Most of us should eat more vegetables – fries and potato chips don’t count.
I believe the benefits of vegetables have been hammered into all our heads. Still we don’t eat enough of them according to most dietary experts.
Vegetables are great sources of A and B vitamins, fiber, potassium, folate and the list goes on and on. Different vegetables require different preparation techniques in order to extract the most vitamins and minerals.
Some vegetables can be eaten raw, while others through light cooking methods, vitamins and minerals are better able to be absorbed.
Here are 5 ways to incorporate more vegetables into your daily meals.
Make them part of your breakfast
In a typical Western diet vegetables aren’t often associated with breakfast. A great way of including them into your breakfast is through smoothies or shakes.
With the rise in green smoothies comes the benefits of using spinach, celery, kale and other green veggies in their raw form. Other vegetables which make excellent ingredients in shakes include carrots, beets, zucchini.
Another way is to use vegetables at breakfast is in omelettes. Be aware however some vegetables lose their beneficial properties when exposed to prolonged cooking at high heats.
Many Europeans enjoy quiche, especially the French. Quiches are another dish that can be chocked full of your favorite vegetables. If you’re a lover of Italian cuisine, Italian frittatas are also ideal for loading up with vegetables.
Snack on them
Include your vegetables as snacks. Before you reach for a bar of chocolate or potato chips why not try celery or slice carrots dipped in hummus or even guacamole. These vegetables are easy to prepare and store. Just grab them when hunger pangs hit.
Many supermarkets now sell pre-packaged hummus, guacamole and other vegetable dips. Read labels carefully to ensure they haven’t added excess sugars.
Wrap it up
If you’re a lover of tacos or burritos or if you just want to try something new, lettuce wraps are an excellent alternative. Instead of using flour or corn-based shells of tacos or burritos substitute them for lettuce. You can wrap your fillings in the crispy leaves, allowing you to reduce your calories per serving and increase your vegetable intake.
Soups and Purées
I believe that everyone should have at least one bowl of soup and salad per week. Soups are a great way of taking advantage of the bounty of vegetables available in any given season.
No longer are you limited to a boring tomato soup. You can throw almost any type of vegetable into the pot to make a hearty and nutritious soup.
Soups can be served hot or cold so the seasonal concept of eating soup only in the colder months is outdated.
Store bought soups can have high levels of sodium and preservatives. Read labels carefully. Your best option if you want to drink soup more frequently is making your own at home. They can be refrigerated and frozen quite well for easy storage.
Purées are popular in Italy. The consistency is not that of a liquid. Purées have the consistency of mashed potatoes. This is why they can be eaten as side dishes or as a main. Favorites in Italy include pumpkin, cauliflower, broccoli and fava beans purée and of course potato.
Pasta and Risotto
As an alternative you can make your pasta from vegetables such as zucchini and eat with your favorite sauces. I live in Italy and this is still not widely done, unless you’re into fitness.
Pasta in Italy is sacrosanct.
Many Italian pasta dishes contain large amounts of vegetables. Many dishes are not smothered in cheese and cream sauces as you may find in Italian restaurants outside of Italy.
Vegetarian lasagnas are quite common and I guarantee are as delicious as their meat- based counterparts.
Pasta dishes where vegetables are the stars include: pasta alla norma, taglietelle ai fungi porcini, orechiette con le cime di rapa, gnocchi di zucca. These all have hearty portions of vegetables as their base.
Often forgotten outside of Italy is the beloved risotto. Some of the most popular risottos are vegetable based. Porcini mushroom risotto, asparagus risotto, pumpkin risotto, radicchio risotto are easy to make and increase your daily serving of vegetables. To make my risotto less calorie dense I substitute the butter for Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
Do you think you eat enough vegetables?