You have probably heard the often quoted “eat your vegetables!” Though the message may not sound appealing, the advice is good. Read on to find out why vegetables are our allies, how to actually eat more of them, and for some refreshing recipe ideas to put it all into practice.
Besides the fact that they taste good and are fun to eat, there is another great reason to eat more vegetables: they are nutrient powerhouses. Vegetables are full of phytochemicals (plant chemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties); they are a great source of fiber, which is good for the digestive tract and feeds the microbiome; and they contain vitamins and minerals essential for health. Because of all this, vegetable consumption decreases risk for chronic disease. Examples include cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Vegetables can be divided into two categories: starchy and non-starchy. Neither one is good or bad, but they are different. Starchy vegetables include potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, corn, and legumes (especially peas). Most all other vegetables fall into the non-starchy category, though there are differing opinions on this. Non-starchy vegetables include leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli family), allium/onion family vegetables, root vegetables, and seaweeds. How much you need of each kind is highly individualized. In general, many tend to need more of the non-starchy kind.
Look down at your plate again. Is it filled at least half full with vegetables? How many colors do you see? Make sure you are eating the rainbow. This includes reds, oranges, yellows, greens, blues/purples, and whites. Avoid a food rut by bringing in new ones into your routine. Every vegetable has a slightly different nutrient profile; variety is key. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for at least twenty different vegetables per week. Don’t be afraid to try new foods. You never know – you might actually like it.
Think about the time of day that you tend to eat vegetables. If you only eat vegetables at dinner, incorporate some into lunch and yes, even breakfast. If you don’t eat any vegetables at certain meals it is hard to catch up at other mealtimes; your stomach can only fit so much food at one sitting. Many cultures around the world eat vegetables for breakfast, and dishes that Americans would consider more for lunch or dinner are often consumed at breakfast, such as Dahl or soups. Take a cue from other cultures and try something savory, such as last night’s leftovers, for example.
There are a myriad ways of adding vegetables to breakfast; the possibilities are endless. For example, vegetables pair very well with eggs. A frittata or quiche filled with spinach (or any other greens), red peppers, and onions, is a great way to combine the two. Baking these the night before makes it an easy breakfast in the morning. Other options are to prepare eggs your favorite way, and sauté some vegetables on the side. If time is an issue, chopped raw carrots, radishes, or peppers are another great option. Fermented vegetables are another way to go. This can include sauerkraut, kimchi, or fermented carrots or beets, for example. They go well with breakfast meats or sautéed tofu or tempeh if you avoid meats. Breakfast burritos are another good choice. Fill your favorite tortilla with beans, shredded cabbage or carrots, spicy salad greens and serve with salsa and sliced avocado on the side. Smoothies are another option for those who want to “hide” their vegetables.
If you are used to sweets at breakfast, transitioning to or alternating with savory can take some time to get used to. Start low and go slow. Add small amounts, and take your time. Who knows, at some point your taste buds may start to like it, and your body may start to thank you, too.
Avocado Egg Toast
(Makes two servings)
- 4 eggs (pastured is ideal)
- 4 small slices whole-grain sourdough bread
- 1 large ripe avocado
- Salt and pepper
- Optional parsley garnish
- Hard-boil 4 eggs. (Place eggs in a small pot of water. Bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Let sit in water 12-13 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.)
- Toast bread.
- Scoop out one half avocado and mash on two slices bread. Repeat.
- Peel eggs and cut in half, lengthwise. Place one half on each slice of bread.
- Top with optional salt and pepper and parsley garnish.
- Serve with fermented vegetable of choice or sliced red peppers or carrots. Enjoy!
The information provided in this article is intended for general use only and is not to be used in place of medical advice from a licensed health professional.
Elisa Ross RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Belfast, Maine. She helps clients improve their health and wellbeing through the use of whole foods and lifestyle changes. www.elisarossnutrition.com firstname.lastname@example.org 207-338-1655