4 easy strategies for adding more vegetables to your plate

4 easy strategies for adding more vegetables to your plate

(Lindsey did this for The Washington Post)

December 29, 2022 at 10:00 am EST

Comment on this story


Whatever your health goals are for the new year, one powerful change can go a long way toward your success: Eat more vegetables. The proven benefits of doing this read like an informality: Improve gut health! Manage your blood sugar! Reduce inflammation! Improve immunity! Keep your blood pressure under control! Lower risk of heart disease! Support a healthy weight! But wait, there’s more! In this case, however, too good to be true is indeed true.

We know why, to a certain extent. Vegetables are packed with health-protective compounds, including essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and a broad spectrum of antioxidants, which destroy harmful free radicals in the body. Scientists have isolated and studied many of these plant compounds, but they have only scratched the surface. One thing they have found is that taking the compounds in pill form does not have the same benefit. It’s the vegetable pack that protects us. As David Katz, a specialist in preventive and lifestyle medicine, astutely put it, “The active ingredient in broccoli is the broccoli.”

However, approximately 90 percent of Americans do not get the recommended amount of vegetables (two to three cups a day for women and three to four cups a day for men), and about 62 percent of the vegetables we eat come from the same five sources. three of which are white potato-based, with one of the most common being French fries, according to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2022. Not that there’s anything wrong with potatoes—they they are nutrient-rich and delicious. We just need to branch out (and fry less often).

Vegetables have unique nutrient and antioxidant profiles, so more variety is key to a wider spectrum of protective health benefits. Color is a useful cue, as different antioxidants impart different hues to food. Using the full color wheel of produce (including white) not only works in our favor nutritionally, but also makes our foods much more appealing.

On top of the nutrients you get from eating more vegetables, there is a beneficial displacement factor. Opt for, say, mushrooms and peppers on your pizza instead of your usual pepperoni, or dip sliced ​​cucumbers instead of pita chips into your hummus, and you’re not only getting more nutrition, but also, by default, you usually cut calories, sodium, refined. grains and processed meats. But it’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you get mushrooms, peppers, and peppers on your pizza, you’re still better off.

(I know, I know, mushrooms are not vegetables, botanically speaking. Neither are tomatoes, cucumbers or zucchini, for that matter, but nutritionally and culinaryly they all count as vegetables.)

Whether you’re a beginner who’s ready to move beyond the occasional carrot or a veggie lover who wants to expand your horizons, here are easy ways to eat more plants.

Add a vegetable to what you already eat

There’s no need to overhaul your life to include more vegetables—just throw them into what you’re already doing. Cooking pasta with tomato sauce? Add a handful of pre-washed arugula or spinach to the warm dressing for a light wilt, or pile the greens on top of the finished dish to add color and fresh flavor. Fresh chopped baby spinach is also nice to add to chicken noodle soup, minestrone or ramen. If you’re up for something more adventurous, try escarole or dandelion greens instead.

Frozen peas, cauliflower or broccoli are ideal additions to mac and cheese. Add a handful of the cheese sauce to warm up before tossing in the pasta. (Frozen vegetables are nutritionally comparable to cooked, fresh vegetables; they’re also economical, often require no cutting, and are easy to keep on hand, so take advantage of them.)

When making a sandwich, go beyond the usual lettuce and tomato. Gather thinly sliced ​​radishes or cucumbers, grated carrots or cabbage. A handful of spinach or kale in your morning smoothie is basically undetectable, but it adds nutrient-rich dark green leaves.

Get the recipe for Golden Chicken Vegetable Soup with Chickpeas here.

Under the vegetables for some of the meat in the dishes

Prepare meat dishes with additional vegetables to allow for a more reasonable serving of meat while keeping overall portions generous. Mushrooms do the job especially well thanks to their meaty texture and nice flavor. Fry them first to brown them well and release their water, then add them to almost any meat dish, from burgers and meatloaf to tenderloin and stroganoff. This allows you to reduce the meat by about 1/4 pound per eight ounces of mushrooms used. Add plant power beyond the usual carrots and potatoes to meat stews, too, with mushrooms, bell peppers, green beans, and root vegetables like rutabaga, turnips, and celery root.

Get the recipe for Lamb and Spiced Green Beans here.

Use vegetables as wrappers and spoons

Don’t relegate vegetables to the realm of the side dish—they can do so much more. Cup-shaped lettuce leaves, such as Bibb or Gemstone, make beautiful wraps for all kinds of fillings—think of anything you could put on a taco sandwich or wrap. You can also use firmer greens or kale leaves to make bigger, heartier wraps. (I like to blanch them first to soften them.)

Vegetables also make supreme dipping sauces. Beyond the usual carrots and celery, try eating endives, radishes, blanched peas and broccoli, cauliflower and green beans.

Get the Jamaican Spiced Beef Wrap recipe here.

Turn the narrative from the past, where protein gets all the kitchen love, and enjoy vegetables instead. Preparing vegetables in surprising and tempting ways leaves you wanting more and can turn the veg naysayers around. It doesn’t have to mean more work, just a change in focus.

Serve boldly delicious dishes such as spiced roasted chicken or simply baked fish with honey-glazed chimichurri with carrot tops. Broccoli haters have been known to eat my broccoli pesto pizzas, and even those who cringe at the thought of the boiled Brussels sprouts they were forced to eat as children can’t get enough of the vegetable when it’s ripe and crunchy. and garnished with apple and sunflower seeds.

Get the recipe for Halibut and Spring Vegetable Casserole here.

I hope these ideas encourage you to get more vegetables into your life and in more different ways. Start small, picking a few suggestions that you think are doable and build from there. It’s a habit worth cultivating, in the new year and beyond.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *