“To be healthy, you need to eat more veggies!” We’ve probably all heard that a million times. But it’s true. The majority of us probably don’t eat as many vegetables as we should. One of my baby steps to living a healthier life is to eat more veggies. If you haven’t already, check out my other posts for steps 1-6. It’s important to work on those things first, especially step 1, creating a healthy mindset.
I see a lot of people in the health and wellness industry making healthy living too complicated for people that are just beginning their health and wellness journey. When in reality, it’s not as hard as we make it out to be sometimes. The hardest parts of healthy eating are the mindset and just making it a habit.
To make eating lots of veggies a habit, we’ve got to know ways to use them. So, keep reading for some reasons why eating veggies is important (even though I think we all know that!) and some tips and ideas for eating more vegetables in your daily life.
Eat More Veggies
Why Eat More Veggies
I followed the Paleo diet for a while, and still do try to stick close to it (I do incorporate SOME grains and dairy now). The thing I love about this way of eating is that it focuses on eating real, whole foods, as close to the way they were in nature as possible. And that’s a concept I think everyone should focus on, whether they follow Paleo 100% or not.
I’m a believer in God, and I believe he made the best foods there are. He gave us fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, animals, etc. for us to enjoy. And He made them loaded with all kinds of great things we need to keep us fueled and feeling our best.
I’m not against anything made by man, but no factory can produce all the wonderful flavors vegetables and fruits naturally have.
1. Veggies are loaded with vitamins and minerals.
We can get most of the vitamins and minerals – or “micronutrients” – from vegetables.
For example, we can get:
Vitamin A: carrots, dark leafy vegetables, pumpkins, squash, and sweet potatoes
Vitamin B (there are several, but I lumped them together): asparagus, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, dark leafy vegetables, mushrooms, and squash
Vitamin C: bell peppers, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, chili peppers, kale, and tomatoes
Vitamin E: asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, and squash
Vitamin K: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, dark leafy vegetables, green beans, and peas
Calcium: broccoli, dark leafy vegetables, squash, and sweet potatoes
Chromium: broccoli, green beans, and potatoes
Iron: broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, dark leafy vegetables, potatoes, and string beans
Magnesium: broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and spinach
Potassium: broccoli, cucumber, mushrooms, peas, potatoes, spinach, sweet potatoes, and zucchini
*Vitamin D is one we can’t get from vegetables. The best place to get that is from the sun.
We need all these great vitamins and minerals to keep our body working how it’s supposed to work and to keep us from getting sick. Many of us are deficient in some of these, because we’re not eating as many vegetables as we should.
2. They don’t have artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners.
Unlike many processed foods, vegetables don’t have these harmful things added to them. Artificial flavors can cause hyperactivity, asthma, tumors, allergies, and skin irritation. You have no way of knowing what exactly is in the “artificial flavor” in a processed food. Artificial sweeteners can still cause the same effect as sugar, like weight gain and addiction. Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about these factory-made ingredients with vegetables.
If they’re organic, they don’t have any harmful thing added to them. Non-organic vegetables are usually sprayed with fungicides, herbicides, and pesticides and some are covered with a wax coating. So try to choose organic vegetables, as they’re available and as your budget allows. But even if your budget does not allow for the best of the best (organic, local, fresh vegetables), eating canned non-organic veggies is better than eating NO veggies!
3. Some are naturally sweet.
Vegetables don’t have artificial or natural sugar added to them, but many are still sweet. One of my favorite vegetables is sweet potatoes. I love how they’re naturally sweet, especially roasted with a little cinnamon on them.
Roasting many vegetables brings out the natural sweetness. You can get a little sweet fix, while also getting lots of fiber (we’ll get to why that’s important next) and nutrients. Another sweet vegetable (or is it a fruit?) is tomatoes. They’re delicious just sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper.
4. They’re loaded with fiber.
The great thing about both fruits and vegetables is that, along with some natural sugar, they have fiber to help our blood sugar stay balanced and not spike like it does with processed sugary or carb-filled foods.
Besides helping with our blood sugar balance, fiber is great for a few other reasons.
Fiber helps to keep us regular and avoid constipation.
It also is prebiotic, meaning it feeds our good bacteria in our gut. We do not digest fiber. When we eat a vegetable, we absorb the nutrients we need from it, but the fiber passes on to our large intestine, where the majority of our bacteria is. The bacteria feeds on and ferments the fiber, helping that good bacteria to grow. It is able to take up space and push out the “bad” bacteria. This good gut bacteria is so important to our health – immune health, hormone health, heart health, and more. So feed it with fiber so it can keep doing it’s thing!
5. There’s so much variety.
There are so many types of vegetables! There’s some for pretty much every color of the rainbow (except blue, as far as I know!). Usually vegetables that are the same color have a lot of the same nutrients. So try to eat the rainbow. Eat different colors of vegetables throughout the week.
By the way – don’t worry about getting every nutrient in every day or every type of vegetable every day. Look at the bigger picture. Try to get a variety in throughout the week.
Have fun with mixing and matching different vegetables or trying new veggies you’ve never tried before. I can about guarantee there are vegetables out there that you’ve never tried before. I know I still have some to try!
6. They can be used in a variety of ways.
Not only are there a variety of types of veggies, but you can do so many different things with the veggies. I’m about to share some of these ways to eat more veggies. But try different cooking methods throughout the week or eat some raw. Make smoothies, salad, or just eat them fresh with a dip. Switch it up and make it fun.
