We all know the drill — we need to eat more vegetables. Studies abound that attest to the nutrition-enhancing, disease-fighting, and all around wellness-boosting benefits of eating more plants. Some experts even recommend 9 to 11 servings per day! We know that it's good for us (and our children!), but how do we make that mantra into a meal? Follow these six tips for upping your family's veggie intake.
Roasting can change your opinion about those vegetables that you hated as a child. Roasting gives many veggies a nutty, caramelized taste. The most basic method is to toss cut up veggies with olive oil, and bake at 400° for approximately 20 minutes. Try roasting a combination of root vegetables in the winter, squash in the summer, and broccoli and cauliflower all year round!
2. All Day Eats
Vegetables don't need to be relegated to a supper-time side dish. Look for ways to include them in every meal. Toss spinach into scrambled eggs, add a few peppers to your sandwich, or blend zucchini into your pasta sauce. Challenge yourself to make vegetables the main dish at least once a week (try starting a Meatless Monday tradition). Adding vegetables to every meal is a great way to liven up your meal plan!
A quick and easy way to add more vegetables (and fruits, for that matter) to your day is to incorporate green smoothies and green juice. Freshly squeezed carrot and orange juice adds an extra dose of Vitamin A to your morning, and apple and beet juice will bring some zing to your lunchtime. Blending veggies into soups is another excellent option — there's nothing better than a bowl of soup on a chilly winter day. Try blending roasted cauliflower, broccoli, or mushrooms with fresh garlic, and then blending with a few cups of veggie broth. Add in a dash of cream, and you'll have a comforting, hearty bowl of nutrition!
There is an exciting world of vegetables beyond broccoli, corn, and carrots! Make exploring vegetables into a game for your family by choosing one new veggie a week to learn about and taste. Use your current favorites as a jumping off point. Love carrots? Try parsnips or butternut squash. A fan of broccoli? Add in cauliflower or Brussels sprouts.
Another fabulous way to explore vegetables is to join a local CSA (community supported agriculture) program. You'll feel great about supporting your local farmers, and you'll have the opportunity to try new veggies. Many CSA programs offer a newsletter with recipe suggestions to accompany your delivery each week.
5. Hide (if you have to!)
Occasional sneakiness might not be a bad thing. Add a few cauliflower florets to your next batch of mashed potatoes, or blend a zucchini into pasta sauce. Lasagna hides chopped spinach well, and burgers can be a great front for chopped beets or mushrooms. If you do decide to hide veggies in other dishes, be sure to add them in a little at a time.
Raw vegetables make an excellent snack. Carrot and celery sticks are an easy pick, but cucumber slices, cut up mushrooms, and raw peppers are also great choices. Don't hesitate to offer up a side of dip or hummus if it makes the veggies more palatable. Gently warmed edamame with a touch of sea salt might even become your popcorn replacement on family movie night.
Getting your fill of vegetables doesn't have to be a chore. For more information and tips, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov. Enjoy your veggies!