Eating vegetables is a struggle for many people. The preparation, availability, shelf life and taste are some of the most important factors in whether a person can eat their recommended three to five servings a day.
The most successful way to incorporate more is to commit to upping your intake one vegetable/strategy at a time.
1. After a trip to the grocery store, set your produce out on the counter and clean it all before putting it away. Wash lettuce and greens and place in containers for a quick salad mix. Clean (and peel, if desired) cucumbers and dice or cut into strips for dipping. Do the same for bell peppers, zucchini, and veggies such as carrots. If your veggies are accessible and quick, you are more likely to eat them!
2. Choose vegetables in season. Consider the many vegetables that are “forgotten,” such as mushrooms, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and salsa. These vegetables can be found year round, and are sometimes forgotten for their roles as vegetables. Many people think of vegetables as only including brussels sprouts and broccoli! Visit a local indoor–or outdoor, in the summer–farmers market, such as Tomato Tomato, 2634 S. 156th Circle in Omaha, for fresh local produce, ideas and recipes.
3. Wash and chop vegetables that will be used over the next few days. If you plan to save the veggies for later in the week, cleaning them and chopping will reduce their shelf life.
4. Taste. This is the big one. Many people avoid experimenting with vegetables because they don’t think they will like them. Give a new vegetable a chance, or try a comfort food like mashed potatoes again. A little trick I learned from a friend…. add fresh spinach to your fruit smoothie. She is a vegetable “hater” and swears by this trick!
Keep this list handy for your next grocery trip:
Produce for the Picky
- Presliced, cleaned and chopped raw veggies
- Baby Carrots
- Broccoli Slaw
- Bell Peppers
- Cherry tomatoes
- Fresh lettuces
- Winter squash
- Clam shell salad mixes
- Fingerling potatoes
- Sweet potatoes
- Salsa (eat it AS your veggie!)
Strategies to increase your intake:
- Steam edamame and sprinkle with sea salt for a pre-meal, “while cooking” munchie!
- Make muffins with canned pumpkin
- Squirt lime juice and chili powder on cucumber sticks or slices for veggies with a kick
- Add interesting veggies to a sandwich/wrap: roasted red pepper, mushrooms, cucumber, broccoli slaw
- Chili and other soups: Add extra veggies
- Stir-fry: Add sliced/chopped/diced veggies- broccoli slaw works great!
- Light dips (Marzetti light ranch, 90 calorie packs made with yogurt)
- Use hummus as a dip for vegetables
- Salsa: Use it as a dip, or add it to your meals for extra veggies. Great as a fish or chicken-topper
- Use salsa for a dressing on a fresh tossed salad. Add other veggies to your salad such as jicama, raw or cooked peppers, and corn for a southwest flair!
- Frozen veggies: Just as good as fresh, if you will eat them! Cooking styles are where the nutrients are lost, so steam without submerging in water, and don’t steam them until they’re lifeless! Use a steam basket or plastic steam bags and cook the portion you need.
- Flavor cooked vegetables with ground spices such as ginger, pepper, chili powder and cumin
- Canned veggies: Should be your third choice. Not usually many nutrients, unless you canned them fresh yourself!
Have tomatoes, corn, green beans, and pumpkin on hand!