I’m really excited to start this series of sharing small, doable changes that I made to improve my health and anyone can make too. This first post is about something so simple, yet so impactful: eat more vegetables.
When I first became interested in nutrition, I was completely overwhelmed. There is so much information out there (and it’s great) but I found it really hard to sift through it to find things that would be realistic for my lifestyle. I love the quote “Small changes eventually add up to huge results” because I find that especially true with improving your health. If I dive right in and make a bunch of changes simultaneously, I find it really hard to stick to it all and then feel bummed that I couldn’t stick with it all. So, instead I like to make one small change at a time, like eating more vegetables, until it turns into a habit and fits into a routine. Then, I move on to another positive change.
The first step I took to improving our family’s nutrition was easy: to eat more vegetables. It seems obvious and simple, but this really kickstarted our health journey because it turned in a conscious effort every time I ate.
If I’m being totally honest, I used to really dislike vegetables. I liked carrots, mushrooms and a few others. But brussel sprouts, beets and sweet potato? I really had no desire for them and now they are three of my favorites. I didn’t want my girls to feel the same way about veggies too, so I started gathering recipes to try and ways to make them more appealing to me.
Looking back, I definitely didn’t eat the recommended 5 servings of veggies a day. Seven years ago, a typical day of eating would have looked like this: Oatmeal with fruit and peanut butter for breakfast, a turkey sandwich with tomato and lettuce for lunch, pasta with meat sauce cooked with bell peppers for dinner, and fruit, nuts or a protein bar for a snack. That amounted to 3, maybe 4, servings of vegetables.
Now, I probably eat an average of 5-6 servings of vegetables a day (plus 2-4 servings of fruit a day). And I actually enjoy eating them. 🙂 If I’m feeling unusually tired at the end of the day, sometimes I can trace it back to not enough veggies throughout the day. I also find that when I eat more veggies, I crave more veggies.
If you’re looking to add in more vegetables to your meals, here are some suggestions that have worked for us, and some of our favorite veggie recipes: (Not all of these will work with sneaking in more veggies for kids, but some might 🙂 )
- Add veggies to smoothies. Add a handful (or two) of spinach or frozen riced cauliflower to your smoothie (I promise you can’t taste either)
- Chop up spinach, bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and tomato and add them to your scrambled eggs
- Make a veggie hash with sweet potatoes, bell peppers, corn and red onion
- Top your toast with avocado, tomato and a bit of Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend
Lunch & Dinner ideas
- Add all the veggies to your pasta sauce. I love adding bell peppers, mushrooms, zucchini and sometimes brussel sprouts to store-bought marinara.
- Pack tacos full of veggies like tomatoes, corn, sweet potatoes, avocado and lettuce (or forget the tortilla and turn it into a taco salad)
- Buy pre-prepped veggies (if it’s in your budget) like butternut squash, beets and mushrooms. It makes it much faster to roast or add to your meals. Or chop a bunch of veggies to have on hand for the week.
- Find a super quick veggie side that’s your go-to. Find a few recipes your family like and add them to any meal when you need more veggies. We like roasting broccoli for about 15 minutes with olive oil, salt & pepper and topping with lemon juice and a sprinkle of fresh parmesan. Or to mix up a quick beet, orange and avocado salad.
- Use spiraled zucchini or carrots or spaghetti squash instead of pasta.
- Roast a ton of your favorite veggies for the week. I love brussel sprouts, beets, butternut squash and zucchini. You can add them to salads, into recipes or serve on the side.
- Sneak more veggie into casseroles. A bag of spinach wilts down so much that kids might not notice it’s in a cheesy casserole. Maybe? 🙂
- Keep a healthy bagged salad around. These are good for quick sides to any dish. Even better if you use a healthier home-made dressing.
- Mix in or replace rice with riced cauliflower.
- Try Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Gnocchi and Kale Gnocchi. Both are good, especially with their Vegan Pesto.
- Buy frozen veggies. They’re easy to grab and cook, plus they won’t spoil.
Some of our favorite veggie side recipes, so you can easily eat more vegetables:
- Baked Sweet Potatoes from Live Simply
- Coconut Oil Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Healthy Happy Life
- Magic Broccoli from Candice Cooks
- TJ’s Cauliflower Gnocchi Extra Crispy from Simply Taralynn
- Roasted Parmesan Green Beans from Skinny Taste
Do you have other tips for sneaking more veggies into your meals?