There are many benefits to adding more vegetables to your diet. Aside from the nutritional punch they pack, they’re also low calorie and a good source of fiber, which can help to fill you up, without filling you out. In addition, vegetables may offer protection against many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain types of cancers.
With spring in full bloom, there are plenty of vegetables in season to include on your plate. When shopping for produce, make it a point to choose a variety of brightly colored vegetables each week; think red, yellow, orange and green. Start with vegetables that you are familiar with and as you become comfortable, add more variety. The current US dietary guidelines recommend consuming 2 to 2 ½ cups of veggies per day. Here are some simple ways you can get that much and more every day:
Start your day with vegetables
Vegetables are easy to add to breakfast. An omelet stuffed with peppers and onions, asparagus, or any other vegetable is a delicious way to meet your daily requirement. Even easier, top some scrambled eggs with a half cup of salsa, which is considered a vegetable! If you don’t like spicy things in the morning, choose a mild salsa. If you’re on the go, roll the whole thing into a whole wheat tortilla and enjoy it as a burrito. Add vegetables to your morning smoothie, try including spinach, carrots, or squash, in addition to the usual ingredients or you can add cooked sweet potatoes or beets for nutrient boost and a bright change of color.
Include vegetables at Lunch
If you’re having a sandwich, stack it up with a good half inch of lettuce, or try spinach leaves. In addition to sliced tomatoes, you can also add cucumber slices, julienned carrots and bell pepper strips to a sandwich for extra crunch. Another option is a garden salad or a bowl of vegetable soup. Don’t neglect the convenience of frozen veggies, they’re just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Add frozen veggies to a stir fry or your favorite low sodium canned soup.
Baby carrots, radishes, bell pepper strips, snow peas, and sugar snap peas all make ideal snack foods because they’re crunchy and satisfying. The other thing that is great about these veggies is that they’re also convenient and portable and don’t require any preparation. You can enjoy them on their own or use them with your favorite dip or flavored hummus
Have more vegetables with Dinner
Start your meal off with a vegetable-based soup. Use low sodium chicken broth and add sautéed onions, celery, carrots, broccoli, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. When all the veggies have heated through, add torn spinach leaves or kale for more nutritional boost.
Try common vegetables in new and different ways. Puree cauliflower to make mock-mashed potatoes or try mashed sweet potatoes or “smashed” butternut squash. Spiralize carrots, zucchini or summer squash as a substitute for pasta. Make zucchini boats (or use summer squash) by hollowing out part of a halved zucchini, and fill it with bread stuffing mixed with sautéed chopped tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and the part of the zucchini removed to make the boat and finish it off by baking it in the oven for 30 minutes 350.
Another great way to enjoy veggies is to cook them on the grill. Simply brush your favorite veggies with olive oil, add any seasoning of your choice, and then place on a grill rack for a few minutes until cooked through. For a quick side dish for one, try grilling a head of romaine lettuce, it may sound unusual, but it cooks up in minutes and is delicious heated.
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