Five easy ways to get your veggies in
Most adults think they’re good with their veggies, but are you really?
You’re more likely to be getting enough if you have savoury cravings vs sugary cravings, but for those of us with a sweet tooth, it’s more of a challenge. If your snacks tend to be cookies and candy and yoghurts and fruit, then you’re likely missing out on the whacking dose of antioxidants and fibre that vegetables give you.
I still get surprised by the number of adults that I see in clinic who don’t routinely make vegetables part of their meal. We have such a focus on protein and carbs but the reality is, a plant-based, vegetable-heavy diet is just about the best thing you can do for your health. This doesn’t mean you have to be vegan or vegetarian, but it does mean that most of what you’re eating should be plants. And while fruit is healthy too, it does have natural sugars so we want to keep that to approximately two servings daily – especially if weight management is an issue. I know cost can be tricky but I’ve addressed that for you in the tips below.
If you need some motivation for prioritising veg, let me explain how good for you it is. This really comes down to three factors. The first is the fibre. Study after study connects the gentle fibre in vegetables to lower risk of bowel and colon cancers. In addition, fibre makes you feel full, keeping your appetite in check.
Next is the antioxidants. All those natural colours are actually incredibly powerful compounds that help boost your immune system, look after your heart, protect your eyes and prevent premature ageing. As an added bonus, packing your diet with antioxidants helps to satisfy your body’s need for nutrition making it less likely that your hunger signals will misfire (it’s very common for people with a poor diet to feel hungry all the time because their body is craving nutrients vs calories). Lastly, when you’re eating vegetables you are NOT eating junk. The “crowd-it-out” strategy is really helpful psychologically. It’s much easier to maintain a healthy eating plan that is focused on getting the good stuff in, instead of focusing on all the things you can’t have.
After all that, what is a good enough vegetable intake? It’s important to note that whilst white potatoes and corn are vegetables, I wouldn’t really count them as veg as their antioxidant content is low. Aside from these, if you get in five servings of veggies a day then you are doing well (even better if it’s seven). How do you do this? Add veggies to your eggs in the morning, snack on carrots/hummus mid-morning, have a salad at lunch (two to three servings right there) and two servings of greens with dinner. It’s really not difficult, it’s just about getting into the habit. More tips for you below! Have a great weekend one and all!
Five easy ways to increase your vegetable intake:
Add a serving to breakfast
Vegetables for breakfast? No need to add broccoli to your cornflakes but how about adding onions/peppers/spinach to your omelette or one-third cucumber to your smoothie? Cucumbers are a great way to boost hydration too because of the water content.
Less snacking on popcorn
I know it’s easy but it’s also often salty and a dose of bad oils (if you love popcorn, try air-popping, picking a local brand that uses non-GMO oils or try the SkinnyPop microwave brand at Miles). Instead, try cut up veggies (carrots, cucumber, celery, peppers, even radishes if you like) with hummus or guacamole. Any brand of hummus is fine, but if you fancy making your own I included a recipe below.
Replace your grain-based starch with a vegetable option
While grain-based carbs can be healthy (such as oats or brown rice) they don’t provide antioxidants. Instead of serving rice, try roasting butternut squash or carrots. Remember to have two servings of green veg at dinnertime too which might mean that dinner gives you a triple serving of veg – that’s amazing!
Get excited about salads
Listen, I struggle with salads too especially in the winter. But there are some really delicious options out there. A lot of restaurants have interesting bowls with delicious dressings (try the kale and chick pea salad, or the nutty green salad at The Cloud – so good)! Miles deli has ready-to-go options (I love the Hong Kong confetti salad) and the internet is an endless source of inspiration. For amazing plant-based salads with delicious dressings (always key!) try the Deliciously Ella Feel Better app, which is amazing.
Find budget-friendly ways to shop
I know fresh vegetables can seem expensive but there’s nothing wrong with frozen. The only challenge is that if you boil them you do risk significant nutrient loss. So always steam frozen veg (easy with a steamer insert that will fit right in your saucepan.) I find broccoli and cauliflower are mushy from frozen, no matter what I do (even if I roast them) so you might want to prioritise fresh for those. Frozen string beans and green peas usually turn out great. Frozen peppers are a very easy add to stir fry!
Make your own hummus!
2 regular cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed very well
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 tbsp tahini
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
6 tbsp water
1/2 lemon, juice of
sea salt to taste
Place all ingredients except the salt and pepper in a food processor and blend. Some people prefer this coarsely blended, others smooth. Up to you! If you don't have a food processor you can use a handheld stick blender and a mixing bowl.
Season to taste and serve with fresh veggie sticks.
Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 505-4725, Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook and @naturalbda on Instagram