Knowing that fruits and vegetables are good for us is one thing; finding tasty ways to add them to our diets is another. Here are 10 easy ways to fill your plate with more fruits and vegetables.
Eat vegetables for breakfast. Vegetables first thing in the morning may feel strange if you typically eat yogurt and cereals, but there are many delicious ways to squeeze them in. When your scrambled egg is almost cooked, stir in a ½ cup of chopped spinach (102 calories). Create a breakfast sweet potato hash by cooking 1 cup of chopped kale and a ¼ cup of chopped onion in a ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in 3/4 cup of peeled and chopped, baked sweet potato (245 calories).
Add vegetables to your smoothie. Don’t fear the color or the flavor. A cup of fresh kale or spinach added to a berry smoothie brings out an unexpected taste that is surprisingly delicious. A few slices of fresh cucumber taste great blended into smoothies with pineapple or ginger.
Never snack without them. Regardless of the snack you choose, always include a fruit or vegetable. Want some nuts? Add half of an apple or a handful of carrot sticks. Want yogurt? Eat some berries with it. Not only will this create a more nutritionally balanced snack, but it will boost your intake of fruits and vegetables.
Always load your sandwiches. Whether your sandwich is stacked with turkey or spread with hummus, load it with fruits and vegetables. Think beyond lettuce and tomato, and go for fresh pineapple, apple, avocado, arugula, shredded cabbage, mushrooms, or red peppers.
Set a minimum number for your salads. Vow never to make a salad with fewer than five fruits and vegetables. You will get a variety of nutrients and much more flavor than the standard romaine-only version. Add chopped bok choy, kale, napa cabbage, green onions, broccoli, cooked sweet potato, grapes, or mango.
Use them as a base for everything. Take a break from grains, and serve all your main courses over fruits and vegetables. Grilled fish is delicious over a fruit salsa. Chicken breasts can be served on a bed of sautéed kale seasoned with curry powder. Bell peppers or tomatoes can be hallowed out and stuffed with cold bean or grain salads, or filled with lean ground meats, sprinkled lightly with cheese, and baked.
Incorporate purees during cooking. Vegetable purees will make dishes rich, and thick while adding nutritional value. Add a cup of pureed potatoes or cauliflower to vegetable soups. Stir a ¼ cup of pureed sweet potato, or pumpkin into your oatmeal. A cup of butternut squash puree adds rich flavor to marinara sauces and chili.
Stretch your servings. Vegetables can make a meal go much further. When you double the amount of chopped vegetables in pasta salads you can reduce the calories and serve more people. Add diced bell peppers, onion, zucchini, and eggplant to ground meat dishes such as meat marinara for pasta or Sloppy Joe sandwiches.
Look to other cultures for inspiration. Asian and Indian cuisines are rich in fruits and vegetables. You can incorporate ideas from these styles of cooking to create new combinations for your own meals. If you need some help, head to the library and check out a cookbook. Sautéed Pak Choi, banana and avocado in salads and smoothies, and vegetable fried brown rice are good options.
Don’t pass on dessert. Fruit is ideal for satisfying your sweet tooth, but this doesn’t mean you are stuck with fruit alone. Try slicing half of a banana and drizzling it with 1 tablespoon of melted semi-sweet chocolate chips (130 calories). Or choose one cup of fresh strawberries with your chocolate (118 calories).