The constant recommendation everyone is talking about, including me, is to increase your vegetable intake. In my book “Eating Yourself Sick,” I discuss the merits of a plant-based diet (aka eat more veggies) and the positive effects of it on the gut microbiome, reduced total body inflammation, reduced cancer risk, better glucose control, and the low calorie-filling effect vegetables have on all of us. For many, it’s a known fact that vegetables are good for us. The execution of actually eating more is the hard part. You know what you’re supposed to do, but how do you do it? Let me share five tips that work for me.
- Make a Smoothie: There is no faster way to get your vegetables each day than to make them the major component of a smoothie. Just about any vegetable can be included in a smoothie, though some are better. Despite my love of brussels sprouts, you’ll never see me placing them in my Vitamix. The same goes for lima beans. Easy options include spinach, kale, carrots, zucchini, squash, beets, celery, zucchini, cucumbers, red peppers, fennel, and so many others. To tame the bitter or earthy taste of some vegetables, you can punch it down with some fresh ginger, a few drops of honey, half an apple, half a banana, slices of lime, lemon, or orange, a few blueberries, strawberries, or a tablespoon of raw oatmeal. Adding cinnamon does a marvelous job of adding a pleasant taste as well.
- Make a Salad: There is nothing easier than making a salad with vegetables. With your base of romaine, spinach, or a mix of greens, add a wide selection of cut vegetables in their raw state. Cut or chop them on the smaller side. Options include broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, peppers (green/red), cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, squash, green peas, green beans, lentils, shallots, and artichokes. Don’t forget you can include cooked vegetables as well. Bake a sweet potato, let it cool (or use it the next day) and slice up chunks for the salad. The same goes for freshly cooked beets. Finish it off with a homemade dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, your favorite herbs and spices, and a handful of chopped almonds.
- Grill Them: Just about any vegetable can be grilled on a gas or coal grill. It’s best to cut them into larger pieces or lengthwise so they don’t fall apart while cooking. It’s also best to grill them on a grilling rack, widely available at local retailers. This prevents your cut vegetables from slipping through the grill grates. Include tomatoes, onions, green onions, peppers, and even romaine lettuce. The sky’s the limit when it comes to grilling vegetables. Make sure all of the vegetables are cut about the same size to ensure even cooking times. You can make a homemade marinade by combining balsamic vinegar with olive oil, pepper, parsley, chopped basil, and a host of herbs and spices. This is your chance to experiment.
- Oven Baked: In you baking pan, create a potpourri of vegetable for baking. Here again, simplicity rules. You can combine eggplant, squash, tomatoes, onions, green beans, and brussels sprouts, adding olive oil, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, pepper, and pinch of salt. Cook until the desired tenderness is reached, which is about 35-40 minutes at 350-375 degrees. You can make enough for 2-3 days, using leftovers for reheats, snacks, lunch, or adding to a salad.
- Make a Soup: Homemade vegetable soup is always a treat. Add your vegetables to a pot of water, and simmer for 2 hours. Include tomato paste for added flavor, with lots of celery, onions, spices, and greens. It’s impossible to ruin vegetable soup.
Employing these strategies throughout the week, it should be much easier to get the 5 servings of vegetables we should all be aiming for each day. Let me know which recipes you try and like! I look forward to hearing back from you.