You know it’s important to include vegetables in your diet regularly, but most days it’s much easier said than done.
On a good day, some green beans or broccoli might end up on your plate at dinner, but other than that your meals are lacking in the veggie department and you’re not sure where to start when it comes to upping your intake.
Why eat more veggies?
Put simply, by eating more vegetables you’ll increase your intake of both unsaturated fats and fiber, nutrients that support better overall health and even weight loss. Plus, whole foods like vegetables and fruits are nutrient-dense, meaning they provide our bodies with the vitamins and minerals needed to function optimally. These nutrients also play a role in reducing your risk for chronic diseases.
Essentially, eating more veggies is one of the best ways to establish and maintain good health and also a healthy weight.
Below, two dietitians share easy-to-follow tips to help you learn how to include more flavorful, fun vegetables at every meal of the day.
Easy Ways to Eat More Veggies
“Use vegetables in place of pasta for a lower calorie and carbohydrate alternative that is packed with vitamins and minerals,” says Alexandra Miller, R.D., L.D.N., corporate dietitian at Medifast, Inc.
Pasta Alternative: “Consider using a spiral vegetable slicer to make noodles out of your favorite vegetables, such as zucchini or carrots. You can also eat spaghetti squash as a great alternative to pasta. Simply cut a spaghetti squash in half, microwave for approximately 12 minutes on a microwave-safe dish and scrape out the flesh when the squash is fully cooked. You’ll have delicious, buttery spaghetti-like strands in the amount of time it takes to make pasta.”
“Add shredded vegetables, such as zucchini or carrot to muffins, cookies and other baked items for a boost of nutrition,” Miller suggests. And, she says, applesauce makes for a great alternative to sugar and butter when baking.
Miller also recommends making “chips” and “fries” using vegetables.
Chip Alternative: “Enjoy kale, radishes, zucchini, golden or red beets, parsnips, celery root and sweet potatoes as chips. Thinly slice vegetables into chip-shaped pieces. Lightly coat with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven.”
Fries Alternative: “Try zucchini, sweet potato, jicama and turnips. Cut vegetables into fry-shaped pieces. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and bake in the oven.
Miller suggests stuffing larger veggies like bell peppers, zucchini, acorn and butternut squash, beets and turnips with different healthy fillings.
Filling Suggestions: "Lean protein, like boneless skinless chicken breast, beans and lentils, low-fat cheese or lean ground beef; additional veggies, like diced tomatoes, carrots and onion; whole grains, like quinoa; and herbs and spices."
Before you sit down at each meal, Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, R.D., a California-based nutrition and fitness consultant, suggests asking yourself a simple question: “Where are the fruits and/or vegetables at this meal?”
“The reason I have that question is because it requires you to answer it,” she explains. “It’s something that will compel you to think about it. And occasionally you’ll be like, ‘Oops I’m out, I’m at the burrito truck and they don’t have anything,’ sometimes you can’t say yes, but if you ask it at every meal, the next meal, surely you’re going to make sure that it happens.”
Bazilian also recommends opting for soups and salads as often as possible.
“If you can have a soup and/or a salad or a soup and salad meal, any soup or salad generally, you’re likely going to be adding vegetables and it’s mostly likeable,” she said. “Maybe seasonally you’ll choose one way or the other, but if you have a soup or salad, no matter what else you order you’ll at least have that.”
And yes, it’s even possible to squeeze veggies in at breakfast. Bazilian suggests throwing chopped vegetables into your scrambled eggs, topping toast with avocado or mixing greens like spinach into a fruit-filled smoothie and said that even spices and herbs to top off a hearty breakfast count as “mini doses” of vegetables.