According to the CDC, just one in 10 adults meet the federal fruit and vegetable recommendations (1). The healthy eating pattern should include two to three cups of vegetables a day.
Regular intake of vegetables can prevent or aid management of heart disease, promote weight loss or maintain your weight in a healthy range, benefit blood sugar levels, and reduce the risk of numerous diseases (2).
While most people don’t eat enough vegetables it’s never too late to change things around. The biggest problem here is the wrong perception of vegetables and the common belief it’s difficult to include them in everyday diet. But, it’s not. Vegetables are incredibly versatile and you can get recommended quantities every day with simple tips and tweaks from this post. So, scroll down to see them all.
1. Join a CSA
Let’s put it this way – if you get a box of vegetables delivered to your door every week, you’d eat them. Why? You don’t like wasting food and the last thing you’d want is to throw those vegetables away. So you’d eat them every day and look for different recipes to use them. That’s where Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) steps in.
Basically, CSA is a partnership between farmers and consumers wherein the responsibilities, risks, and rewards of farming are shared. A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. These shares are usually boxes of vegetables. As a consumer, you buy these shares through membership or subscription (3). In other words, you support farms and get vegetables in return.
The CSA is a great way to contribute to your community and local farmers, but at the same time, you get to eat more vegetables.
To join CSA, you can talk to your local farmer or visit websites of local farms to check whether they offer this program. Not all farms do! Another way to join this program is to enter your ZIP code on the Local Harvest website by clicking here.
2. Go for seasonal vegetables
Not all vegetables are in season at the same time. Looking for out-of-season produce could discourage you from eating vegetables because their prices are high or they may not be fresh or available at that specific moment. If you focus on seasonal vegetables, you will increase produce intake.
Buying in-season produce has many benefits. These include better taste, more affordable price, freshness, better nutritional content, lower risk of contamination, among others (4).
In order to increase the intake of vegetables, you may want to get informed about seasonal produce and when to look for certain pieces. For example, winters are reserved for cabbage, potatoes, pumpkins, and other produce while summer is the season of bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini (5).
3. Make vegetable soups
One of the easiest ways to consume more vegetables is to include them in the soups you make. For instance, you can puree vegetables and add spices to make the base for a super delicious soup. It’s easy to include vegetables into the cream- or broth-based soups. Besides their simplicity, you should add produce to soups because they deliver fiber, minerals, vitamins, and other important nutrients your body needs to function properly.
The health benefits of soups are numerous, such as (6):
- Aiding weight loss/management
- Healthy digestion
- Improved intake of fluids
- Rich in antioxidants
- Stronger bones
- Better heart health
4. Keep vegetables at a visible place in your fridge
Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables belong to the crisper drawer, located at the bottom of most refrigerators. This particular drawer is specifically designed to keep your produce fresh (7).
Our mind is tricky and it’s inclined to choose ingredients it sees first in the fridge. That’s why most of us place junk food in the front, on the shelves that are easier to reach, while healthy foods are pushed back. As a result, they’re easily ignored.
Therefore, in order to eat more vegetables, you should consider placing produce where you can see them easily when you open the fridge. You may also want to decrease the amount of fat- and sugar-laden foods you buy.
5. Plant your vegetable garden
Are you a person who doesn’t buy a lot of vegetables because you don’t think they’re fresh enough? Or maybe you don’t feel like going to the market to buy them regularly? Besides getting a box of vegetables delivered to your doorstep, you can try planting your own vegetable garden.
It would be difficult to avoid eating vegetables when they’re available in your backyard. Keep in mind this is not just about proximity, but also because of all the hard work and effort, you invested to grow your own produce.
Homegrown vegetables are nutritious, free of chemicals and pesticides, carry a lower risk of contamination, and in-season. Intake of homegrown produce also positively influences the home environment (8). This may lead to healthier eating habits, even in children.
6. Make zucchini lasagna
Everyone loves lasagna. You don’t need to be a masterchef to make this meal and it’s not time-consuming. But instead of standard lasagna, you can opt for a zucchini pasta-free alternative. You see, standard or traditional lasagna is a pasta-based dish meaning it’s abundant in carbs.
Instead of loading up on carbohydrates, you can make delicious yet healthy lasagna where zucchini is star instead of pasta. After all, zucchini is a wonderful source of vitamins B and C, but also delivers fiber and trace minerals (9).
How to make zucchini lasagna, thought? It’s easy! All you need is your favorite lasagna recipe. Replace the noodles with strips of zucchini. You can use a vegetable peeler to slice it. Before you start working on your lasagna you may want to salt the zucchini, let sit for 15 minutes, and pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water.
7. Prepare vegetables over the weekend for the entire week
Ideally, you should eat vegetables when they’re still fresh. Just clean and peel, then use however you want. But the reality is that most people feel like they don’t have enough time for that, especially when home after a long and exhausting day at work. The answer here is simple – prep your vegetables over the weekend for the entire week ahead. It’s like meal prep, but with vegetables only.
For instance, you can wash, trim, chop, and even roast and freeze the vegetables. That way, it’s easy to use them throughout the week. The goal is to save time, simplify the whole process, and increase the intake of vegetables.
Studies show watching videos could be an effective and cost-efficient intervention for increasing the self-efficacy of vegetable preparation (10).
