There’s no denying that vegetables are good for us. Low in calories, high in fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer and packed with essential vitamins and minerals. As a dietitian, often one of the first things I talk about with patients aiming for weight loss or maintenance is to eat more veg and less of the other stuff, but how?!
5-6 serves a day seems so overwhelming. And now, new research is saying up to 10 serves a day shows added benefits to health.
Before we get too far, what is a serve of vegetables?
A serve of vegetables is 75 grams. No, you don’t have to get your scales out. Think 1 measuring cup of raw salad veg, and ½ cup cooked veg, legumes and beans or 1 medium tomato or a small potato.
1. Put veg on your plate first
Instead of putting meat or other proteins (meat, fish, chicken, eggs) or carbs on your plate (think pasta, rice, couscous, potatoes and other starchy veg), put green leafy vegetables on the plate first and fill half your plate with these. Then add your protein and carb foods to your plate. This means there’s less room for the more calorie dense foods and more room for veggies! This strategy will definitely help get you towards your 5 a day. It also means you have created a balanced meal with the perfect portion proportion.
2. Make friends with salad
If done right, salads aren’t just your standard lettuce, cucumber, tomato, carrot type of deal. Try warm beetroot and baby spinach with some feta and crushed nuts, or a Mexican salsa salad with fragrant coriander. A variety of vegetables every day is just as important as eating enough of them!
Different colours provide different vitamins and phytonutrients (a fancy word for plant chemicals and antioxidants) which helps to keep each of your cells healthy. For example, orange vegetables (and fruits) will provide your body with the ingredients to make vitamin A.
3. Swap snacks for vege
If you’re anything like me, 3:30-itis is typically when I’m starting to reach for something sweet to get me through the afternoon. This is normal! But a little bit of preparation means you can ditch the trip to the coffee shop for a nourishing snack that helps you reach your veg tally for the day.
Pre-prepare some veggie sticks (or purchase them pre-chopped) such as carrot and celery, and keep them handy with a tablespoon of 100% peanut butter with a few sultanas, hummus or low-fat yoghurt dip.
4. Start the day with vege
We typically think of eating veg at lunch and dinner time, however, that often doesn’t provide sufficient opportunity to eat enough throughout the day! If you know you’re going out to dinner that night, maybe start the day with a savoury breakfast of eggs, avo, tomatoes, mushroom, spinach and wholegrain toast. Starting early makes it easy to get you to your daily goal.
5. Hide the vege
This is a well-known trick if you’re trying to get some veggies into the little ones, but it works just as well for adults too. Try bulking up your spag bol with some grated carrot, celery, mushrooms, onion and zucchini – reducing the calories, boosting the vegetable content and keeping you satisfied for longer. Win!
6. When eating out choose the options with the most vege
It’s much easier to eat enough vegetables when you prepare all your food at home. When eating out, things can seem a bit more challenging. Simply, choose options with the most veggies! It could be the vegetarian option with some protein added or a side of salad or veg to accompany your meal.
7. Build up your repertoire
To increase the variety of vegetables you eat, give yourself a weekly challenge to pick an in-season vegetable that you don’t usually use at the grocery store. Experiment and see how you can add them into your meals and snacks across the week. You might be surprised by what you find!
So go out there and eat the rainbow of veg (not Skittles!)
This article was originally published on The Dietologist and has been republished here with full permission.
About the Author – Stefanie Valakas
Stefanie is an Accredited Practising Dietitian & Nutritionist and the director of The Dietologist, based in Sydney. She primarily works with women and their partners to help them nourish their growing families, from conception to childhood. Stefanie’s interest areas include early life nutrition, gut health and general nutrition issues.
She has been featured in a variety of print and online publications including Women’s Health Australia magazine, news.com.au, Medibank Be. magazine, SBS Food and the Olive Wellness Institute. You can discover more nutritions tips on her blog and Instagram.