Despite knowing how good vegetables are for us, we all struggle to get as many into our diet as we’re supposed to. Reports show that seven out of ten Americans don’t get the recommended five-a-day they’re supposed to, and with talk of how we really should be eating seven portions of fruit and veg a day, including five of vegetables, it seems that we could all do with some help to get more veggies into our meals and snacks. And, as everyone on their weight loss journey with Phen Caps knows, vegetables are great for filling you up on fewer calories as well as adding essential fiber and nutrients, so here are ten great tips for how to pack more veggies into your daily diet!
1. Boost Your Breakfast
It’s normally fruit which gets star-billing at breakfast time, but vegetables can also feature in your morning meal to give you a head start on those recommended daily allowances. Add peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms or onions to your eggs for a delicious omelet, or make a vegetable frittata when you have time and keep it in the fridge, ready to serve up a daily slice for a great energy-boosting healthy breakfast.
2. Double Up
Whatever you’re cooking, doubling up on the amount of vegetables called for in the original recipe won’t make much difference to your prep time, but a little extra chopping can go a long way to boosting your veggie intake. In soups, salads, pastas, sauces and casseroles, adding extras will not only add more flavor and texture, but also boost the nutritional value and up your vegetable tally for the day.
3. Sneak in Extras
Be a sneaky chef and add in extras by grating, shredding and pureeing your way to veggie success. Grated zucchini and carrots do wonders for turkey burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs, by adding both moisture and nutrients to the dish, while pureed cooked cauliflower, winter squash or red peppers are perfect for stirring into sauces, mashed potatoes, pies, pastas…the list is endless! And when you’re making a marinara sauce, as well as the tomato base, add any combination of chopped mushrooms, eggplant, onions, peppers, squash or carrots. This versatile sauce can then be used to add flavor to pasta dishes, as a base for soup, as a dipping sauce or spread on a pizza crust.
4. Veggie of the Week
Try to experiment by featuring a new seasonal vegetable each week. Whether it’s trying some squash in fall or a picking some juicy tomatoes in summer, trying out something new or finding ways to work your featured veggie into new dishes can lead to delicious discoveries in the kitchen. If you’re on a budget, check the weekly specials at your local grocery store and choose one of the items on special that week, as these offers often reflect the abundance of certain seasonal produce.
5. Slip Them in a Soup
Some homemade soups already contain a nice amount of vegetables, but most canned and commercial choices can stand to have their veggie quota bumped up. Try some flavor combinations and see what works for you - a great tip is to add carrots to chicken noodle soup, or try some edamame or green beans in a minestrone soup. It’s as easy as adding the raw or frozen veggies while you’re heating or making the soup.
6. Simple Snacks
We understand that not everyone gets excited by a plate of raw veggies, but pair them with a creamy avocado dip, a hot salsa or some delicious hummus and your crudités take on a whole new life. If you have time, making your own dips means you’ll know exactly what’s in them and what’s not, but store-bought dips can be just as good if you look for lighter options and more flavorful sauces which mean you need less of them to pack a punch.
7. Start with a Salad
We’re not talking about a few lettuce leaves topped with cheese and bacon, we’re talking a bed of dark leafy green vegetables with colorful crunchy toppings. A great tip is to start one of your daily meals with a salad, which boosts your veggie intake immediately, and means you’re more likely to fill up on healthy fiber-filled veg and have less room for the rest of your meal. But, don’t ruin all your best intentions with lashings of calorie-laden dressings, instead, simplify things with a drizzle of olive oil or a squeeze of lemon to bring out the natural taste of healthy, fresh vegetables.
8. Carb Swaps
Get creative by swapping pasta or rice for vegetables, and we promise even the fussiest of children fail to notice the difference! Use grated cauliflower as an alternative to rice, swap lasagna sheets for layers of roasted zucchini, or experiment with spaghetti squash - the name says it all with this versatile veggie; once baked, spaghetti squash can be flaked with a fork to reveal spaghetti like strands to offer the perfect bed for your favorite pasta sauce.
9. Spice up Your Sides
Take veggies out from the sidelines and put as much effort into making them tasty as you would with the main focus of your meal. Think hot and cold salads combining roasted radishes or roasted Brussels sprouts with a leafy bed of green leaves, bringing out the flavor of your peas or beans with a tomato-based vegetable sauce, or adding herbs and spices to your veggies to compliment and contrast their natural taste.
10. Make it Fun
Make eating vegetables more fun by getting creative with how to serve dishes using your veggies as a base. Instead of bread or tortillas, make your next sandwich or wrap inside a leafy green. Stack 2 or 3 large, leafy greens such as Bibb lettuce, romaine, red lettuce, cabbage, or radicchio and pile on the fillers. Or, for an elegant touch, try a zucchini half, beef tomato, bell pepper, or Portobello mushroom stuffed with a savory filling.
Do you feel inspired by these ideas to up your veggie intake? Let us know by commenting below!