8. Keep it versatile
Choosing and eating the same vegetables could be the reason you’re not eating enough produce. Eventually, you get bored or lose interest in those specific vegetables. When that happens, you may turn to junk food or other foods with little to no vegetables.
One way to counteract this problem and increase the consumption of vegetables is to keep your diet versatile. We are blessed with the easy availability of a wide range of vegetables. Each type of produce has different nutritional content, some active compounds unique to them. Your body needs a wide spectrum of those nutrients and compounds so your diet should be colorful and versatile too.
The easiest way to make it happen is to try a new vegetable every week. Or you can create a plan and rotate them. For example, spinach can be the focus one week, potatoes the other, and so on.
9. Make a pizza crust from cauliflower
Are you a pizza lover? If so, you probably can’t imagine ditching pizza for good. At the same time, you’re well aware it’s not the healthiest option for you. The wise thing to do is to make your pizza healthier starting with the crust. You can prepare a pizza with a crust made from cauliflower. Seriously! Check out the cauliflower pizza crust recipe here.
Not only is cauliflower versatile, but also healthy. A cup (100g) of cauliflower contains only 26 calories and 5g of carbs but supplies the body with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber (11).
10. Add vegetables to meatloaf
Meatloaf is a popular dish and it can be the perfect solution for men and women who want to increase vegetable intake. As you’re well aware, meatloaf usually comes in a combination of ground meat with eggs, breadcrumbs, and tomato sauce. Besides (or instead) the standard meatloaf ingredients you can also add chopped vegetables. There is no rule here as to what’s right or wrong. You can use your creativity to experiment and try out different combinations to see what kind of vegetable meatloaf suits you the most.
Persons who are feeling extra adventurous may want to try plant-based meatloaf that’s, basically, meat-free. For that purpose, you can use chickpeas, celery, onions, and carrots. The role of chickpeas here is to replace meat.
11. Stuff bell peppers
Bell peppers are low in calories and abundant in vitamin C and other antioxidants. Consumption of bell peppers can support eye health and reduce the risk of many chronic illnesses (12). Their unique shape and structure make bell peppers versatile.
Probably the easiest way to prepare them is to eat stuffed bell peppers. You can stuff halved peppers with meat, shredded potato, rice, beans, or combinations of these ingredients. That way, you can have a delicious yet healthy meal that increases your vegetable intake.
12. Don’t underestimate frozen vegetables
The whole concept of eating more vegetables focuses on fresh produce. Indeed, fresh vegetables are delicious, nutritious, and healthy. But you shouldn’t underestimate the power of frozen vegetables.
In fact, frozen produce can have just as many vitamins, and sometimes more, compared to fresh counterparts. Freezing is the best way to preserve nutrients and active compounds in plants. These vegetables are particularly useful to persons who can’t afford organic and fresh produce every day. They’re also practical for people who are not going to eat all their vegetables within a day or two (13).
Bags of frozen vegetables deliver those picked at peak ripeness. They’re also blanched before freezing. Blanching means vegetables are exposed to hot water temperatures between 90° and 95°F (32-35°C). Hot water destroys enzymes that cause discoloration, loss of flavoring, and browning of vegetables.
Buying frozen vegetables allows you to keep your diet versatile and makes it easy to eat more produce even if you’re on a tighter budget.
13. Eat salad at every meal
Evidence shows that consuming low-energy-dense salad before rather than with the main meal can increase vegetable consumption by 23% (14). What we love about salads is their simplicity. All you need is to chop and slice some vegetables, toss to combine, and you’re done. Your salad can contain lettuce, pre-washed greens, and arugula. That way, you get an easy and tasty addition to your meal.
Many people stay away from salads because they believe they should be their only meal. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t need to eat salad alone. Instead, make sure it accompanies other meals which also contain some vegetables.
14. Add vegetables to casseroles
An efficient way to increase vegetable intake is to include extra vegetables in your casseroles. Keep in mind vegetables add texture, bulk, and taste to the casserole at the same time. The biggest problem with traditional casseroles is that they are abundant in refined carbs and calories. So, they’re not easy on your weight.
What you can do to decrease the number of calories in casseroles is to replace the grains with broccoli, celery, mushrooms, carrots, and other vegetables. When it comes to eating more vegetables, it’s all about making wiser choices and replacing unhealthy foods and ingredients with vegetable alternatives.
15. Add vegetables to smoothies
Smoothies are usually made of fruits, but you may want to focus on vegetables. In fact, adding vegetables to the mix won’t compromise the flavor. It can only supply your body with a wide spectrum of much-needed nutrients.
The most common vegetable addition to a smoothie is leafy greens such as kale or spinach. That’s not such a surprise if we bear in mind that one cup (25g) of spinach contains more than a full day’s recommended intake of vitamin K and almost half of the required daily amount of vitamin A. The same serving of kale is abundant in vitamins A, C, and K (15).
When making a smoothie, you can also blend frozen zucchini, pumpkin, avocado, beets, and sweet potatoes too.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. That usually happens due to the standard Western diet which focuses on refined carbs and unhealthy fats primarily. Many people fail to consume enough vegetables because they believe it takes a lot of time to prepare them, or that their budget couldn’t handle produce. This post showed how easy it can be to eat more vegetables, even if you like pizza or you’re on a tight budget. Strive to implement these tips and recommendations to your everyday life in order to up the intake of vegetables and improve your health.