How to eat more vegetables
Everyone knows that vegetables are healthy. But, most people don’t know how to eat more vegetables.
The health benefits of veggies is probably the one and only topic in nutrition that is not debated. When you were a child, adults would try to get you to eat more veggies. They would hide vegetables in casseroles or pasta dishes and hope you wouldn’t notice.
If everyone seems to understand that vegetables are essential to good health, then how come most people don’t get enough?
How Many Veggies are Canadians Eating?
Did you know that, in 2017, only 28.6% of Canadians aged 12 and older consumed fruits and vegetables five or more times per day. This is a decrease from 2015 when 31.5% of Canadians were doing so.
This means that over two thirds of Canadians are not meeting the recommendations to have at least 5 servings of vegetables or fruits per day, according to Canada’s Food Guide.
Don’t Worry; It’s Not Just You
As you can see, if you find yourself struggling to eat enough vegetables, you are not alone.
Maybe you find you don’t like the taste of veggies, or you don’t know how to eat more vegetables, such as how to cook them. Maybe you are bored of always eating the same vegetables, and you need new ideas on how to regularly add veggies in your diet that don’t include potato chips.
Keep reading to find out how you can eat more vegetables. After all, helping people eat more veggies is an important part of a dietitian’s job.
Why You Should Eat More Vegetables
When we think of health, we tend to automatically associate it with vegetables. But, do you know why vegetables are so healthy?
Did you know that eating more vegetables, especially a variety of vegetables, is associated with a lower risk of chronic disease?
It seems that people who have higher intakes of vegetables have lower risks of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, some types of cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes.
Healthful Nutrients Found in Veggies
This is due to all the amazing health-promoting nutrients found in vegetables, which include:
Eating more vegetables can also be beneficial for weight management due to their lower calorie content. Overall, eating a variety of vegetables is crucial for good health. Let’s take a look at how to eat more vegetables in your diet.
4 Ideas to Eat More Vegetables
1. Rely on What’s Convenient
The first tip on how to eat more veggies is all about convenience. This is something that many people especially struggle with; it often seems so difficult to prepare vegetables for dinner time, especially when you’ve had a long day at work and you don’t want to spend much time cooking.
Are Frozen Veggies Just As Healthy?
There is a myth going around that frozen vegetables are less nutritious than fresh ones. The truth is, frozen fruits and vegetables retain their nutritional value and are just as healthy as fresh ones.
Unfortunately, this myth discourages many people from buying frozen veggies at the grocery store. So, when those people don’t feel like preparing fresh veggies, they don’t have a backup option and will instead not eat any vegetables.
In reality, frozen veggies are a great option, especially when you are short on time. You can buy pre-cooked frozen green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and even leafy greens. Once you thaw them, using a steamer, airfryer or even the microwave, you can throw them in a variety of plant based recipes.
Frozen Veggies Save You Lots of Time
Have them as a side dish to boost the nutritional content of your meal, or add frozen veggies to soups, stews, tacos, and much more.
Other Convenient Veggies to Include
Other types of vegetables that are super convenient to use in a pinch include pre-bagged or pre-cut veggies such as salad mixes, dehydrated or low-sodium canned vegetables.
Using convenient veggies regularly can really contribute to boosting your overall vegetable intake.
2. Prepare Vegetables in Bulk
The second tip on how to get more vegetables in your diet is to prepare them in bulk. Meal prepping some veggies is an amazing way to ensure you are getting enough.
When you have the time and energy to prepare some veggies, make double or triple the amount. Then, you’ll have lots of leftovers to eat in the next few days.
Prepare Veggies To Have Them On Hand
This can look like washing and chopping raw veggies in advance and keeping them in the refrigerator to have them with a dip when it’s time to eat more veggies.
Or, when roasting sweet potatoes, broccoli florets or brussels sprouts, make a lot more and keep them in the refrigerator for your lunch the next day.
You can also freeze veggies you’ve cooked at home, especially if you’ve added them to stews, soups, casserole dishes, and much more. This will prevent you from having to cook vegetables a second time, and will also save you from doing more dishes! It’s a win-win situation.
