The best thing you can do for optimal health is to eat more greens—these 15 tips for powering up on vegetables from plant-based nutrition expert Sharon Palmer will help you find new ways to add more veggies to your diet.
Your mother was right when she told you to eat your peas. These plant-powered foods are filled with color, flavor, and nutrition. A wide world of vegetables, from deep green leaves to colorful flowering heads to round, pungent bulbs, are at the very core of a healthful plant-powered diet. If you could do only one thing to promote better health it would be to eat more vegetables. That’s because they are chock full of powerful nutrients and bioactive compounds that promote optimal health and reduce your risk of chronic diseases. These are all of the healthful components of vegetables:
- Healthy Carbs. Although the carbohydrate levels are usually low in most vegetables, a few contain higher levels. But these carbs are typically slow-burning, so they can fuel your energy levels without rapid blood sugar highs and lows.
- The vegetable family includes all types of fiber, including insoluble and soluble fiber, oligosaccharides, resistant starches, lignins, and inulin for a variety of heart and digestive health benefits and improved blood sugar levels.
- Some veggies even contain significant amounts of protein—up to 4 grams per ½ cup serving.
- Vitamins Galore. Almost every essential vitamin can be traced back to the vegetable family, including folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and K.
- Mineral Bounty. Veggies contain supplies of many essential minerals, such as iron, potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper, and selenium.
- Vegetables are extremely high in a cornucopia of phytochemicals that provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as documented health benefits.
There are so many reasons to pump up the volume on veggies, but so few people are taking full advantage of them. Only 26 percent of adults eat a full serving of vegetables three or more times a day. Here are my favorite tips for boosting those precious servings of vegetables to at least six servings a day.
Top 15 Tips for Powering Up on Vegetables
1. Breakfast with Veggies. Mix onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, and dark leafy into a morning veggie taco, tofu scramble, or breakfast wrap. Add a slice of avocado, your favorite seasonings, and spices to your morning breakfast bowl and you’re ready to start the day!
2. Try Tomatoes in the AM. Add sliced tomatoes or a baked tomato half with your breakfast toast—it’s a favorite in the United Kingdom. Tomatoes are a great addition to a savory breakfast because of its juicy, fresh flavor.
3. Pile Veggies on Your Sammy. Load up the lettuce, spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, peppers, and/or onions into your whole grain sandwich, pita, or wrap. This is my go-to lunch for an easy, nutritious meal and it never fails to satisfy my cravings!
4. Put Vegetable Stir-fry on the Menu. Sauté cabbage, broccoli, celery, snow peas, bell peppers, carrots, onions, and/or mushrooms with tofu or nuts and your favorite spices and serve with brown rice or whole grains like wheat berries. Make this your go to every week.
5. Make your own Veggie Pizza. Create a vegetarian pizza packed with spinach, zucchini, squash, onions, bell pepper, and mushrooms. For an extra boost of veggies you can make a cauliflower or potato crust pizza and add the recommended toppings.
6. Have a Veggie Burger Once a Week. Turning to a veggie burger, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, and avocado, is a great way to get a healthy veggie-packed meal on the table. Since many plant-based burgers actually contain vegetables within them, you can get double the amount of nutrients.
7. Make a Hearty Chili. Cook up a pot with beans, fresh or canned tomatoes, onions, and peppers. You can serve some fresh tortilla chips on the side for an extra crunch and added flavor. Top off the chili with your favorite veggies and spices!
8. Double Up on Cooked Vegetable Servings at Dinner Time. Have two different veggies on your plate. Or if you’re not a huge fan of cooked vegetables, whip up a sauce that contains vegetables to serve with pasta or grains. You can also substitute your starch servings for cauliflower or sweet potatoes.
9. Add Chopped Vegetables to Soups. Just mix in mushrooms, green peas, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, green beans, onions, or red peppers to broth-based soups for a healthful meal addition. I absolutely love adding ginger, turmeric, and garlic with the vegetables to bring out the flavor of the soup.
10. Include a Side Salad or Soup. At each dinner add either (or both!) a garden salad or broth-based vegetable soup at every dinner. Whether you’re eating a plant-based burger or pasta, it’s always great to have a veggie-rich side to increase your fiber intake.
11. Mix Vegetables into Your Favorite Casseroles. Try peas or squash in your macaroni and or zucchini and kale in your lasagna. The best part is, you don’t have to precook your vegetables, all you need to do is toss them into the casserole and bake!
12. Use Leftover Veggies. Save all of those leftover chopped, cooked vegetables (broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, bell peppers, green peas) to use in soup, stew, or a casserole the next day. Reduce food waste, and make it easy—no chopping or fuss required.
13. Use Low-Sodium Tomato Juice as a Base for Soups. Start your pot of soup with some tomato juice—then just add flavorings, spices, lots of veggies, whole grains, pulses and cook away! You’ll get a double dose (or more) of veggies compliments of the tomato base.
14. Make a Big Pot of Vegetable Soup each Week. You can warm up the leftovers each day, pack them away for lunches on the go, and freeze in individual containers for a quick, microwaveable meal later on. If you’re having a busy work or school week, meal prepping soup is a great way to save time while providing you with the nutrients you need to fuel your body.
15. Don’t Make Wimpy Salads. Don’t just limit salad time to a plate of pale greens; try a variety of leaves, from red oak to arugula, and top them with a rainbow of veggies, including cucumbers, carrots, squash, broccoli, cauliflower, peas, corn, peppers, tomatoes, and jicama. Add some olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, salt, and pepper to any salad and you’ll have yourself a well-balanced meal.
For other ideas on boosting veggies in your diet, try these favorite recipes: