Remember when you were young and your mom told you to eat your vegetables? She was actually onto something. Vegetables can be viewed as nature’s multivitamin. Common nutrients include fiber, folate, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and iron.
As a registered dietitian, I’m not too surprised when people tell me they don’t enjoy vegetables. If I were prescribed a daily bowl of iceberg lettuce topped with pale tomatoes, I’d probably have a hard time finding motivation to eat the recommended daily servings of vegetables.
When planning your week’s meals, here are some suggestions to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Your mom (and your body) will thank you.
» For a savory scramble, brown some onions and add fresh or frozen spinach to the pan before adding your eggs.
» Add onions or peppers to hash browns for a little color and crunch.
» Top off your pancakes or waffle with shredded carrots. Their sweetness makes for a tasty topping or added mix-in.
» Pack a sandwich bag of raw carrots, celery, bell pepper slices or cherry tomatoes. Prepare several snack bags at the same time for the week ahead.
» Looking for a crunchy and tangy pairing? Dip your veggies in homemade hummus.
Lunch entrée – Chili
» Carrots, celery and onions are considered the holy trinity of vegetables because of the flavorful magic that happens when they’re cooked together. Make a pot of homemade chili and include these vegetables in it. Prepare it on the weekend and you’ve got lunch handled for the week.
» It’s hard to find a vegetable that doesn’t taste good in chili. If you’re longing for a thick and hearty texture, look no further than canned pumpkin puree. It makes any chili or stew filling and creamy without actually using cream.
» Reinvent your idea of a side salad with new ingredients like snap peas, nuts, avocado, zucchini, oranges or berries.
» Looking for a new dressing? Try this 3-2-1 recipe: 3 parts olive oil, 2 parts white wine vinegar, 1 part Dijon mustard. This simple vinaigrette is light, zesty and once again, creamy without the cream.
» Tired of soggy salad? Keep your salad and dressing separate in one of the many divided containers available in stores.
» Hot dishes scream for vegetables! Onions, mushrooms, garlic, zucchini and yellow squash will cook right along with your noodles and meat. Sautéing them first will eliminate some of their water content.
» Picky eater at home? Add sautéed veggies to your pasta sauce to balance their flavor with the sweet sauce. To help with consistency, you can even put the sauce and veggies in a blender to puree to one smooth texture. I doubt anyone will know they’re in there.
» During colder months, frozen vegetables are your best friend. They’re crisper, fresher and lower in sodium than their canned counterparts. They’ll also save you money when most “fresh” vegetables are shipped to our neck of the woods from far away.
» Steam frozen vegetables in their microwaveable bag or throw them in a stovetop steamer according to package directions.
» I like to add olive oil, lemon juice and a spice blend (Mrs. Dash or McCormick’s Perfect Pinch). If you haven’t tried lemon juice as a substitute for salt, you’re in for a treat.
» Vegetables for dessert? I promise you won’t regret it.
» Baking acorn or butternut squash brings out its natural sweetness. Cut the squash in half and remove the pulp and seeds. Mix cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, a tablespoon of sugar and a dash of salt with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Brush this mixture inside the two halves and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Depending on the size and type of squash, one squash will make two to four filling servings.
So…are you hungry for vegetables yet?