Same thing goes for breakfast; you can cook in bulk veggie-filled breakfast hash or tofu scramble, or even prepare in advance green smoothies filled with lots of leafy greens such as spinach or kale.
3. Rethink Your Meals
The third tip on how to eat vegetables more often is to rethink what a typical meal looks like. If you are vegan or vegetarian, you most likely already had to rethink your meal structure to fit your plant based diet. Rethinking your meals to add veggies to your diet is a similar concept to this.
Aim For Half A Plate of Vegetables
Did you know that half of your plate should be filled with vegetables? Most people are unable to achieve this because their plate is already filled up with other foods, such as grains or plant based proteins.
When we ask ourselves what we’re having for dinner, we often think of the protein or carbohydrate part first. For instance, we’ll have plant based chicken and gravy, or fried rice, or a big plate of pasta.
While protein and carbs are important as well, they should not make up the biggest part of our plate; we need to leave room for the health-promoting vegetables.
Think of Veggies First
This is where the importance of shifting how you perceive your meals comes in. When thinking of what you want to have for a meal, try thinking of what the vegetable part – or half of your plate – will look like.
You feel like having squash for dinner? Perfect! Now think of how to build the other half of your meal.
Maybe you can make some spaghetti squash by adding some whole wheat pasta or bread for carbohydrates and some canned lentils for protein. Even better, add in some veggie-filled tomato sauce and leafy greens and you got yourself a filling plant based meal with tons of vegetables!
Or, maybe you can make some lettuce wraps filled with thinly sliced carrots, red cabbage, and cucumber, with a side of cooked tofu and some peanut sauce.
Another idea could be to make a vegan tuna salad, with a focus on the “salad” part. The plant based “tuna” can be prepared by mashing canned chickpeas with a bit of vegan mayo, lemon juice, and dill. Then, add the chickpea mixture to lots of veggies such as chopped bell peppers, tomatoes, leafy greens, green beans, etc.
4. Try New Vegetables – And New Ways of Preparing Them
Convinced there is not a single vegetable that you like? Think again! I am convinced that there is a vegetable out there for everyone. While it’s recommended to eat a variety of vegetables for optimal health, start by focusing on one at a time.
Go to the grocery just to take a look at the produce aisle. Notice how many vegetables there are. Pick out a vegetable that you’ve never tried, and find a plant based recipe to prepare it.
Finding Vegetables You Actually Want To Eat
If you don’t like this one, try another one, or another way of cooking it. Eventually, you’ll find some vegetables that you genuinely like and want to eat. (And if you don’t, consult a registered dietitian who can give you some additional guidance for this).
There are also numerous ways to prepare vegetables; putting in as much effort into veggie preparation as you would for other parts of your meal can make a world of difference.
Try roasting, stir frying, BBQing or air frying them instead of just steaming or boiling, which tends to make veggies mushy. You can also add some herbs, sauce or dip to enhance vegetables’ natural flavor. Experimenting with different flavors, veggies, and methods of cooking can turn you into a true veggie lover.
BONUS: How to Choose Better Vegetables
Do you find the vegetables you buy at the grocery store are always not super fresh or tasty? You might not be picking the right ones.
Ideally, you’ll want to pick fresh, firm vegetables that have not lost any color. Avoid the ones with bruises, cuts or discoloration.
A great tip to pick the best vegetables at the grocery store is to purchase the produce that is in season. This can make a big difference; they tend to look and taste better. Same thing with local produce; since they’ve had to travel less, they are often much fresher.
The Bottom Line
Don’t feel bad about yourself if you are struggling to eat more veggies; including them more frequently in your diet is a long process that cannot be perfected overnight.
There are many ways to add veggies to your meals; figure out which ones work best for you. Doing so is a great thing to do for your health; your body will thank you.
Give these ideas a try and enjoy the process! If you need additional help, don’t be afraid to reach out to a plant based dietitian to give you more tips to eat more vegetables.
Written by: Magalie Deslauriers-Labbé, dietetics student
Revised by: Alyssa Fontaine, vegan registered dietitia