By Jane Wynne, Nutrition Volunteer and Lisa Zarny, MS, RD, CD-N, Clinical Nutrition Manager
“Eat your veggies!” A phrase none of us can easily forget from our childhood. As an adult, you’ve probably outgrown your aversion to vegetables. But if you’re like most of the nation, chances are you still don’t eat enough of them on a daily basis. Here are some suggestions to include a variety of vegetables into your meal planning:
1. Embrace the taste.
Unfortunately, we’re not always up for an adventure when it comes to vegetables. It’s far from surprising that the potato—prepared in any form—is the most commonly consumed vegetable along with lettuce and tomatoes. The desire for common, comfortable palette-pleasing flavors accounts for a lack of variety, which doesn’t help in giving your body the healthy boost it needs. By stepping outside of your comfort zone by trying something new or enhancing your usual vegetables with herbs and spices, you can revamp your plate. Try dark greens like spinach for vitamin A and folic acid, a type of B vitamin. Beans and peas are also an excellent source of protein and fiber.
2. Lower your risk.
Introducing veggie variety can reduce your risk for many chronic diseases and conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. In addition, the fiber found in vegetables helps excrete some cholesterol from the body, lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol levels. Veggies help you stay at a healthy weight by filling you up with nutrients rather than “empty” fat and calories found in less healthier choices. All of the vitamin and minerals found in vegetables allows your body to run as efficiently as possible – making you feel your best!
3. Get more of what’s good.
Nutritional experts recommend that adults eat 2.5 to 3 cups of vegetables every day. Instead, most Americans eat less than 1.5 cups a day! Here’s what 1 cup of veggies looks like:
- 3 broccoli spears, about 5 inches long
- 2 medium carrots or 12 baby carrots
- 1 large bell pepper
- 1 large baked sweet potato or 1 medium baked white potato
- 1 large ear of corn, about 8 inches long
- 2 large stalks of celery
4. Savor the season.
To help you gobble up more of the nutritional goodness of veggies, try choosing seasonal vegetables. Supporting local produce and farmers makes it easy to learn about and purchase vegetables during their ideal season. This produce is always fresher because it has traveled less and, therefore, retains more vitamins and minerals for you to consume. In grocery stores and supermarkets, fresh veggies are often less expensive and more delicious when eaten during their actual harvest time. However, frozen or canned ones are also good choices off season. Just be careful of salt content.
5. Be mindful at mealtime.
Make your veggies stand out on your plate. Vegetables come in so many different colors, shapes, and sizes – there are countless possibilities. By mixing in a variety of colors and textures, you’ll never have a boring plate. A stir-fry or soup is a good way to mix up many different types of vegetables. And when it comes to storing veggies, keep them in plain sight rather than hiding them in the lower refrigerator door. That way, you’ll remember they’re there waiting to make your meal sing!
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