We’re constantly being bombarded by news stories about how Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. In fact, the USDA reports that Americans only eat 1.5 cups of vegetables per day on average, while the recommended amount set by nutritional guidelines is 2 to 3 cups of vegetables everyday1. Additionally, the vegetables that Americans do eat are often highly processed, undergoing high amounts of cooking, and undergoing the addition of large amounts of salt and oil. But, despite these constant reminders, tangible ways of increasing vegetable intake are often overlooked.
So why the disparity in the amount of veggies we should eat, and the amount many of us are actually eating? This likely comes down to taste preferences. Many people just do not like the flavor of vegetables, which results in coating them with additives, such as salt and oil, when people do eat them. Luckily, we have some tips to help you increase your vegetable intake while preserving the flavor of the foods you enjoy.
Tip #1: Add greens to your smoothie! Who doesn’t love a sweet, refreshing smoothie in the morning to get your day started, or as an afternoon or post-workout snack to help you sustain your energy until your next meal? The amazing thing about adding greens, such as spinach, to your smoothie is that their flavor is masked by the fruit! Don’t let the green color turn you off – once you take your first sip you’ll be hooked!
Tip #2: Try either spiralized zucchini or baked spaghetti squash in place of noodles in your favorite noodle dishes! These veggies are easily transformed into noodle replacement, upping the nutrition in your meal while simultaneously slashing the calorie content. Zucchini can quickly be spiralized with an inexpensive spiralizer, and can be eaten raw or can be quickly blanched in boiling water to give it a more tender texture. Spaghetti squash is, in our opinion, even better than traditional noodles! All you have to do is cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds, place it cut side down in the oven, and bake it at 400 degrees F for 30 to 45 minutes. When it’s done, scrape out the insides with a fork for a delicious, colorful replacement for noodles in spaghetti dishes or even stir-fry!
Tip #3: Add some grated zucchini to your morning oatmeal. Okay, we know this one sounds a bit weird, but don’t knock it until you try it! When cooking your oatmeal on the stove, simply add some grated zucchini to the pot and make as you normally would. Not only is the flavor not noticeable, but it adds extra fiber and nutrients to your breakfast. Still not convinced? Be sure to spice it up with cinnamon or cacao powder to your heart’s content!
Tip #4: Bake yourself some delicious sweet potato fries! Arguably everyone loves fries, but many of us don’t like the way the grease and salt associated with traditional fries makes us feel after eating them. Never fear, homemade baked fries are just as delicious, if not more so, than conventional fries without the yucky feeling. An added bonus: sweet potatoes contain an abundance of vitamin A and other nutrients that we need to feel our best! Simple slice some sweet potatoes into the shape of fries, place them on a baking sheet, and bake at 425 degrees F for between 30 to 40 minutes. When you take them out of the oven you can optionally add a touch of course sea salt for a more traditional savory flavor, or top them with cinnamon to enjoy them as a nutritionally dense sweet snack.
Give these four tips a try and you’ll wonder how you ever managed NOT to incorporate enough veggies in your diet! If you try them, let us know what you thought of them in the comments below! And, if you have any other tips for increasing veggie intake, let us know!
Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body.
- Singh, M. (2014, May 21). The Vegetables Most Americans Eat Are Drowning In Salt And Fat. Retrieved March 26, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2014/05/21/311895781/the-vegetables-most-americans-eat-are-drowning-in-salt-and-fat