You know vegetables are good for you. What could be healthier than a big bowl of leaves, flowers and stems? Sometimes I just feel like eating human food, rather than rabbit food. I’m looking at you spinach salad.
Vegetables are great for adding bulk to your meals without excessive added sugar, fat and calories. Besides their super special plant powers that help fight diseases (also known as phytonutrients), they also have fiber to help keep you feeling full and push along healthy digestion. With spring gardens and farmer’s markets popping up all over this time of year, here’s my tips for upping your veggie intake without feeling like a woodland creature.
Include vegetables in your splurge meals. By this point you’re probably aware of my Mexican food obsession. To my disappointment, tacos don’t typically meet the requirements for being considered a ‘health food’. To help manage the damage done when I crave a full blown queso-induced coma, I try to bulk up otherwise ‘bad’ meals with veggies. You can see how I double my portions in tacos using vegetables here, or how I limit processed tortillas by using vegetables here. Maybe you’re more of an alfredo person for your splurge meals- ask for double broccoli in your dish. This way you are still getting the nutritional benefits of vegetables, and you’ll fill up more quickly to hopefully not eat a huge portion of your splurge dish. When in doubt, you could always start an indulgent meal with
a bowl of grass a salad to take the edge of your hunger.
Green smoothies, just drink them. It is a totally natural reaction to be 100% repulsed by the idea of adding spinach, kale, or other greenery into your delightfully refreshing smoothie. I fought it for a long time, but here’s the thing; they make me feel like a nutritional rockstar. Start out by doing a 1/4 ratio of greens to fruit. Slowly up the greenery and decrease the fruit content in your smoothies as you get used to the taste. Green smoothies are an easy & painless way to jam in some vegetable goodness. My #1 tip is to add frozen banana- it does wonders for the texture. My favorite breakfast smoothie recipe can be found here.
Dip ’em. I love dips. Have I mentioned that yet? I’m a sucker for anything than can be dunked. A great way to work in more veggies is to incorporate them into dips. Try upping the spinach and artichoke content of your next batch of dip. Another option is to try whipping up homemade salsa or tabouleh in your blender- totally veggie based dips! Instead of dunking pretzels or pita in hummus, go for carrots or celery sticks. Remember when you used to actually get excited to dunk carrots in the ranch vegetable platters? At some point, grown ups decided that wasn’t a healthy snack because ranch dressing is calorie dense. My problem with that- most of us aren’t replacing the veggie dunking for a salad, we’re just disregarding vegetables all together. When did it become all or nothing? In my book, veggies with a little ranch is worlds better than tortilla chips and a cream-cheese-laden dip. If you make your ranch dressing with greek yogurt you can feel even better about it- nosh freely.
Suck it up and eat them at dinner. One of the biggest mistakes I made when I started cooking for myself is that I forgot to always plan a vegetable side dish. That sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? My whole life I grew up with a little pile of vegetables on my plate that I would force myself to eat first, so that I could move on and enjoy the rest of my meal. Now I can actually say I enjoy (some) vegetables, but go through phases where they just get left out of my meal plans. Frozen veggies are awesome for throwing together with the microwave in 5 minutes. I also put pretty much anything in my ‘veggie basket’ on the grill during the summertime. Just cut something nutritious up, sprinkle some spices or citrus juice on it, and go with it. It’s pretty hard to mess up- and it really makes a difference!
Pair them with pasta. I love to throw a handful of frozen peas in with my tomato sauce when it’s almost done cooking. They thaw almost instantly and add a bright pop of sweetness to the dish. I’m also known to mix in some chopped spinach or escarole with my pasta dishes. Pasta isn’t something most people would consider ‘healthy’ simply because it lacks many vitamins and minerals. By adding greenery to your pasta you can up your phytonutrient intake without feeling like a total herbivore (elementary school dinosaur unit/Jurassic Park reference)
Toppings count too. Skip the creamy condiments and heavy cheeses, top your favorite foods with veggie add-on’s. One of my favorite summertime meals is a simple grilled chicken sandwich or burger (yes, I acknowledge I have a small obsession with my grill). I try to top with lettuce, tomato, pickles [I pretend they’re still just cucumbers, fyi], or grilled peppers and onions. Not only do these add tons of flavor to my meal, but they also count as servings of vegetables!
Eating more vegetables doesn’t have to make you feel deprived or bored with your food options. It actually opens up more variety! Another fun fact, vegetables have different vitamin/mineral presence depending on if they are eaten raw or cooked. Try to mix up the way you prepare your veggies to reap the most benefits.
How do you sneak more veggies into your diet? Do you have veggie haters in your life that have forced you to get creative?