January 2023 Tips to Help You Eat More Vegetables
By Corrin Coons
Looking for ways to get in more veggies? It can be hard to get in enough vegetables, but there are many delicious and different ways to add them to your diet! Read on for why vegetables are so important and tips on how to get more veggies in your day to boost the nutrition in your meals.
What are the benefits of eating more vegetables?
It is recommended to eat 2-3 servings of vegetables per day (1 serving is 1 cup of raw or cooked non-starchy vegetables or 2 cups of leafy greens). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2019 only 10% of Americans met this recommendation. Here is why it is important to meet this recommendation:
Vegetables are an excellent source of fiber, which has a wide range of benefits including:
- Diverse Microbiome: Eating enough fiber helps maintain a healthy balance of microbes in your gut. These microbes are important for your gut health and recent studies show gut health is linked to many other health conditions.
- Disease Prevention: Fiber can lower blood glucose and cholesterol which reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
- Digestive Health: Fiber can help prevent constipation and reduces the risk of some diseases, such as colon cancer and diverticulitis.
- Improved Satiety: Eating fiber at meals helps you feel fuller for longer because it slows down digestion.
Vegetables are also a great source of many important micronutrients and antioxidants:
- High in vitamins like vitamin A, folate, vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin C.
- A great source of minerals such as potassium and magnesium.
- Rich in many antioxidants including polyphenols like anthocyanins, phenolic acids, flavanols, and tannins. Check out our antioxidant blog to learn more about the benefits.
Tip # 1: Plan the menu around the vegetable
- Vegetable side dishes are generally an afterthought, but they can be the star of the show.
- Take inspiration from Indian curries, Chinese stir fries, vegetable stews, or grain and vegetable power bowls and formulate a recipe that features vegetables as the main component.
Tip # 2: Make sure you like the way they taste
- Cook veggies any way you like: Some people are hesitant to cook their vegetables for fear of losing nutrients. However, while some nutrients may be lost in the cooking process, cooking can also improve the digestibility and bioavailability of other nutrients. So don’t be afraid to cook your vegetables in any way that makes them tasty to you whether that is steaming, roasting, or air frying.
- Try roasting and caramelizing vegetables: Vegetables contain their own natural sugars that will caramelize when cooked at a high heat. Try broiling or roasting them in an oven, searing them in a pan, or grilling them on a hot plate until they have browned and formed a sweet nutty flavor.
- Spice and sauce it up: Utilize your favorite sauces and spices to add some life to your vegetables. For example, drizzle balsamic glaze on top of brussels sprouts or squeeze lemon juice over broccoli.
Tip # 3: Squeeze in more throughout your day
- Every ounce counts: any additional tomato slice or ¼ cup of chopped chiles can add up.
- Add grated vegetables to baked goods like breads, muffins, and brownies.
- Add neutral-flavored vegetables like zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, and cauliflower to smoothies and shakes.
- Include veggies in your snacks: pair carrots with your favorite dip like hummus or guacamole or pack snap peas, sliced bell pepper, and cucumber for a convenient on-the-go snack.
Tip #4: Utilize frozen vegetables
- One of the hardest parts about eating more vegetables is making sure they don’t go bad before you have the chance to eat them. Keep frozen vegetables on hand so you always have a vegetable available to incorporate into your meals. This will also reduce the number of trips you take to the store. Plus, frozen vegetables are just as – and sometimes more – nutritious as fresh varieties.
- You can use frozen vegetables by microwaving them or heating them up in a pan on the stove. If your frozen veggies have large chunks of ice, you can run them under hot water in a strainer before heating them up. This will prevent them from becoming soggy with water once reheated.
Tip #5: Switch it up
- Keep veggies interesting by eating a variety of different colored vegetables throughout the week. Think about what vegetables you haven’t eaten in a while and choose those at the store.
- Consuming an assortment of colored vegetables also ensures you are getting a variety of nutrients because different colors represent different nutrients. For example, red- and purple-colored vegetables like beets and red onion contain anthocyanins while orange-colored vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes are high in beta-carotene.
Tip #6: Meal prep large batches
- Fill up and roast a sheet pan or two of assorted vegetables to have on hand throughout the week for days that you don’t feel like cooking.
- Try meal prepping these winter roasted vegetables for an easy nourishing vegetable ready any day of the week.
Adding more vegetables to your diet has many health benefits and is a great goal to have going into the New Year! Make vegetables the star of your dishes and try incorporating them into most meals and snacks throughout the day. Explore the many delicious ways to cook vegetables and incorporate different varieties to keep meals delicious, fun, and packed full of nutrients. To help make this goal sustainable, don’t be afraid to use frozen vegetables or meal prep large batches so you always have a convenient vegetable ready for mealtimes. Try utilizing these tips to support yourself in making your veggie goals a reality! But remember, change is gradual. Start with small goals and work your way up from there. You may find that reaching the recommendation for vegetable intake is easier and more delicious than you once thought!
About the Author:
Coons is a senior majoring in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a concentration in Dietetics. Her goal is to become a registered dietitian and work in the clinical setting. Coons is particularly interested in working in critical care with patients who need nutrition support. She would also love to work with people with gastrointestinal disorders as well as eating disorders. A fun fact about Corrin: She did gymnastics for 13 years and competed for one year in college before coming to CSU. Being a student athlete is what sparked her interest in nutrition.
For additional resources for healthy eating, check out these programs from our registered dietitian nutritionists. Find delicious and healthy recipes on our Recipes page! More health tips are also available at the College of Health and Human Sciences Pinterest board. Lastly, don’t forget to sign up for the KRNC monthly newsletter!