Vegetables are probably the most important food group in our diet. They’re nutrient rich, high in fibre and low in energy. Did you know they provide our good gut bacteria with food (prebiotics) and they’re full of powerful antioxidants too! We all need to eat more vegetables. Eating the rainbow (and plenty of it) cuts your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Plus, eating more vegetables is one of the most effective strategies for weight loss and improving your general health and well-being (and feeling less rundown and prone to colds!).
I bet you think your eat alright… But! Four out of five Aussie adults are not eating enough vegetables. Two serves of fruit and Five serves of vegetables is the daily goal for most women. That’s 300g of fruit and 375g of vegetables. A serve is about 1/2 cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad vegetables. That’s the minimum though; the more vegetables, the better! Men and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need more. Find out how many you need here.
How many serves do you eat? Try using measuring cups as you plate up your meals for a day, and see how your serves add up.
We all need to try to eat more vegetables.
Everyone wants to feel better, and we’re just not as healthy as we think we are. Eating more vegetables really is the simply solution. The guidelines are actually the minimum, the more the better! So, I’ve come up with my top tips. These strategies will get you back on track and do not require a visit to a farmers market or health food shop.
10 ways to eat more vegetables
- Fill your plate. Make sure at least half your dinner plate is full of non-starchy vegetables. Salad, steamed greens, raw vegetable sticks, however you like them – pile them up! That leaves you 1/4 for lean protein and 1/4 for wholegrain carbs or starchy-vegetables (like potatoes).
- Meat free Monday. Dedicate one night a week to meat-free meals. Eating less meat is beneficial for your health too! It also means you have to focus on making vegetables and legumes the star. Use my family favourite vegetarian chilli or vegetarian pizza to get you started.
- Start with breakfast. Going all day without a vegetable and trying to eat 5 cups of salad at dinner is not going to work. The easiest way to eat more vegetables is to spread them out throughout the day. 1/2 a cup of baked beans and 1/2 cup wilted spinach with a slice of wholegrain toast for breakfast and you’re 2 serves down already!
- Make friends with legumes. Peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas and baked beans are special little vegetables that are great sources of fibre, protein and iron. Try using a little less mince in your pasta sauce and adding a can of lentils. Or switching the chicken for chickpeas in your favourite curry.
- Always get a side of salad or vegetables when you eat out. Cafe and restaurant meals might be big on flavour but they’re not generous with vegetables. Ask for a side salad or side of steamed vegetables to go with your meal. Ordering an entree sized meal is more satisfying if there are vegetables to fill up on too. For an even healthier idea, ask to switch the chips for greens.
- Switch crackers for crudites. We’re terrible at eating vegetables but we do love a good snack. So next time your whipping up a platter or making a snack, swap the chips/crackers/bread/tortillas for vegetable sticks instead. You’ll be saving yourself a lot of kilojoules (calories) and salt too.
- Smoothies. Smoothies can be a great way to get some extra greens into your day, particularly if you don’t like them. Go easy on the portion size and add ins though as it’s easy to go overboard and end up drinking lot’s of sugar and energy instead of a small snack. Try my favourite green smoothie to get you started.
- Fill the freezer. Frozen vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh vegetables. In fact, they are often even better as they don’t lose nutrients during transport or storage as they’re picked, packed and frozen within a day or two. Keep a variety of mixes on hand so there is always some to add to a meal or steam for a quick side dish.
- Prepare them on the weekend. Get a head start to the week by prepping your vegetables on the weekend. Chop carrot, cucumber and capsicum into sticks, prepare salads (keep the leaves separate so they don’t get soggy) and roast a tray of veg sprinkled with spices so there is always something ready to grab for quick meals and snacks. Make it an easy choice.
- Add an extra handful to every meal. When you think you’re meal is almost ready, chuck in a handful of frozen peas, baby spinach or a can of drained lentils. You’ll be making the meal go further (helllo healthy lunches tomorrow) and of course, adding to the vegetable count.
Try to include some of these tips to your week and let me know if you end up closer to your 5 serves goal.
Sarah Moore is a mum, and university qualified Registered Nutritionist. She has 10 years’ experience working with families to improve their health and well-being. Sarah has a simplistic and practical approach to family nutrition and wants you to know that activated unicorn berries are not the answer to your health and wellness. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more healthy tips and tricks.