Hello and Happy May! Is this year flying by for you too?
We’re officially five months in to 2023, so if you have a goal to “eat more veggies this year” and haven’t noticeably upped them yet, this post is for you.
Also, please know that if you’re struggling with getting plenty of vegetables in your everyday diet, you’re not alone. This is something I hear from clients often enough to make it the topic of a full blog post. I hope this list of ideas helps you (and your kids) feel less intimidated, and please let me know if you have any additional comments or suggestions at the bottom. (I don’t think of everything!)
One of the biggest fundamentals I coach on good nutrition practices is the idea of adding versus subtracting. What are some ways you can ADD nutrients to your plates versus taking AWAY the foods that you normally love? We don’t want to restrict from the foods we love because they all serve a purpose, but that is a topic and talk for another day.
Today let’s focus on small changes we can make that make a big difference in your overall healthy habits!
- Add vegetables to your breakfast by throwing them into your omelet or scramble.
It feels great to kickstart the day with a high-protein and veggie-filled breakfast, and this is a repeat order for me at restaurants and cafes. If you’re making a scramble at home, try adding ingredients like spinach, tomatoes, peppers or mushrooms. I usually start by sautéing them with some olive oil first, but you don’t have to. Add cheese if you’d like, and drizzle a little hot sauce or salsa on top for extra flavor.
Also, if you’ve never tried these Spinach Egg White Frittata bites, they’re so convenient to have ready to heat and eat at home. I use them for breakfast sandwiches and Skyler likes them too. I buy them from Costco and they also sell them at Target and Walmart. So easy!
- Add leafy greens to your smoothies + extra points if you try other veggies listed below.
I like my smoothies just like I like my salads – loaded with all the things. There’s no need to add additional sweeteners, as there are plenty of natural sugars and sweetness already included with fruits. Try pairing them with leafy greens like spinach or kale and pretty much anything else you have lying around. Don’t be afraid to try avocado, carrots, celery, cauliflower, beets, cucumber, zucchini and even peas. If you’re using frozen vegetables, this can usually replace the need to add ice.
- Try roasting vegetables with a little olive oil and seasoning for a tasty side dish.
My ideal formula for balanced meals include a plate with adequate protein, a high-fiber carb (like whole grains, pasta, quinoa, etc.) and at least one vegetable. The healthy fats will show up in the oils you’re cooking with and sauces you’re drizzling over everything. If you’re having trouble getting in your veggies, start by adding a side of them to your dinners this week. Get a baking sheet and drizzle your oil of choice on the pan. Chop your vegetable (like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.), and season them how you’d like. I like to use salt and pepper, and sometimes get fancy by adding others like rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil. Paprika and chopped parsley are great additions, too!
- Go for “the appetizer” approach with kids.
Make a veggie plate for yourself while you’re cooking and feel like snacking. I do this and also make one for my son while I make his dinner. Whenever he asks for snacks as I’m cooking his dinner (as kids do), I serve him a small plate of veggies like carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. He’ll usually eat everything by the time dinner is served, and I already know he’s gotten some great nutrients in, regardless of what he eats off of his dinner plate.
- Have a salad with your lunch or dinner.
If you’re not a salad lover, part of me believes that you just haven’t tried the right combinations of vegetables and flavors together. But that’s another post for another day. (This one might help for now!) Piggy backing off of the point above, a side salad can go a long way in adding extra nutrients to your meals. If I’m not having a salad as an entrée, I try to have one on the side with lunch or dinner as much as possible. Over time, you’ll notice that you might not want the typical three slices of pizza if you’re also having a salad and downsize to two slices. Maybe you’ll want a smaller serving of pasta. The point is to start filling up on the high-nutrient foods first, then see how much room you have leftover for whatever else is in front of you.
This strategy can be a game changer!
- Sneak vegetables into your pasta dishes.
I’ve been doing this for YEARS, and my son has never complained once. If you have spinach around, take a few big handfuls, chop it into very small pieces and throw it right into your favorite marinara sauce as your heating it up on the stovetop. (While it isn’t cheap, my number one pick is Rao’s because of it’s low sugar content, minimal ingredient list and absolutely delicious taste.) You can do the same with zucchini, peppers, onions and/or mushrooms and chop them as big or small as you’d like. If I’m using a lighter or creamier sauce, my go-to move is to use mushrooms, peas and/or asparagus.
- Make a plate of chopped veggies and hummus or dip for an afternoon snack.
Some of my go-to combinations are baby carrots or cucumbers with hummus, celery with peanut butter or broccoli and cauliflower with ranch. I’ll also add halved grape or cherry tomatoes to cottage cheese (yum), and Skyler loves all of these too … except cauliflower … we’re still working on that one.
- Make a hearty vegetable soup or add vegetables into your soups and stews.
You already know I’m a BIG soup lover! I have many original recipes to sort through that I make over and over again in our home. I always load them with extra vegetables, and it feels good knowing my whole family is getting their veggies in, too. Even if you’re not making soup from scratch, think of what you can add to soups or stews you’re already heating up. Chicken noodle soup is a frequent request in our home, so I’ve started making it with a double servings of carrots, double celery, peas, and cannellini beans for extra fiber. Sometimes spinach or kale makes an appearance, too.
- Use lettuce leaves instead of bread to make wraps or sandwiches.
I fully support you eating a sandwich on bread if you want a sandwich (Dave’s Killer Bread is my top pick as it’s main from grains and packs in extra fiber and protein), so again, think of what you can add under this category. Maybe it’s a good handful of romaine lettuce or spinach and sliced tomatoes. Maybe it’s using bibs of lettuce to make your sandwich a wrap. You do you, just make sure you’re enjoying it along the way … as this is when you’ll repeat the habit and turn to it often!
Oh, and if nothing else, the good ‘ol “vegetables are really what make you big and strong enough to beat Daddy in wrestling” works like a charm. Hehe.
I think that will do it for today! Skyler is home with me after a trip to the dentist’s office and it’s time to start thinking about what’s for dinner. This post is making me hungry!
I hope these suggestions helped you, and please let me know some of your favorite tips below!
Leave a Reply