Did you know medical professionals recommend that adults consume two to three cups of vegetables each day? Unfortunately, with our busy days and haphazard eating habits, about 87% of us are falling short of this goal.
Vegetables are an essential part of a healthy diet as they are a key source of nutrients, fiber and antioxidants. Studies even suggest that eating a vegetable-packed diet can help reduce chances of certain diseases, so it makes sense to up your intake. If your vegetable consumption needs a boost, here are some easy (and sneaky) ways to add more to your diet.
You’ve probably seen folks on the Paleo diet skipping the bun on their hamburger. It makes perfect sense: swapping bread products for veggies is a simple way to reduce calories while still enjoying your favorite foods. But a side benefit is that you are boosting the number of vegetables in your diet. If you want to try it, wedge burgers between portobello mushrooms, use big pieces of butter lettuce to hold fajita or taco fillings or whip up these lettuce wraps.
Vegetables are great side dishes, but what about including them on top too? A fruit or vegetable-based sauce, coulis or salsa is a great way to accent the flavors of your dish. For example, whip up a chili, cilantro & lime marinade for chicken, consider an apple sauce or chutney for pork or consider a tomato-based sauce for red meat. When it comes to fish (we like white fish like Tilapia), fruit-based salsas made with mango, papaya or even strawberry are refreshing choices, and you can also sneak in tomatoes, onions and cilantro.
Consider Your Carbs
Pasta is a weekday favorite because it’s quick and easy to prepare. But have you considered swapping your noodles for vegetables? An inexpensive spiralizer tool can be used to quickly turn fresh zucchini into healthy spirals that are excellent sautéed or served with a white sauce.
Another idea is to substitute spaghetti squash for pasta. One cup of cooked spaghetti squash contains just 40 calories and 10 grams carbohydrate, as compared to about 200 calories and 40 grams carbohydrate in one cup of cooked spaghetti noodles. To prepare, simply cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and bake in a casserole dish filled with water. Once the squash is cooked, scoop out the insides with a fork. The spaghetti-like strands are amazing with your favorite sauce. Or if pizza is your meal of choice, consider cutting the carbs by making a crust from cauliflower. These unexpected swaps will help boost your veggie consumption and reinvigorate your meals all at the same time.
Disguised in Dessert
If you really want to disguise your vegetables, try incorporating them into dishes where people will least expect them. If dessert is on your mind, consider something a little different, like chocolate avocado cookies. Beets and zucchini can also be mixed into chocolate-based dishes like pudding or even cake to add extra nutritional punch with no discernible taste difference.
A crisp or crumble featuring rhubarb and other fresh fruit is another way to get your recommended servings in. You’ll satisfy your craving for something sweet while also getting the benefits of the flavonoid-rich rhizome.
The bottom line? Getting the right amount of vegetables in your diet can be both fun and delicious if you get creative. These are just a few ideas to help get you started.
Craving more info about nutrition? Check out this article about the food pyramid.
Photos: Olga Lyubkin / Shutterstock Inc., Greek Food Ta Mystika / Pexels