You have no doubt been told you should increase vegetable intake in your diet. If you haven’t, or have been told otherwise, please talk to me. I am curious as to why that is. So why eat more veggies? Oh, to be healthier. Sure, that’s true. But have you REALLY considered the benefits of eating more vegetables? If you have, you probably started eating more of them. Or, like many Americans, you don’t feel the benefits right away, are largely addicted to the hyper-palatable foods available, think your energy is alright and that life is pretty good right now so are unmotivated, and therefore lack the desire to put forth the effort to include more in your diet. Sound familiar? Well, I am hear to inform you on what you’re missing out on and provide some excellent ways to incorporate more of those delicious whole foods into your diet. So, in case you have forgotten the MANY reasons why vegetables are fabulous, let’s review some of the reasons to eat more of them:
- Nutrient density. Veggies are an excellent source for micronutrients like potassium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, and many more. These nutrients play a VITAL role in making sure your body functions optimally and contribute to very tangible benefits like improved digestion, performance, immunity, recovery, energy, and brain cognition.
- Disease risk prevention. A vegetable-rich diet can help protect you from arthritis, heart disease, stroke, dementia, type II diabetes, and cancer (1,2). They contain an array of antioxidants and other disease-fighting compounds that are hard to find anywhere else. The phytochemicals in plants bring down inflammation and take out carcinogens. Other compounds in plants help regulate the rate at which your cells reproduce, get rid of old cells, and maintain DNA integrity (2, 3)
- Vegetables can even help slow down your body’s aging process. Who doesn’t want to keep their youthfulness??
- Random awesomeness. Did you know certain vegetables can help reduce bloating, and others can give your skin a more youthful glow? They can also improve how you handle stress—and adapting to stress is critically important to your mental AND physical health (2)
- The fiber in vegetables is broken down into short chain fatty acids by gut bacteria, which then nourishes your gut and beneficial bacteria. As you know from my previous posts, THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. The bacteria in your gut play a VITAL role to your overall health, serving a variety of functions that influence your wellbeing. If your gut microbiome (see previous posts) is not doing so great, fiber may actually harm you, though. Talk to your local dietitian to see if thats the case 🙂
I have worked with people that love veggies and I have worked with people that have grown to love veggies, and I have worked with people that despise veggies. The latter is, as mentioned before, often due to over-stimulated taste buds from the amount of high sugar, fat, and salt that serves the hyper-palatabiliy of most foods these days. However, it can also be from not experiencing the wonderful flavors, seasonings, and pairings that come with amazing recipes that include vegetables. Many people believe that to eat more vegetables means eating plain Jane salads all the time composed of lettuce, some shredded carrots, and tomatoes-often without dressing! I won’t even get into that right now… but believe me, there are SO many DELICIOUS ways to add veggies into your diet. Not only do I love the flavor, but I love how I feel after eating them. I know, I know, classic dietitian. But I hear this from my clients, too! There is a way to eat the tastiest of foods in a healthy, whole foods manner.
Today I had 10 different vegetables. I made an egg/bacon scramble that had 1. Yellow onion, 2. Kale, 3. Spinach, 4. Chard, 5. Sweet potato, then for lunch I had a chicken curry coconut soup with 6. Mushrooms, 7. Carrots, 8. Red cabbage, 9. Zucchini noodles (and so many other delicious ingredients), then for dinner I had roasted veggies with salmon that included 8. Broccoli, 9. Brussel sprouts, 10. Cauliflower. This is a pretty normal day for me, with some repeat veggies throughout, and I have seen clients transform their way of eating to look very similar. I am not saying this is the BEST or ONLY way to get all the veggies in, but I just want to show you how a day could look like with veggies at every meal. YUM! Okay, so how can YOU include more vegetables in your diet?
- Breakfast- scrambles, frittatas
- Cut up some zucchini, mushrooms, and onion and throw in cabbage, kale, spinach, chard or other veggies of your choice! Season with garlic powder, Himalayan salt, and pepper and you’re good to go. Toss on some salsa and/or give it a kick with some hot sauce. So good!
- Possibly one of the more well-known areas to get those greens, smoothies and shakes make great options for meals or snacks. Adding avocado is a popular way to make it a little more creamy and get some great additional fats. Otherwise just throwing in a power greens mix, some berries, coconut milk, maybe some garlic and ginger and voila! Delicious power-house drink full of so many amazing nutrients to give you LOADS of energy.
- Throw in some potatoes, kale, spinach, onion, carrots, celery and the like for a stew or soup or just with a tasty slow roasted chicken!
- Meal prep
- How can you MAKE SURE you get veggies in? Prepare them. Make them handy for yourself to grab and go for snacks, and make sure to include them in your meal prep for the week. Make batch salads (without dressing), stir frys, roasted veggies, or just cut a bunch up to make in fresh dishes throughout the week!
- Use Zuchini noodles instead of pasta, cauliflower rice instead of white/brown rice or quinoa, make your own veggie-based hummus with eggplant or artichokes as the base. Here is one that uses sweet potatoes: https://paleoleap.com/sweet-potato-hummus/ and one with cauliflower: http://paleomg.com/practical-paleo-2nd-edition-book-review-creamy-cauliflower-hummus/
- Salad mix-up
- Change up those salads! I like a LOADED salad, with TONS of ingredients. I usually toss in this chopped veggie mix (that has eight different veggies) from Trader Joe’s, some red onion, avocado, tomato, maybe some Kalamata olives, a protein of choice (tuna, chicken, steak, salmon), on a bed of power greens. Drizzle my homemade dressing go-to of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Dijon mustard and BAM. Flavor on flavor on flavor.
- Not only just for crockpot making! Get those veggies in a soup. Use your food processor to break down broccoli for a creamy broccoli soup, or butternut squash for a delicious butternut squash soup, or just toss in a bunch in your basic chicken noodle.
- Mix up your flavor! Get all up in the seasoning aisle in the grocery store and just stock up and play around with them. Just make sure they don’t have a bunch of added preservatives and fillers. Don’t forget about the fresh herbs, too! Basil, rosemary, thyme, and dill are all wonderful. I love fresh ginger these days, too. And turmeric! So many options.
- Make some fries!
- Have you tried zucchini, avocado, sweet potatoes,or rutabaga fries? Check out this site for some great recipes: https://paleoleap.com/10-vegetables-transform-into-paleo-fries/
- Like with fries, you can change up your salty-greasy go-to to a better option with far more nutrients than the potato chips you get at the store. Try zucchini, kale, butternut squash or plantain chips! This is an EXCELLENT resource for some recipe ideas: http://blog.paleohacks.com/veggie-chips/
Alright you guys, if I havent persuaded you thus for with some education and recipes, you’re a lost cause. Just kidding. But seriously, it could be wise for you to talk to someone about your particular aversion to veggies if its really that challenging for you. I am always happy to help! Have a wonderful, vegetable-filled Memorial Day Weekend!! 🙂
Therese Martinez, MS, RD, CPT
- Marcela: Take Control of Your Health. Why You Need to Eat More Vegetables. 2016 http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2016/05/02/benefits-eating-vegetables.aspx
- Servan-Schreiber, David. 2010. Anticancer: A New Way of Life. Cancer Prevention: Some Fruits and Vegetables Bring Specific Protection.