Studies show that 90% of Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of vegetables per day. According to the Center for Disease Control, the recommended amount is between 2 and 2.5 cups per day, accompanied by 1.5 cups of fruit.In the long term, not eating enough vegetables can harm your health by putting you at risk of developing diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. In the short term, it can leave you with a weak immune system, poor memory, excess stress, muscle cramps, weight gain, low energy, and nutritional deficiencies. Vegetables are incredibly rich in the vitamins and nutrients we need to keep our body running at optimal efficiency, but the standard American diet doesn’t really give vegetables a spot front and center in many meals or dishes. For this reason, it’s easy to end up with a plate full of carbs and protein at every meal of the day.
Whether you don’t like the way that vegetables taste, you’re not sure how to prepare them, or it seems inconvenient to keep fresh veggies in the house, it’s time to stop making excuses. Here are a few easy tips for incorporating more veggies into your diet:
– Make a veggie-based soup. Whether it’s a broth-based soup like minestrone with beans and frozen veggies or a creamy bisque made from roasted root veggies, soup is a great way to fill up on yummy and nutritious plants. Another great way to sneak in vegetables is with chili. Just chop everything up nice and small, and no one will know the difference.
– Swap out pasta and noodles for zucchini, spaghetti squash, or eggplant. You don’t have to forgo the noodles entirely, just replace some of them to start. Roast slices of eggplant to layer in lasagna, spiralize zucchini to add to some pesto pasta with sausage and peppers or make a pasta casserole by baking spaghetti squash with tomato sauce and cheese.
– Speaking of sauces, adding onions, carrots, spinach, or bell peppers to a sauce and blitzing it in the blender is a great way to sneak in extra nutrients.
– Add veggies to meatloaf or burgers. My favorites are diced mushrooms, zucchini, shredded carrots, bell peppers, onions, spinach, and chickpeas.
– Swap out the bread or tortilla for lettuce. Some burger joints call this method “protein style,” I just call it delicious! Grab some butter or iceberg lettuce (which is more sturdy than romaine), and use it as a carrier system for everything from peanut butter to taco meat.
– Last but not least, let’s talk smoothies! If you don’t have a blender yet, you can take a trip to your local thrift store and find a nice one for under $10. You don’t need a $500 blender unless you’re doing some SERIOUS grinding. Experiment with smoothie combinations that incorporate fruits you already like, then throw in a handful of veg, like fresh or frozen spinach, cauliflower, kale, or shredded carrots. If you want to get fancy, you can even roast up some sweet potato and throw that in!
If you’re not in the habit of buying and using fresh veggies, start with frozen or canned! They’re all virtually the same when it comes to nutrients, as long as there’s no extra salt, sugar, or flavoring. Also, if you’re finding yourself with extra veggies in the fridge that are about to go bad, either throw them in a smoothie, a soup, or a stir fry, I promise you won’t know the difference!