How Many Vegetables Should We Eat?
The USDA’s current recommendation for adults is to eat 5 servings of vegetables a day, with each serving being about 1/2 Cup. I agree that that’s a pretty good amount of veggies. But most of us are not getting that.
I don’t like to measure my food or count macros. To me, that is stressful and time-consuming. I am more of a visual person. If you’re like me and don’t want to measure, just picture filling half your plate with veggies at eat meal.
Really, it’s hard to go overboard on veggies. They’re not addictive foods like processed carbs and sugar are. So, start with half a plate full and listen to your body. Eat more if you’re still hungry. Or snack on some when you’re hungry throughout the day. We should be more focused on getting enough than eating TOO MUCH.
How to Eat More Veggies
Here we go. We know we need to eat more veggies. But how? Here’s 10 ways I use and you can use too to get more veggies into your diet.
One way to get more veggies in is by substituting pasta noodles with veggie noodles. Get a spiralizer (Full disclosure – I have not used this exact one, but I love how compact it is. It looks like it would save so much time, and it has great reviews!). You can make your own noodles from zucchini, carrots, or other veggies in minutes.
Or, roast a spaghetti squash and just scoop out nature’s noodles.
Use these in place of noodles for spaghetti bolognese or Alfredo to bump up the nutritional value of your meal (and get less processed carbs in!).
Not only can you make the noodles out of veggies, but you can add veggies into your spaghetti sauce or other sauces. I shred carrots and dice onions and add them to my spaghetti bolognese every time, and it’s so good! My kids love it!
I don’t like to call this “sneaky veggies” like some do. That implies that you’re doing something bad or trying to hide the veggies from your kids. There’s no sneaking going on here. My boys watch me cook and help me cook many times, and they know I put veggies in tons of things. They’re so used to it now, they don’t complain or whine about vegetables.
I encourage you to add veggies to your meals and let your kids know what veggies are in it. Help them get used to having lots of veggies and grow to love them!
Puree, dice, slice, or add in whole veggies to different sauces you make to add some great micronutrients and make them more delicious!
This is the one we probably all think of when we think of veggies. The classic salad.
I think salad gets a bad wrap much of the time. They can be boring and can even be unhealthy. Many salads you get at restaurants are loaded with croutons, cheese, sugar-coated nuts, and salad dressings made with unhealthy oil, sugar, preservatives, tons of sodium, and even artificial color.
But salads don’t have to be boring or unhealthy.
Make them fun. Try to add every color of the rainbow. Add red tomatoes, orange carrots, yellow bell peppers, green lettuce (duh!), blue blueberries, and purple cabbage. Tons of colors = lots of different nutrients!
4. Breakfast Foods
I think breakfast is so easy to add veggies to.
Make a hash, like my sweet potato kale hash, and eat it with your eggs. Make an omelet with your favorite veggies. Or just sauté some spinach, onions, and mushrooms and eat beside scrambled eggs.
If you don’t like eggs, you can even treat breakfast like a little dinner. There’s no shame in eating “dinner food” for breakfast. Cook up a steak or chicken breast ahead of time and slice it. Enjoy the meat with some of your favorite sautéed veggies.
5. Stir Fry
This one is so easy, because almost any vegetable can go in a stir fry. This is a great one to do at the end of the week. Throw whatever meat and veggies you have leftover in a stir fry before they go bad. I have a recipe here for steak stir fry you can use. But feel free to adjust it based on whatever veggies you happen to have.
Who doesn’t love a good smoothie? The great thing about smoothies is, you can add almost anything to it, blend it up, and it tastes delicious!
This one is a tropical green smoothie with spinach in it, and it’s so good! The recipe will be coming soon! My boys love this one!
Spinach and kale are usually are go-to veggies to add in smoothies, but you can add whatever veggie you want! Mix it with a liquid like water or almond milk. Add some fruit, ice, a protein source like flax seeds or nuts, and a little honey if you want it sweeter. Done!
7. Raw & Cut Up
Make eating veggies easier for yourself and for your kids by cutting them up and having them readily available. I know I am much more likely to eat veggies when they’re cut up and ready. It doesn’t take long to chop veggies, but when it’s one less thing to have to do, it’s so much easier!
So chop up your favorite veggies to eat raw on the weekend and store them in a container in the fridge (these are my FAVORITE non-toxic storage containers!). That way they’re ready whenever you want a snack throughout the week.
8. With a Dip
Step that last one up a notch by making a dip for your veggies. Make a ranch, blue cheese, hummus, or even guacamole dip to add some fun (and some healthy fats!) to your veggie-eating.
9. Prep Ahead of Time
I shared a little about this already, but doing a little meal prep on the week can save time and stress during the week. You can chop raw veggies to snack on throughout the week. You can make your dip for the veggies. Make a frittata or a hash with veggies to enjoy for breakfast during the week. Even go ahead and chop the veggies you’ll be cooking in your meals.
Do as much or as little as you are able to do to save yourself some time during the week and make eating your veggies easier and more convenient.
Let’s wrap it up with wraps! (corny- I know!). This is one we’ve been doing in my family for a while! I don’t eat gluten (It triggers my eczema, but it’s also not great for other reasons.); so buns and wheat tortillas are out! We use lettuce as a “bun” for hamburgers, as the “bread” for sandwiches, or as the wrap for tacos or fajitas. We’ve also used big portabella mushrooms as burger buns before.
Get creative and use veggies in place of other things when you can! Enjoy them, make them fun, and stay healthy!