Most of us know we need to be ingesting more vegetables, but the most recent research shows that most American adults still fall short in meeting the recommended 2 1/2 to 3 cups per day (roughly 4 to 6 servings). In fact, only 10 % of people meet the recommended daily amount.
That means a whole lot of people are missing out on the multitude health benefits connected with eating more plant-based meals, including decreased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer.
So exactly what makes up a serving?
- 1/2 cup raw or cooked vegetables (zucchini, peas, carrots, etc.)
- 1 cup raw green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, rainbow chard, etc.)
When you go to fix your plate, make sure that half your plate is filled with veggies. This strategy will leave less room for starchy, calorie-dense sides (rice and pasta, I’m talking to you!) and help ensure that you fill up on nutrient-rich, low-calorie vegetables. If you can do that, then you are on your way to eating more veggies.
Prepare Vegetables Ahead of Time
Preparing food in advance lets you quickly add vegetables to dishes throughout the week. Add them to salads, side dishes, or even an omelet at breakfast.
My favorite ways to meal prep vegetables in the summer is by throwing them on the grill (no cleanup!). If you have a lot of produce about to go bad, roast it up! Toss it with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Try making a wrap with a large, sturdy collard green leaf. Skip the burger bun and instead try two portobello mushroom caps or even two thinly sliced sweet potato rounds baked for 20 minutes until crispy. Butter lettuce and romaine lettuce leaves both make great cups for serving tuna, chicken or egg salads.
Use fresh herbs, lemon, spices and sea salt
These will elevate the flavors of otherwise bland vegetables like cauliflower, green beans, and summer squash without adding extra calories. Sprinkle veggies with nutritional yeast to give a boost of flavor and B vitamins, which are essential for nutrient metabolism.
Keep sliced cucumbers, bell peppers and carrot sticks on hand
Indulge in some hummus or yogurt dip when a snack invasion hits. You can also connect with your inner child and spread nut butter on a few celery sticks and top with dried fruit.
Vegetable Soup or a Salad
You’ll get in a serving or two of veggies before you have a chance to fill up on the main dish. Make your own soup with the kinds of veggies you like the best.
Substitute Rice and Pasta
Non-starchy vegetables like grated cauliflower, spiraled zucchini noodles, or spaghetti squash are great stand-ins for rice and pasta. While the flavor won’t be identical, you’ll spare a ton of calories and benefit from the nutrients and fiber in the vegetables.
Visit your local farmers market and ask the farmer for suggestions on how to prepare the produce he/she is selling that week. It’s actually how I discovered my love for kale.