One of the biggest changes we made when getting off of processed foods, was adding more vegetables to our diet. They are delicious, and filling, and heavy in the belly – which is good for feeling food and ending cravings! You get so many nutrients from vegetables, it’s worth the time! It takes a little planning and a little prep to be prepared so you can have vegetables throughout the day.
Tip 1: Plan Ahead
If you can learn to plan those veggies ahead (no matter which meal or snack you choose) you will be able to make them part of your diet.
How can we plan ahead? Easy! Really! Cut up batches or peppers, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, zucchini or your veggie of choice. The easiest time to do it? Right after you get home from the store, or during a meal prep the day before. (More on types, storage and cleaning to come in the future on the blog). If you have a meal plan, you will already know what days you need each veggie. If you plan on eating them as a snack then just chop the items you want to snack so they are ready to grab and go! Snacking on veggies with hummus or a low/non fat Greek yogurt or sour cream dip is the best! You can use them in a stir-fry or even mixed in an omelette for breakfast.
Don’t like them mixed with egg? Put them on the side as a crunchy egg side dish for breakfast!
Why is planning ahead important to add these items? Bagged snacks from the store contain less (or poor) nutritional value and are high per serving in calories. You can easily have 2 tbsp of hummus or a dip with 1 cup or more of vegetables and stay under 100 calories for a snack! Snacking is so important also! Don’t skip your snack (2 hours after breakfast and lunch). But it needs to be nutritious. You will feel fuller faster having vegetables with dip than a bag of chips with hundreds of calories. Your metabolism will also be better eating fresh vegetables at a lower calorie per serving.
Tip 2: Stock Up on Veggies
You can shop your local farmer’s market for fresh vegetables when in season, but if you can’t make it you can always shop the aisles at the grocery. Stock up on things like canned tomatoes, kidney beans, garbanzo (chick peas) beans, and more! Check the can though – you want no salt added or low sodium.
Want to be totally safe and not sure about label reading yet? (More to come on reading labels – but if you want it now – check out my upcoming FREE course).
Check that freezer aisle. Frozen vegetables (alone without added items like cheese) are often similar nutritional value to fresh. These are easy to use and well priced. Look for corn, peas, spinach and more. You can add these to bakes, stir fry or even as a side. Stay away from veggies mixed with gravy, sauces, cheese, butter or other ingredients.
Many veggies are high in vitamins and fiber, plus things like potassium. These nutrients can help control blood pressure and create feelings of fullness. Some examples are sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomatoes, kidney beans and more!
Tip 3: Choose Vegetables Rich in Color & In Season
If you are shopping your farmer’s market to stock up (from tip 2) then you will learn what is in season in your area. You will be able to get a lower cost when in season and you can stock up then. You can also watch for sales on these items at the grocery throughout the year.
So why does it matter what the color is of the vegetable? Vegetables that are deep in colors like red, dark green or orange are full of vitamins and minerals. The greatest nutritonal value for your body. Some examples include acorn squash, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens.
Choosing veggies is important so that your reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. You will feel more energetic and have fewer calories promoting positive metabolism and weight loss if you add workout to your routine.
Tip 4: Substitute a Salad Glowing with Color
A great way to add a ton of veggies in just one meal is a salad! You can do this for lunch or your dinner. If you are thinking about a dinner substitute think heartier, with additions of corn and 2-4 oz. of chicken or shrimp.
What should be in your salad then? You should choose a darker green lettuce (romaine, mixed springs etc). Add colorful crunchy items like carrots, onions, olives, radishes, red peppers, watercress or even things like black beans, butter beans, avocado, corn and more! All of these vegetables add nutritional value without adding calories to your salad.
Want to keep the dressing real foods also? GREAT! It’s easy just by making your own mix at home, or by adding 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of olive oil, and 1 tbsp (for a dinner salad) or your favorite vinegar with a pinch of salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Don’t worry about that olive oil! It’s a good fat. It’s heart healthy.
Tip 5: Vary Your Veggies
Trying different and new vegetables to you is a fun experience. It’s not only fun for your taste buds, but also your body. Each vegetable has many different nutritional qualities and the added and changed nutrients each week of new things is an excellent way to keep your metabolism going and keep your body fully nourished. Add things like crunchy carrots, or raw vegetables to make the texture more interesting. And remember – get your kids on board – use my Vegetable Experiment approach to make it happen!
As a side note, if you are a soda drinker this might be altering the way you taste your vegetables. Soda has been linked to altering the taste of vegetables and other foods (the high sugar content). Look at hydrating with water and cutting down or out your soda use! You won’t believe the flavors you have been missing! (This from a former soda addict!)
Tip 6: Discover Fast Ways to Cook
The microwave can be a quick pinch solution to cooking vegetables. Need them to be steamed quickly to add to a dish or to take with you as a side or snack? Add them to a bowl with a small amount of water and cook 3-6 minutes (depending on the veggie and way you like to eat it). Prepping the meals veggies ahead of time (cutting the night before or after your store trip) makes it easier to prepare them quickly as well. All you have to do is dump them into your dish or grab them to take on the go.
Love your grill? GREAT! Veggies are delicious grilled. You can make a grill bag out of heavy duty aluminum foil, toss the veggies in some olive oil in a dish add some salt and peppers then add to the bag. Set these on the grill and delish! You can also use a grill basket or tray that sets on top of the grill grate. Or you can kabob the veggies on grill sticks.
Cooking with fresh vegetables will also help you lower your sodium intake, thus helping with your blood pressure and making you feel more alive. You won’t feel so fatigued, and you will feel like you have more energy. You may experience less water retention and less bloating as well.
If you have kids… keep the items separate on their plate. Even if you are mixing rice and sauce or pasta with vegetables keep your child’s plate separated. Put the rice in one pile, the vegetables in another and meat in another. Children prefer their food separated.
Tip 7: While You’re Out
If you are heading to a party, or a restaurant for dinner think veggies. You can save on calories by adding a side of veggies or salad versus french fries or other fried items. Choose a dish that has a vegetable base to it, rather than solely a pasta or solely a meat. Party time? Ever see those trays full of veggies with dip? Those are your friend! Go to town! Fill up with the veggies and a few tablespoons of a dip. If you are feeling fuller going into the meal, you can take it easier on the other items like pastas, or meats. This will keep your calories low and boost your metabolism for that day!
Adding veggies out is important so that you keep the processed foods and calories in check. Most vegetables are low calorie!
As you can see with a little thought and a little planning, you can make vegetables happen all day long! Need more help in your house with vegetable consumption? Grab my Vegetable Experiment guide. It will get your kids eating vegetables and yourself! It has everything you need so that vegetable cooking, preparation and shopping can be done with ease, less time, and more affordably. You will get all the nutrients you need to have more energy, burn cleaner food, and feel better daily!
If this sounds fantastic to you – and you KNOW you need help with this – I am super excited to share! My Eat Your Way out class is about the simple strategies you need to create your favorite meals at home with real food. Get the roadmap and simple step by step directions to start making real food meals happen in your house every day! Want to learn more about this class? Check it out here.