Seriously, I really love the things, and there's a whole pile of research out there confirming their many healthy attributes.
Still, I know that many folks struggle to get themselves and their families to eat enough vegetables, so I figured I'd post some of my tried and true methods for upping your veggie intake.
1) Acquire More Veggies
OK... this first suggestion may be in the "Thank You Captain Obvious" category, but I really can't overstate its importance if you want to significantly up your veggie intake - if you don't have them around as a matter of course, you're never gonna end up eating more of them.
Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to get your hands on them without breaking the bank. The first and most obvious is to grow them yourself. Even if you don't have space for a large garden, you'd be amazed at the amount of food you can produce on a terrace or window sill.
If gardening isn't your thing, there are still plenty of good options. You can sign up as a member of a CSA farm, or box distribution which will send a plethora of fresh produce to your doorstep every week. Or check out the local farmer's markets or vegetable stands.
But even if you're stuck with traditional options like the grocery store - make the produce aisle your first stop and load up on whatever's on sale this week, building your meals around the veggies rather than vice versa.
And don't forget the frozen aisle. Frozen veggies are a nutritious and convenient option, and you can usually get them for under a dollar per pound if you go that route, and they're so easy to keep on hand that way.
2) Don't Relegate Veggies to Diet Food Status
This is one of my pet peeves where vegetables are concerned. For some reason veggies seem to have taken the brunt of the "fat is evil" argument, and an astonishing number of people persist in the belief that the only "proper" ways to eat them is raw or steamed. Bollocks, I say!!!
Here's the thing, while it is true that ounce per ounce veggies tend to have fewer calories than their counterparts in other food groups, their nutritional benefits extend WAY beyond their caloric content (or lack thereof.) Veggies are literally packed with vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients which make them a nutritional dream no matter how they are prepared.
So let yourself live a little and try roasting them, broiling them, baking them, sauteing them in olive oil or butter and even frying them on occasion! Add a few spices, or some cheese and experiment with different sauces. You'll be amazed by the difference in taste between savory veggies roasted in olive oil with garlic, rosemary & balsamic vs. the mushy old flavorless steamed variety!
3) Think Beyond Side Dishes
I'm sure this is different in different parts of the world, but in "American Cuisine" all too often we seem to be stuck in the rut of having meat or some alternative protein as a main course, with a side of something starchy and a side of vegetables. Now, there's nothing wrong with this approach now and then, but if you eat this way on a daily basis, you're really limiting yourself as far as vegetables are concerned.
In general, I try to look at vegetables as ingredients to be used as part of a larger dish. So many of my meals are casseroles, soups, or skillet dishes where vegetables figure prominently as part of the "main dish."
This approach also works well with sandwiches, wraps or pizza - all of which I pile high with bountiful slices of colorful veggies.
If a hefty dose of vegetables are included in the main portion of the meal, you'll end up eating a fair number of servings without even realizing it.
4) Veggies as Staples
This sort of goes along with the previous point, but I find that a really good way to up my veggie intake is to substitute vegetables for portions of the meal that are often taken up with more starchy foods like rice, potatoes or pasta.
Sauteed shredded cabbage or bean sprouts make an excellent replacement for rice in many Asian dishes. Steamed cauliflower or zucchini strips can substitute nicely for pasta - trust me, cauliflower Alfredo is to die for!
|"Zoodles" in place of pasta|
And you don't have to go all out with these replacements - try just subbing out half of the starch for a veggie and see what you think.
5) Veggies at Every Meal
My final suggestion is to consider incorporating vegetables into every meal of the day rather than just leaving them as something to be eaten at dinner time.
While soup or salad is often considered traditional lunch fare, if you're brown bagging it and relying on "finger food" for your mid-day meal, it's all too easy to shortchange the veggies.
Here are a few of my tried and true techniques for avoiding that pitfall.
Lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, cucumber slices and sprouts all add wonderful crunch and flavor to sandwiches, but they can become soggy after sitting in a lunch bag for several hours. A simple way to combat this is to pack them separately and add them to your sandwich just before eating. And if dealing with a fork and salad is too much to handle, try packing some raw veggie strips with a little jar of your favorite dip.
And don't forget soup! If you've got access to a microwave for lunch, soup is a wonderful option that's an easy way to pack in the veggies, even if you have to resort to something canned. Back when I still had a "real job" I always kept an emergency stash of canned soup in my desk for those days when things were just too crazy to deal with making lunch.
But the meal we seem to have the most difficulty with in terms of veggies is breakfast. This is the meal when I'm most likely to skip the veggies. But, there are some techniques that work well even for breakfast.
If you like a savory breakfast with eggs, your options are practically limitless. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives and tomatoes go wonderfully in omelettes or scrambled eggs, and there's nothing better than eggs with cooked spinach & cream sauce!
But I also enjoy things like fried rice (made heavy on the veggies) or egg foo young for breakfast. Literally, any sauteed vegetables with a few eggs on the side make a great breakfast!
Just about the only breakfast food that's hard to "veggie up" is cereal. But in that case I generally opt for a nice dose of fruit as a substitute.
OK... there you have it. Those are my best strategies for getting more veggies into your diet.
So tell me, are you actively trying to eat more vegetables? I'd love to hear what has or hasn't worked for you!