a range of vegetables into your diets is long, sometimes surprising (stronger bones! more focus at work!), and definitely worth making some changes for.
If you’re already getting a strong five-a-day, kudos! (And why not keep going? There’s evidence that 10 fruits and vegetables a day may bring exponentially greater benefits.) If, on the other hand, bringing vegetables into your family’s diet has been a struggle, help is here. Adding veggies isn’t just about putting a salad on the table at dinner time. You can beef up the nutritional content of any meal—ironic pun totally intended.
Start strong with veggies at breakfast
Sure, you have your routine—and limited time in the morning. A banana and a bagel get you by. It’s worth a little night-before preparation or a few morning minutes in the kitchen to do better:
- Saute or steam whatever veg is on hand and bake up a frittata.
- Lose the sugar and opt for savory oatmeal.
- Add sweet potatoes to your pancakes.
- Cook finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli (or both) into scrambled eggs.
- Bake your veggies into muffins.
Be ready with veg snacks
Well, yes, of course you can slice up some veggies to eat with hummus (and be our guest), but that’s certainly not the entirety of snacking on vegetables.
- Put ’em in popsicles.
- Make sandwiches—with cucumber “bread.”
- Spear veg and pasta onto skewers.
- Pack veggies into pizza rolls.
- Puree sweet vegetables into applesauce.
Go veg-crazy at lunch and dinner
Soups, casseroles, pizza—bringing more vegetables to the table just requires a shift in how you think about food. Choose the meals that let you pack in the vegetables, and clear out the crisper.
- Stack up your pizza with peppers, spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and so on. Pro-level veg-eaters do it all on a cauliflower crust.
- Replace pasta with carrot or zucchini noodles.
- Use greens instead of tortillas for wraps (and then fill them full of vegetables).
- Add minced vegetables to the meat in your burgers.
If salads are your bag, you’re ahead of the game. Adding a salad to your meal is A+ easy, and it’s a surefire way to bring in as many vegetables as you have on hand.
Think differently about meals
All of these suggestions are just a start. Once you get going, you’ll find a gazillion ways to keep your vegetable intake high. You’ll get in the habit of grabbing greens and peppers and whatever else works for your family at the grocery and then working those choices into old favorites—or finding new dishes to concoct colorful, nutrient-packed plates.
Don’t forget: You can even veg up your desserts.