Think back to your childhood and how many veggies you ate, and compare it to how many you ate last week. Notice any difference?
For me, my love affair with vegetables began at an early age. I vividly remember my preference for carrot sticks while others my age favored potato chips. Back then, I wasn’t aware of the many benefits that a primarily plant-based diet provided. I was certainly destined for a nutrition career!
Research continues to surface showing how the nutritional components of vegetables (water, fiber – nature’s best prebiotic, essential vitamins and minerals) help on many levels.
- Aid in weight maintenance
- Help to reduce heart disease
- Keep the gut microbiome in top shape to fight off toxic invaders (remember the microbiome is the bacterial “house” in our digestive tract)
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, but most recent consumption data shows only 1 in 10 individuals meet this federal recommendation. I advise my clients to add a vegetable to every meal (including breakfast) they consume. This suggestion tends to produce a few perplexed facial expressions, but it easier than you think!
Here are a few ways to sneak some vegetables in before the lunch hour arrives.
Multiple research studies have confirmed that over half of the nation tends to skip the breakfast meal. With busy work and school schedules, it’s tough to take the time to sit down and eat a balanced breakfast. The onset of a diet trend known as intermittent fasting (where the first meal of the day does not begin until the noon hour) has further sent breakfast eating into decline. Whether you have your “first” meal within the first few hours of waking (a nutritionist’s dream) or wait until the lunch hour, make sure vegetables are part of the meal. Although solid foods tend to satisfy the stomach more than liquid based foods, a blended drink (smoothie) including protein sources (like yogurt or milk) combined with high fiber carbohydrates (think of your favorite fruit, nuts, flaxseed or chia seeds) can give you the energy to take you through multiple hours before your next meal. Bump up the nutritional and flavor content of your drink with a handful of kale, spinach or diced beets.
Think Outside the Box
When thinking of traditional breakfast foods (such as eggs and toast), vegetables are typically not part of these meals. It may take a little ingenuity, but a quick search on the internet will provide a plethora of vegetable-based egg dish recipes (omelets, quiches made in muffin tins or breakfast burritos) that sneak in peppers, artichokes, kale or cauliflower. If you prefer a hot cereal, consider making a hearty grain (like bulgur, quinoa or brown rice) that pair well with savory vegetables (think green onions, celery, parsley, arugula). This can be made in advance and reheated in seconds for a fast and delicious way to start the day!
Who says traditional breakfast foods are the only foods you can consume before noon? Eating more non-traditional foods at breakfast time (like sandwiches, salads, or dinner leftovers) makes the option of having vegetables at this meal a breeze. If you have prepared vegetables with dinner the night before, they can easily be incorporated into almost any type of food. I have been known to eat “cold” pizza leftovers as a fast and quick breakfast meal. If your typical pizza choice doesn’t customarily contain vegetables, it is easy to add additional vegetables to any type of pizza (maybe remove a few slices of pepperoni or sausage to make room) before reheating. My favorite additions are mushrooms, spinach and diced onion. When I enjoy a slice or two with a mug of hot steaming coffee, I am ready for just about anything the day can bring!
Give some of these ideas a try. Let your own vegetable love affair begin!