It can be hard to get enough vegetables into your diet. We hear all the time about how important it is to balance your diet with a lot of vegetables. Eating Well With Canada’s Food Guide recommends the following:
So, as a 22-year-old female, it’s recommended I consume 7-8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day! I’m certain I fall short of that goal regularly.
I’m not one to go to the fridge when I’m hungry and grab vegetables to snack on. Preparing vegetables seems like a task, especially when it’s so much easier to grab some crackers and cheese or butter some toast. My typical lunches are carb-alicious and rarely include vegetables unless I’m reheating leftovers.
What are we to do, then, if we find ourselves short on time or without motivation to reach for the veggies? Here’s a few ideas to get you started:
- Spend half an hour once or twice a week preparing a couple kinds of vegetables (and/or fruits!) you like to eat raw. I’m talking cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers, you name it! Wash and slice the veggies, then store them in your fridge for easy access. You can bag them individually for on-the-go snacks, or keep them in one large container to pull out whenever you get the munchies. Consider making a yummy dip to go with them, if you aren’t convinced you’ll eat them alone (try this!).
- Try meal planning. When you plan an entire week of food, you’re more likely to incorporate healthier options and, when you go to the grocery store, you’ll be picking up a variety of veggies that otherwise may not have made it into your cart. When you have the food available, you’re more likely to cook with it! Also consider preparing some of the vegetables for your cooked meals ahead of time, like in the first idea. If you need to dice some zucchini or roast some squash and you don’t think you’ll have time to do that on a Thursday night, you can do it ahead of time so it’s ready when you need it. Check out some other tips here.
- Make fresh spring rolls and load them with vegetables! I tried this last week and they kept in the fridge for 4 days. While they are certainly best eaten fresh, you could easily make a few dozen and wrap them up to enjoy for a couple days. I used this recipe, which also includes a yummy spicy peanut dipping sauce. If you aren’t going to make your own sauce, definitely consider buying something else you could dip it into since alone they’ll be pretty bland.
- Make soups and salads the main event. Often these are considered ‘sides’ to the heavier part of a meal. But soups and salads can be the full meal themselves! Soups are a great way to sneak extra vegetables into your diet. A blended soup can contain amazing variety of veggies you might never otherwise make for yourself. Broth-based soups can have softened vegetables alongside meats and grains (one of my mom’s favourite soups to make was a Barley and Meatball soup with tomato, spinach, onion, and probably more vegetables I wasn’t even aware I was eating). Salads can be upgraded by adding salmon, chicken, or even steak. Consider adding fruits, nuts, seeds, cheese, dried fruits, and croutons to create bursts of flavour and texture. Homemade salad dressings can be amazingly delicious, or you can find fun new dressings at the store. I personally love a balsamic vinaigrette.
- Boost your smoothies with veggies. We all know a fruit smoothie is a delicious way to eat more fruits, but have you ever considered adding vegetables? You can make a regular fruit smoothie and simply add some greens like spinach (I promise, the taste will be masked by the other flavours!), or try out something even more adventurous. How about a Carrot Ginger Turmeric Smoothie? Or a Very Berry Beet Smoothie? I’m in!
- Use the Eat Well Plate. This model recommends making half of your plate fruits & veggies for the healthiest balance of nutrients. You might have to think a little more creatively if you’re looking at breakfast, but remember you are not limited to ‘normal’ breakfast foods.
- Make Cucumber Roll-Ups. These are a fun, fresh way to eat veggies! You could definitely use these as a lunch alternative, as an appetizer for a dinner party, or just as a yummy snack. The options range from Healthy Avocado Cucumber Rolls to Ham & Cheese Cucumber Roll-Ups and even Cucumber Feta Rolls.
- Treat your vegetables like you treat your meat (or main protein source). Do you find yourself planning a meal around the kind of meat/protein you’re making? Often I will buy some chicken breast, then think of how I might cook the chicken, what marinade I might use, and try to match my vegetables and starches/grains to the meat I make. But I often think, what if I made my meal revolve around my vegetable dish? Game-changer! There are dozens of ways to cook, flavour, and prepare vegetables or salads. So, let’s say you want to make honey glazed carrots (yum!), maybe you’ll make rutabaga apple casserole as your starch side, and you decide to make pork tenderloin as your protein source. The vegetables are cooked to be bursting with flavour, so you don’t have to worry much about how to dress up the pork. It is possible to enjoy your vegetables. You just have to cook them with as much care as you do with other foods.
I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you to increase your vegetable intake. There are so many great options out there, you only have to give them a try to see if you like them! I highly recommend searching for some fresh ideas that inspire you. When you find something you like, you’re going to be more likely to make it often. So never give up, just keep trying until you find the right recipes for your taste and lifestyle.