How to Sneak Enough Veggies Into Your Diet, Even Now
Most of us are probably cooking more than we ever have -- and the ensuing frustration is real. You’re not alone if you’ve taken comfort in regressing to the chicken nuggets and mac & cheese phase of your life. (Salad? I don’t know her.) Taking your angst out on vegetables, though, is only hurting you and your body, which is begging you to put down the chips. Good news: There are easy ways to incorporate more veggies into your meals. Plus, research shows that eating more vegetables improves your happiness and well-being, which is great because depending on your age and gender, you’re supposed to be consuming two to three cups per day anyway. Here are seven easy ways to get back on the veggie train and get that much-needed, plant-based boost.
Buy vegetables with a longer shelf life
It’s hard to eat enough veggies if the ones you buy are going bad before you get a chance to consume them. So the first step in translating your good intentions into better food habits is picking produce that can go the distance. Carrots, for example, will last up to three to four weeks in the fridge -- just make sure to stick a paper towel in the bag to absorb any moisture. When refrigerated (unwashed), beets can last up to two weeks if you cut off the greens. Cauliflower can last up to one week in the fridge, and sweet potatoes will keep for one to two weeks in a cool, dark area. If you’re still nervous about food waste (AKA throwing money away), buying canned or frozen vegetables is a foolproof move. Frozen veggies in particular are equally, if not more, nutrient-packed than the fresh stuff and generally cheaper, too.
Sneak them into egg-centric dishes
Even if you can’t go out to brunch with your friends right now, you can make brunch come to you thanks to the combination of eggs and vegetables (well, and video chat for the friends part). Not only are veggie-centric omelettes, frittatas, and quiches easy to make, these dishes allow you to use up a mix of random vegetables that are about to turn in your fridge -- and sneak greens into a meal that you’d otherwise forget about them. Zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, asparagus, peas, onions, and spinach will make any egg-focused entree more flavorful and nutritious. Plus, these dishes make enough for leftovers, which means you get to cook one less meal tomorrow.
Pickles are an easy way to dress up all sorts of meals and get closer to your daily dose of veggies. While you can buy store-bought pickles, you can also easily make your own at home to move beyond cucumbers: think sliced carrots, green beans, and bell peppers. (Pickling helps vegetables keep longer, too -- up to a few months -- so this is another way to avoid food waste.) All you need to get started is vinegar, sugar, and water, plus fresh or dried spices like thyme, coriander seeds, and dill to take it up a notch. Throw the homemade pickles on Asian-style rice bowls, into fajitas, or add to sandwiches to elevate whatever you're eating.
Drink your produce
When work is insane or the kitchen is feeling a bit crowded with roommates or extra family members, drinking your veggies is a quick and delicious way to get your plant fix. Well Yes!® Sipping Soups come in comforting flavors like tomato & sweet basil and butternut squash & sweet potato, which makes getting a serving of veggies on the go easy and nutritious. Don’t forget about V8®, either, which gives you two full servings of vegetables in every 8 ounces. Throw in some of those homemade pickles, and you’ll be even more pleased with your snack choices. Or, to up your veg intake along with your hydration, try V8 +Hydrate™ to get a full serving of vegetables plus natural electrolytes from sweet potato juice.
Integrate veggies into pasta night
No one is saying you have to altogether ditch carbs in favor of vegetables, but adding fresh produce can help make this go-to weeknight dinner feel a bit more creative. Next time you’re craving lasagna, sub in zucchini roll-ups for standard lasagna noodles and fill with sausage and cheese (or leave meatless and use chunky tomatoes) to still get that gooey, comforting feeling you want out of a good pasta dish. Of course, you can also use a spiralizer to make thin, spaghetti-like noodles out of other types of squash and veggies. Don’t forget about the sauce, either: wilted greens (arugula, kale, etc.) sitting in your fridge can make a delicious pesto. To have your vegetables and eat your noodles, too, just throw fresh or frozen broccoli, green beans, or peas in with your pasta during the last minute or two of the boil for a seriously low-lift way to eat more greens.
Think beyond roasting
To get more veggies into your diet without feeling like you’re eating vegetables all the time, think beyond simple oven roasting when it comes to side dishes. Kale chips seasoned with shaved Parmesan or chile flakes and “carrot bacon” are veg-forward ways to indulge in favorite snacks. Oh, and you heard it here first: edamame dip is the new guacamole. Not only does it keep for longer in the fridge, but you can use frozen shelled edamame (along with olive oil and spices like garlic and onion), which makes it an easy weeknight staple. All three sides can also be prepared ahead of time and are quick, nutrient-packed snacks you can munch on throughout the day.
Make veggies the star of the dish
With the right approach and flavors, vegetables can stand alone as the star on your plate -- which is an easy way to trick yourself into eating more of them (and no, that doesn’t mean you are stuck with salads). Take a break from meat and poultry a few times a week by swapping in hearty veggies as the centerpiece, like mushrooms, eggplant, cauliflower, lentils, beets, and sweet potatoes. Get creative with meal ideas like black bean and sweet potato tacos, cauliflower crust pizza, sweet potato French toast, and grilled portobello mushroom steaks and make vegetables your trendiest dinner guest of 2020.