3 Easy Ways to Get Vegetables In Your Diet!
Vegetables are by far the most important food we can consume. Sure, we need a variety of others as well, such as grains and legumes, to name a few, but when we put our vegetables at the top of our list, we benefit greatly!
- Vegetables are loaded with phytonutrients and antioxidants, which have promising anti-cancer benefits.
- Vegetables have vitamins, such as vitamins A and C, that help us fight infections and colds.
- Vegetables contain fiber that allow us to keep our digestive system running smoothly.
- Vegetables have minerals, such as calcium, which is much more absorbable than calcium from dairy.
- Vegetables are affordable! By far, vegetables are less money than animal products and much more health rewarding than packaged foods.
- Vegetables are easy to grow! Even those of you who do not have backyards....vegetables grow easily in pots on small porches!
These are just some of the many benefits of vegetables! We all know that we need them daily in our diet! Please read on for some easy ways to incorporate them!
Aim For "A Salad A Day"
Salads have to be one of the easier ways to get vegetables, and with salads, we can get pretty creative!
Some stores have salads in packages already to make it easier for you (no cutting, etc.). I recommend that if you choose packaged salads to buy them organic. Sometimes companies use preservative sprays to keep them fresh longer.
If you have a few extra minutes a day, buy the lettuce and chop it yourself. You will get the freshest salad this way. Some salad greens that I recommend are the darker leaf lettuces, such as romaine. Other choices are "butterball" lettuces, green/red leaf lettuces, a mix of other greens thrown in such as kale, spinach, arugula, and a touch of mustard greens.
The easiest time to add a salad is at dinner time. Make the salad a large one and eat it before the meal. A raw salad offers you necessary digestive enzymes to help you digest whatever cooked food you may be eating.
You can get quite creative with salads by adding shredded carrots (again, these can be pre-packaged for convenience), chopped avocados (for a healthy fat), cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, mandarin oranges or dried fruit (like raisins or cranberries), small amounts of shredded cheese or feta cheese, and even added proteins, such as chickpeas, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
Keep in mind that you should choose a healthy dressing that is made with better quality oils (like olive oil) or opt for a vinegar based dressing. I mix olive oil and apple cider vinegar with a mix of Italian herbs.
If you can't fit a salad in at dinner, an option is to take a salad to work! This can be easily done with Tupperware containers (have the dressing separate). I also recently saw another way to transport a salad by using a large mason jar. The contents of the salad like the tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans were added to the jar first. The lettuce was added last. When the time came to eat, we add the dressing and shake the jar. Then empty the salad onto a plate. Viola!
Sometimes salads can be made into a meal itself! This can satisfy meat eaters and vegetarians alike. Some options are "Mexican" salads with added black beans and corn, as well as pieces of tortilla chips. The meat eaters can add pieces of cooked burger if they wish. Another option is adding chopped chicken or tofu pieces to up the protein!
Keep Track of You Veggies!
How Often Do You Eat Vegetables?
Homemade Vegetable Soups! Cooked and Raw
Let's start with the cooked version!
There's nothing easier than throwing a ton of vegetables into a pot to make soup! The best thing about soup is that you can make a bunch of it for the next day. I recommend starting with a vegetarian broth with added water. You can adjust your seasonings and salt level to your liking.
Stick with seasonal vegetables! The winter can have you enjoying potatoes, carrots, celery, kale, cabbage, broccoli. Summer can bring on a variety of squash, tomatoes, and green beans.
The important thing to remember with cooked vegetables in a soup is that cooking releases some of the nutrients that we need in vegetables. This is why overcooking vegetables is never recommended. In soups though, the purpose is the eat the broth too, so you are mostly still getting a good deal.
Raw soups are a whole different ball game. Raw soups involve using a blender and grinding up a variety of greens. You should start with a cup of water and add kale, romaine, parsley and green onions. You will want to experiment with others as you get used to the powerful taste. The key to making the soups tasty is the seasoning and salt. Sometimes a little garlic powder can go a long way! Please note, raw soups are not heated.
The nice thing about raw soups is that you don't need that much to make a big impact! Even a cup gets you a good dose of antioxidants. The raw enzymes in the soup aid in digestion as well!
Another Easy Way to Get Your Veggies
Veggie Juices and Smoothies!
Making vegetable juices and smoothies are one of the quickest ways for our bodies to get the benefits from those antioxidants.
Juices especially, do not require the process of digestion. In a juice, your body quickly absorbs what is needed. In smoothies, very little digestion is needed. In smoothies, you can also benefit from the fiber!
For a juice, you will need a juicer. Some of these centrifugal juicers are as low as $25. The prices can go much higher, of course, but usually all you need is a very basic one. Please see my hub on "Juicing Your Produce" to get more details!
Juices can make you just about any variety of vegetable juice you desire. The key to really healthy juices though is to use the 3:1 ratio of vegetables and fruits. For every 3 vegetables, one fruit can be used. This way, it is not overpowering with sweetness. Good "base" vegetables that provide a lot of juice are cucumbers and celery. I recommend getting these in their organic form. Adding other greens, such as kale, broccoli stalks, and parsley are great too. Creativeness comes in when we add a piece of ginger, wheatgrass powder, or a slice of fennel. Again, there are so many varieties out there. You really have to experiment to see what speaks to you.
Smoothies involve a blender. You can add water or almond milk as a base and grind just about any vegetable under the sun. Common vegetables are kale, avocado and spinach with a mix of berries and a banana. Again, various "green" powders, such as wheatgrass can add some punch.
Both juices and smoothies do not take much time to make. Most of the time, a large batch can be made to consume the next day as well. However, don't let a juice or smoothie sit for longer than 24 hours.
Of course, there are other easy ways to get vegetables each day too:
- Make a vegetable pizza with loads of only vegetables (like broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, carrots, etc.) and a favorite sauce
- Buy pre-cut carrots and celery for an easy to grab snack (good for a work day)
- Make your own homemade vegetable chips with a dehydrator or baked in the oven, using only olive (or coconut) oil and some sea salt
- The pulp from juicing your vegetables can be used in other recipes, like a "vegetarian" meatloaf (or a real meat loaf, if you eat meat).
- Begin making your plate half filled with vegetables, such as those that are steamed or raw. Focus less on the meat, which for meat eaters, should only take up about 1/4 of the plate anyway.
Overall, your body will thank you when more vegetables are added each day! You will feel better and complain less! Remember, this is "adding" something to your diet, not taking it away!