Love them or hate them, vegetables are arguably the most beneficial food group on the planet. If you dismiss vegetables, you’re missing out on all kinds of health benefits, including fiber, antioxidants and disease-fighting vitamins and minerals.
Here, Amy Clark, a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Ames, Iowa, provides some tips on upping your intake of veggies.
Why should I get more veggies in my diet?
Vegetables are naturally lower in calories and fat, so they help with weight management. For example, if you snack on carrots instead of chips, you’ll save 445 calories and 30 grams of fat. Additionally, filling your plate half full of vegetables (and fruit) can reduce your risk of certain types of cancers and chronic diseases that can lead to more issues like a heart attack or stroke.
How many vegetables should I be eating each day?
Most adults need 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables per day. This can vary based on gender, age and your level of physical activity. “I recommend filling your plate half-full of vegetables at lunch and dinner to make sure you’re getting enough each day,” says Clark.
What are some easy ways to get more veggies in my diet?
Customers often tell Clark that time is the number one barrier when it comes to preparing vegetables. "My advice is to take some time each week to prepare your veggies.” Make it easier on yourself to grab and go on with your day, says Clark.
For lunch and snacks
Slice bell peppers into strips and place them in snack-size bags. Keep carrot chips and snap peas on hand for snacking. Try hummus in individual size servings for dipping. When making sandwiches, don’t forget to add spinach, sliced cucumber or peppers. Or, when you’re out and about, take along low-sodium vegetable juice.
If you have fresh vegetables that are at the end of their shelf life, make a stir-fry with lean meat to use them up. Also, keep an inventory of frozen vegetables and no-salt-added canned vegetables on hand. They are just as nutritious as the fresh version. If you need more ideas, check out these veggie-packed recipes for chipotle chicken asparagus fajitas and meatless spaghetti squash lasagna.
How do I get my kids to eat more veggies?
Kids tend to love smoothies. Gradually add spinach or kale to their smoothies — give this green machine smoothie recipe a try. The natural sugars from fruit help to disguise the vegetables, while providing an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Another simple strategy is to chop up broccoli, cauliflower or carrots into small pieces and add them to spaghetti sauce or lasagna.
“One of my favorite ways to get my kids to eat more vegetables is using spaghetti squash as a replacement for pasta noodles. Your kids will likely not notice the difference,” says Clark.
If you have a picky eater, offer vegetables in a calm and non-forceful environment. Research shows young children must be offered a food eight to 10 times before they will try it.
Have you tried this helpful healthy eating tip?
Shoppers who divide their carts down the middle purchase 23 percent more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t. Try dividing your cart down the middle, with a bag, scarf or coat. Then, claim the front half for whatever you want to purchase more of on your trip (for example, fruits and vegetables).
One veggie to try this season
With just four calories per asparagus spear, there’s no reason not to enjoy, say Clark. Every bite is packed with nutrients that support a healthy heart, including folate, fiber and powerful antioxidants. This versatile vegetable is also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. In addition, it’s loaded with vitamins A, B, C and K. Wondering how to use asparagus? Try these ideas:
- Chop it and add to salads, omelets, rice, quinoa and pasta dishes.
- Wrap it up! At snack time, wrap smoked turkey around a few spears of asparagus.
- Grill or broil for 10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Sprinkle with grated lemon or orange zest. You can also use the freshly squeezed juice of a lemon or orange, along with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Add asparagus, diced tomatoes and roasted red peppers to the top of your pizza for a real veggie kick.
The bottom line
There are many ways to get more veggies in your diet — and it doesn't have to involve a big bowl of leafy-greens. Unless you like that, of course.
Healthy eating is so important to your overall health. Bad diets are now responsible for more deaths than smoking External Site, so it's easy to see that increasing your intake of nutritious and vitamin-packed foods are essential to living a long, healthy life.