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How to Get More Vegetables into Your Diet

Do you fall short of the recommended 5 daily servings? Here are easy tips to help you do better.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #065

If you’re out for lunch, ask them to substitute a side salad or even some coleslaw for the French fries. That may take some practice. Let’s say it together: “Would it be possible to substitute coleslaw for the French fries?”

See? Halfway through the day and you’re already at least halfway through your five servings.

Vegetables Make Great Snacks

Baby carrots, radishes, snow peas, and sugar snap peas all make ideal snack foods. They’re crunchy and satisfying. They’re convenient and portable, and they don’t require any preparation. They’re tasty on their own or they make good dippers for hummus and other dips. And, unlike pretzels or chips, they really do something for you nutritionally.

Cross another serving of vegetables off your list.

How to Get Extra Vegetables in at Dinner

Most of us have been trained to think of dinner as having three essential components: a protein, a vegetable, and a starch—such as rice, potatoes, or pasta. This next tip is so simple you won’t believe you haven’t thought of it before. When you’re planning your dinner menu, skip the starch and make two vegetables instead.

Instead of making chicken breasts with broccoli and rice, make chicken breasts with broccoli and baked acorn squash. It doesn’t take any more time and you still have plenty of variety on your plate. Plus, you’ve gotten a bonus serving of vegetables.

This works when you’re eating out, as well. Simply ask the server if they can substitute a second vegetable for the starch. Usually, this is no problem.

And there you have it: Five (or more) servings of vegetables. That wasn’t so hard.

Start Early and Stick With It

As you can see, the trick to getting five servings of vegetables is to start early and stick with it. If it’s 6 p.m. and you haven’t had any vegetables at all yet, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Canned vegetable juices will do in a pinch, but I don't recommend relying on them every day.  But if you find a way to include a vegetable or two into most of your meals and snacks, you’ll hit the target easily—and join that that small and extremely smug minority who actually get five servings of vegetables every day.

You get triple bonus points for eating five different vegetables every day because you’ll get a wider variety of nutrients. Each family of vegetables has its own star players. Dark leafy greens tend to be high in folic acid, vitamin K, and calcium, which build strong bones. Deep orange and red vegetables boast lots of carotenoids, which protect your cells and your vision. Vegetables in the cabbage family, such as kale, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, and broccoli, contain cancer-fighting compounds called indoles. And vegetables from the garlic and onion family have sulphur-containing compounds that are good for your heart.

So, to get the biggest bang from your vegetable buck, mix it up and be sure you’re choosing vegetables from each of these families on a regular basis.  You do want to make sure that you wash your vegetables properly to get rid of soil, bacteria, and pesticide residues that might be left behind, and I have a great Quick Tip for a cheap, effective way to do that.  For information on how to get even more nutrition from your vegetables, check out this previous episode of mine.  I also have a handy Quick Tip if you're still having trouble getting those five servings in, and another one on keeping lettuce and herbs fresh longer in your fridge.

Check out these related episodes and tips:

More Nutrition Diva on Vegetables

Are vegetables better than fruit?  Find out here.

For information on how you can support the local foods movement and locate a farmers' market near you, please click here.

I also have a handy little recipe for making delicious green beans by roasting them.

Administrative

That’s all for today. Post your comments and questions my Nutrition Diva Facebook Page. I’m also on Twitter and I always love to hear from you. And don’t forget to sign up for my weekly email tips.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!

RESOURCES

Tips on Getting More Veggies (CDC)

30 Ways to Stretch your Produce Budget

 

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