Eating vegetables is vital for our health, and therefore we feel constant guilt about choosing donuts over carrots at the local coffee shop. Vegetables are an important source of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C. Furthermore, most veggies are naturally low in calories and fat, and in most cases lower the risk of some serious chronic diseases. The more you eat the better, basically.
So why is it so difficult to get that massive daily dose of veggies then? Unless you're five and think broccoli's for nerds, it’s probably because you’re not prepared. You don’t have the right stuff in your fridge and most of the time just the idea of chopping, peeling and grating forces you to eat a recovery donut. Don’t give up though, there's a bunch of easy ways to get your munch on. Read on, try out a few new habits, and I’ll promise you’ll be chowing away your greens like a bunny rabbit in no time. Here are my 10 tips how to increase your daily vegetable intake:
#1 Buy bite-sized veggies
Baby carrots, cherry or pearl tomatoes, radishes, and peas are excellent options if you come home from work starving and need something quick to eat. No need for chopping, peeling or seed extraction – you just rinse them and throw them into your mouth. Or, if you like to live dangerously, just eat 'em right out of the bag.
Many of my friends would rather have a slice of bread instead of vegetables when they’re super hungry and need some nutrition fast. I know well enough that the idea of preparation can be overwhelming at the moment of "starvation". This won’t be an issue though if you make sure to keep your fridge always stocked with these nutrient-dense crunchies that need no preparation whatsoever.
#2 Have a salad for lunch
This sounds like a no-brainer but it really helps. If you’re able to choose the ingredients yourself, make sure you don’t opt for the calorie-poor lettuce, tomato, cucumber combo with overcooked chicken breast or the haphazardly prepared Caesar salad with shrimp. Instead, go for the nutrient-dense stuff and pick beetroot, artichokes, and beans on top of your spinach or kale base. Skip the pasta base bro, that ain't a salad.
Then, go look at the cabbage section and choose broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts or some chopped red cabbage. Basically whichever grosses you out the least. Next, bring on those safe tomatoes and cucumbers for some antioxidants and flavonoids, and add some mushrooms, avocado, and seeds for taste and good fatty acids. Eat like a rainbow by picking different colors. Each color indicates a different nutrient makeup! Finally, choose a protein to go with the ensemble and sprinkle some quality olive oil on top of your plate. My absolute favorite protein is salmon (taste = awesome, healthy fats = awesomer) but tofu and feta cheese are wonderful options as well to complete my beautiful lunch plates.
#3 Veggies > fruits with brekkie
Most of us are used to having fruits for breakfast but I can assure you, raw or cooked veggies are a great option as well as soon as you get into the habit. Fruits are awesome when it comes to vitamins but contain plenty of sugar. Thus, vegetables are a fabulous alternative especially if you’re paying attention to calories or are cautious about your blood sugar levels early in the morning.
With veggie brekkies, start easy and have some tomatoes and cucumber next to your bread, oatmeal or yogurt, or some spinach or lettuce on your toast. Soon enough you’ll start craving for some nice, crunchy carrots for breakfast, and finally, you’ll end up enjoying pickled onions and kimchi next to your omelets. In addition to enjoying raw vegetables at breakfast, cooking some veggies with your eggs on a pan is an excellent (and easy) way to increase your daily intake. Tomatoes, onions, kale and spinach work beautifully with eggs – give it a try and be surprised how delicious it is!
#4 Smash them veggies
Mashed potatoes are great with fried chicken, but not great for nutrients or your figure. This is relatively easy. Taters out, veggies in. Cauliflower, carrots, and peas are well-suited for this purpose and the internet is full of delicious purée recipes.
If you prefer to keep some good ol’ potatoes on your plate, try boiling some cauliflower with potatoes and make mashed cauliflower and potatoes to go with your meatballs or pork chops. Same preparation and no extra effort, yet you still get the goodness and nutrients of veggies.
#5 Replace chips with veggie dips
I used to fuel my long nights in front the computer (when I was working like a maniac to meet approaching deadlines) with candies, chocolate, and potato chips. No more! I replaced my unhealthy snacks with veggies and despite my prejudice, the veggie sticks worked equally well in keeping me awake and focused.
Apparently, the refreshing and awakening effect had more to do with the chewing activity than the sugar content of the snack – a bowl of carrot, cucumber and celery sticks really keeps me awake and focused when it’s late and I need to work. A similar bowl is also an excellent option for movie nights at home. Make some dip with Greek yogurt, some olive oil, and spices like paprika if you want to take it up a notch, and I’m sure you won’t be craving those greasy potato chips.
#6 Sneaky smoothies
Easy as pie. Actually a lot easier than pie. Pies need baking. Just toss random stuff into the mixer and mash the button. Kale, cucumber, beetroot, carrots – you name it! Just try and be amazed how well it blends in, the internet is full of delicious smoothie recipes. If you’re not a hardcore veggie kind of person you might want to add some berries, avocados, bananas, or other fruits to soften the taste. Soon enough you’ll be slurping away smoothies with great amounts of veggies.
Personally, I prefer to have smoothies for breakfast or as a morning snack in between breakfast and lunch in case the latter one is delayed. You can blend it at home, take it to work with you and enjoy it when it’s convenient for you.
#7 Chow kimchi
This is self-explanatory I guess. Kimchi is a fermented blend of cabbage, chili peppers, garlic, scallions, and other spices. It’s originally from Korea but nowadays available in almost all supermarkets around the globe. It’s healthy, tasty and goes well with almost everything. This is a super easy way to increase your daily vegetable intake (not to mention all the other health benefits of kimchi) and it doesn’t require much effort from your side. You could settle for sauerkraut, but it won't have that fire.
#8 Sweet potato fries
If you must have fries at times, go for the sweet potato fries. Some trendy cafés and hipster restaurants are already serving these with all sorts of poke bowls and such but if your nearest lunch place doesn’t have them on the menu, they’re relatively simple to prepare at home. It’s still fried (fast) food but at least a bit healthier than the ordinary version with regular potatoes and adds to your vegetable intake.
The remaining 2 tips are useful for bread and pastry lovers. If you’re following a low-carb or ketogenic diet you might want to skip them. The rest of you, read on!
#9 Dunkin' Veggies
Personally, I’m not much into baking but I’ve tasted some delicious cakes with vegetables in them. Beetroot and carrot are excellent veggies for this purpose and once again, there are loads of delicious recipes available online. Such a genius way to increase your vegetable intake in case you eat cakes and muffins regularly. The same goes for bread rolls and other types of bread you might prepare at home. Grate your root vegetables or carrots and throw them into the dough!
#10 Buy bread with veggies in it
Over the summer vacation in Europe, I came across bread that has 38% vegetables in it. This version contained beans, parsnip and carrot in addition to the usual whole grain flour and other bread stuff. I was amazed how tasty it was (I couldn’t recognize the veggies at all) and how cleverly they had chosen the veggies for different combinations. If I had access to these here in Asia, I’d be munching them every day instead of regular bread.
BONUS: Avocado Toast
If you failed from 1-10 your only choice is to join the movement, grow a beard and start riding a bicycle. As any hipster with street cred would point out, the avocado doesn’t technically fall into the “vegetable” category – it’s a berry – it’s still such a great product I’ll have to mention it in this post. In addition to putting it into your smoothies and salads, try out the trendy avocado toast and fall in love with the richness of the combo. I like my avocados on rye bread instead of usual toast but I wouldn’t mind having it on veggie bread (see tip number 10) either!
Feel free to share the best tips guaranteeing you eat mountains of veggies every day. Happy munching!
All pictures by yours truly. If you'd like to use them, please ask for permission.