Vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy diet. Not only do they provide many of the nutrients you need, but they also help to keep you full between meals thanks to their fiber content. Below are some simple tips on how to eat more vegetables.
The problem is that most people don’t eat enough vegetables each day – or any at all! Even vegans can find it hard to eat the daily requirements of veggies (2 cups a day), sticking mostly to starches and processed food as the main part of their diet.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to increase vegetable intake without eating salads for every meal. Here are some easy tips on how to get more vegetables into your diet:
1. Baby carrots as a snack
This first one is obvious, but sometimes we need a reminder. Put away your processed snack and fall in love with these nutritious pops of raw food.
At just 40 calories for a cup, baby carrots make an excellent low-calorie snack. You can buy them already washed and ready to go, so all you have to do is open up the bag and grab a handful every time you feel hungry. After eating your baby carrots, you may want to move on to other low-calorie snacks like celery sticks (14 calories per cup) or cherry tomatoes (25 calories each).
A tip is to buy baby carrots with ranch dressing for an easy dipping snack that will also increase your vegetable intake. You can even dip your celery or cherry tomatoes in ranch if you feel so inclined. Or switch things up with your favorite healthy sauces.
2. Add veggies to pasta dishes
Pasta with red sauce is a classic dish, but it’s also very high in sugar and therefore not so great for people who are trying to lose weight or watch their blood sugar levels. Luckily, there are ways to still enjoy this favorite.
One way to lower the amount of pasta consumed is to add vegetables to your pasta dishes. Try sautéing chopped kale in a little olive oil and garlic until it’s tender (this should take about five minutes). Then mix it into red sauce pasta along with mushrooms and onions.
You can also experiment with other sauces such as pesto or alfredo. This easy addition will increase your vegetable intake while still allowing for that creamy texture and rich flavor you love. Every bite will be bursting with nutrients and added flavor!
Don’t stop at pasta. The next time you make a lentil stew or casserole dish, sneak some extra veggies in for a unique flavor and more nutrients.
3. Use veggies as pasta
How about switching out the pasta altogether? Get yourself a spiralizer or a julienne peeler to turn your vegetables into noodles. You can use carrots, zucchini, cucumber, sweet potato, butternut squash, chayotes, and pretty much any other firm vegetable you can think of!
These faux noodles are really good for you because they’re very low in calories while still being filling. They also contain lots of nutrients found in vegetables like potassium, calcium, and vitamin C.
Use the spiralizer to make long thin strands that resemble spaghetti. Saute these lightly and add sauce as desired or make a sandwich with garlic bread for a delicious and more nutrient-filled lunch. The julienne peeler can be used to make linguine-shaped strips that will be tender enough to eat raw or with a sauce or dip.
If you don’t have either of these things, you can also use your food processor to slice vegetables very thinly so they look like noodles. Either way is great for upping your vegetable intake while still enjoying your favorite pasta sauce.
4. Buy frozen veggies in bulk
Fresh vegetables are obviously the best choice since they’re full of nutrients and will be more flavorful than their frozen counterparts. Unfortunately, fresh produce can be hard to find when it’s not in season or hard to get in your region.
The good news is that you can buy tons of cheap frozen vegetables without any bad chemicals or additives. Frozen vegetables are just as healthy as fresh, if not even more so since they are picked at peak ripeness and then flash-frozen immediately to preserve their nutrients. On the other hand, fresh veggies are often picked before they have ripened fully to endure the long haul from farm to your grocery store shelves.
To save money, buy your frozen veggies in bulk at a wholesale store like Costco. Then put them all into smaller portions in Ziploc bags and stick these smaller portions into the freezer for later use.
Some good choices include peas and carrots and spinach and kale – any vegetables that can be boiled or steamed will work well as a side dish or tossed into soups and stews. So easy, so convenient, so delicious.
5. Experiment with ditching heavy sauces for healthy ones
Using creamy sauces such as ranch on salads is delicious but packs on calories quickly. Most sauces are either high in fat or high in sugar, so you have to watch out for them.
One good way to save calories without sacrificing taste is to puree your favorite veggies with salt, pepper, and olive oil to make a sauce! For example, if you boil some pumpkin and then puree it with a bit of olive oil, garlic, onion, and your favorite spices, you’ll end up with a very tasty sauce that’s worth eating on its own.
It’s even better if you mix your sauce of choice into plain vegan yogurt to make it creamy and tangy. This works especially well with cucumber and dill – the taste is classic and delicious! If you want something more adventurous, try adding kale or spinach to make new flavors come alive in your mouth.
Remember: the best way to be healthy is to make sure absolutely everything you eat tastes amazing!
6. Make vegetable broth
Vegetable broth is an excellent base for soups, as well as other recipes. It also can be used as a low-sodium substitute for chicken or beef broth in many dishes.
A single batch of homemade vegetable broth will last for about 5 days. To keep it longer, you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then transfer them to freezer bags when they’re frozen. Or you can store it in airtight containers and use it within a week or two.
Making vegetable broth is actually pretty simple, even if you don’t have any recipes handy. Simply cut up a whole bunch of root vegetables (carrots, onions, celery) and sauté them in some olive oil or butter until soft. You can add garlic, ginger, and leeks if you like as well. Don’t forget a little salt and pepper as you go. Then cover everything with water and simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain out all of those delicious veggies, and you’re left with a golden broth that will last for days.
Use it as a base for soups or stews, or use it instead of water when cooking grains such as rice or quinoa.
7. Add a veggie side dish to every meal
We all know that eating veggies is important for our overall health, but most of us are failing to consume enough. Why not always ask for a veggie side dish when you eat out? It’s also a good idea to try new recipes with lots of veggies at home—just be sure not to overwhelm yourself by over-complicating things: The best meals are simple ones, like sautéed broccoli or roasted Brussels sprouts.
If you find yourself in a rut, get inspired by cooking up some zucchini pasta or spiralized veggies. Also consider using frozen produce in place of fresh—they may not look as appealing as fresh produce straight from your garden, but they’re picked at their peak ripeness and will last longer once defrosted. Plus, frozen veggies don’t require any prep time! Just throw them in a steamer basket right out of the bag. This can save you precious minutes during busy weeknights.
8. Go for colorful veggies
This is a good way to make sure you’re getting lots of different vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. However, many people think green vegetables are best for our bodies, colorful veggies are rich in vital nutrients, like beta-carotene and vitamin C. Try adding tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, beets, and peppers—they’re all colorful and very healthy– every color has its own unique benefits, so there’s no need to completely eliminate any food group.
Just make sure you eat a variety of colors throughout each day. You should also be eating different kinds of veggies on a regular basis as well. If you typically buy cauliflower and cabbage in bulk, try switching it up with some kale and Swiss chard instead. You may even want to try something new like daikon radish or zucchini squash.
9. Add veggies to casseroles
Include a cup of raw or steamed veggies, like broccoli or carrots, in casseroles and other baked dishes. The mix-ins will help keep portion sizes under control while adding fiber and nutrients.
Cauliflower and peas are other great choices if you want to add volume and nutrient density without impacting flavor. If you are making a casserole, simply add chopped veggies when you toss in your ingredients. When baking casseroles, add them along with sauces and other ingredients for best results. Just remember that they’ll shrink during cooking so be sure to account for that in your measurements.
10. Blend into smoothies
One of my favorite tricks is adding a few big handfuls of spinach or kale to a green smoothie. That way, I still get all of my fruit servings, but my greens sneak in there too! Plus, it makes me feel extra healthy. If you’re not a fan of leafy greens, frozen broccoli, and cauliflower florets also blend up really well. Just make sure to add some water or liquid-like plant-based milk if you want them to blend up smoothly.
11. Drink veggie juice throughout the day
The easiest way to get your vegetable intake is to drink veggie juice throughout your day. Vegetable juice doesn’t have a high-calorie count, so you can enjoy a large glass at breakfast or lunch and not worry about adding lots of calories to your diet.
If you don’t like drinking straight vegetables, try juicing them with other fruits to make them more palatable. For example, try juicing celery with apples or carrots with oranges.
Besides making your vegetable juices at home, you can grab a bottle at most grocery stores. But be sure to choose 100% fruit juice (no sugar added); otherwise, you may be taking in extra sugar without realizing it. In addition, fruit juices contain fructose—another type of sugar that can add up quickly if you’re not careful. So always limit the number of fruits you include in your vegetable juice.
12. Eat them raw with dips
Most of us don’t get enough servings of fruits and vegetables every day, and we may not even be aware of it. Aiming for at least five servings of each per day is recommended. The best way to reach that goal is to eat them raw with dips and dressings.
This makes them taste better, speeds up digestion, and encourages better absorption. Although raw veggies are always a good choice, they’re especially beneficial if you’re looking to shed pounds. They tend to have fewer calories than cooked varieties, so you can fill up on more volume without eating too many calories.
Add avocado or hummus as a dip for raw carrots or celery sticks; use salsa or guacamole as a dip for sliced peppers, and try tomato sauce as a dip for broccoli florets.
Vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting antioxidants that are essential to health and well-being, but many of us don’t get enough. If you’re not getting the recommended 2 cups per day, use the strategies above to help you eat more vegetables without even thinking about it!
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