FIVE servings a day of fruits and vegetables. MINUMUM. That's a pretty universal recommendation from nutrition experts. Yet, only one in 10 U.S. adults eats enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control. A plant-based diet, with lots of fruits and veggies, is one of the best ways to prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic diseases. Replacing less healthy options with fruit and vegetables can help people lose weight and keep it off. But it can be tricky to fit in those servings, especially if you're not used to it. Here are some ideas, especially to add more veggies to your diet:
1) Eat more salad: These days salads are not just tasteless iceberg lettuce and tomatoes tossed with a store-bought dressing. With the right ingredients, salads can be exciting and make for a very satisfying entrée. Mix together different kinds of greens with whatever other veggies look fresh or in-season. Toss in nuts or beans. Add fruit – fresh or dried. Add a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar (no need to buy dressing), and voilà: you have a great meal with three to four servings of veggies.
2) Choose veggie-centered soups and stews: With cooler weather coming, stews and soups can double as comfort food and healthy entrées or starters. When choosing a soup or stew in a restaurant or selecting a recipe to make at home, choose one with a lot of veggies. Go light on the cream and butter. Look for recipes with great combinations of colorful vegetables; you'll easily meet the serving recommendations and get lots of important vitamins and nutrients in the process.
3) Grab a bowl: Bowls filled with veggies, sometimes with grains, beans, and/or an egg, have become popular over the last few years, and they are a great way to add veggies to the diet. Combinations like quinoa with roasted Brussel sprouts, broccoli, carrots and avocado, maybe sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds or pecans, can be a delicious way to get more veggies in the diet.
4) Go vegetarian: You may not want to give up meat altogether, but choose at least one day a week to try out life as a vegetarian. Consider joining the movement for Meatless Mondays, for example. It may help you shift your focus from seeing meat as the centerpiece of the meal and come up with more creative – and healthy – veggie-centered alternatives. Check out this great article from The Guardian on how a plant-based diet also helps the planet!
5) Snack on veggies: Baby carrots, cucumber slices, or celery sticks make great snacks, and are much healthier than chips or cookies. Keep some handy in the refrigerator along with hummus or a healthy dip.
6) Try baked sweet potatoes: Yams or sweet potatoes are far more nutritious that regular white potatoes. They also make a satisfying and healthy entrée, especially when stuffed or topped with other veggies like green peas, beans, or roasted peppers.
7) Fill a tortilla with veggies: In my hometown of Austin, Texas, we live and breathe tacos. Tortillas filled with veggies are my favorite. Try black beans with sautéed spinach and mushrooms or carrots and broccoli. Pour on the salsa and add some guacamole for even more veggie goodness.
8) Smoothies! I know this article is on veggies, but fruits are great too. A super easy way to get in three to four servings is by making smoothies in the blender at home. With frozen bananas as a base, add other in-season fruits and milk, juice, or a non-dairy alternative; mix; and you're left with a delicious healthy beverage, which can even work as an entrée for any meal. I sometimes throw in veggies with the fruit too: frozen kale stems (from my garden) are my favorite.
Share your ideas below. Adding more veggies to your diet is an excellent way to improve your health and feel better.