The love of vegetables can be deceptive. Even though I adore Brussels sprouts and kale, I recently realized with a jolt of surprise that I don't eat nearly the amount of vegetables this love affair would suggest. Something didn't add up. To help me (and you) out, here are the top 10 tips from our readers on packing more vegetables into real-life meals and cooking.
See, I dream of greens, but when I'm running out the door, it's so much easier to grab a granola bar. A pot of pasta is quicker than roasting a mess of turnips. Eggplant demands the tender loving touch of time, which I've denied it far too often, while beets shrink quietly in a dark corner. But I do love those bright, crisp, flavorful vegetables, packed with nutrients and sunshine, even in their knobbled winter forms. I wanted to make this thing official. I was ready to commit.
So I turned to the readers for some advice and encouragement in getting my five servings of vegetables a day. As usual, our magnificent readers came through with dozens of comments and tips on packing vegetables into into real-life cooking. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks — look out! Here are our readers' top 10 tips to help you shack up with vegetables every hour of the day.
10 Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables Every Day
- Join a CSA or have a box of vegetables delivered every week - If a box of vegetables shows up at your door every so often, you'll be that much more likely to eat them. As reader Vlecomte says, "I didn't want to waste food, so I had to find a way to use everything. And it forced me to be more creative in my cooking!"
- Put your vegetables on the top shelf of the fridge - Hunky heads of cauliflower and broccoli shouldn't get pushed to the back of the fridge or stuck out of sight in the suspiciously named "crisper" drawer; put them right up front, where you'll see and remember them. Reader Emmi calls this a proven method, saying, "Stuff that is hidden away is ignored by fridge-goers." Indeed!
- Prepare a whole week's worth of vegetables over the weekend - This may go against the usual idea of eating vegetables picked up during the day and eaten as fresh possible. But it's a lot more realistic for most of us and our busy schedules. Many readers were totally inspired by this video from Tamar Adler, showing how she preps her vegetables. This means washing, trimming, chopping, and even roasting or freezing — anything that makes it easy to grab a lunch of vegetables on the go. "If I can grab and cook," says reader Kariwk, I am much more likely to add veggies to stuff."
- Ask yourself: What's my idea of irresistible vegetables? - This may sound like vague or obvious advice, but really take a moment to think about the question. What kinds of vegetables are most appealing and irresistible? Do you fall over for creamy cauliflower soup? Roasted Brussels sprouts? Indulge as frequently as you want. NY2Midmo is inspiring on this topic: "I suggest finding ways to love vegetables! For me that has meant changing my preparation: I have recently fallen in love with roasting veggies. I enjoyed Brussels sprouts for the first time in my life by roasting, and had roasted broccoli for lunch the other day."
- Add (or double!) the vegetables in your nightly meals - There aren't many weeknight meals that wouldn't be made better with a handful of kale or spinach. Pizza? Top with broccoli florets. Risotto? See: handful of kale. Pasta? That's easy — roasted carrots, beets, cabbage. See how many different vegetables you can pack in to what you're already cooking, which is made extra easy when you've followed the advice above (get them delivered, roast or cook them ahead of time). Littlebluehen was just the first of many readers to advise this: "Take the everyday meals you already make and add one more vegetable — pasta sauce, mac and cheese, rice pilaf, risotto, etc. can all stand peas or zucchini or carrots or greens."
- Eat vegetables for breakfast - Lots of breakfast dishes are better with vegetables. Think of omelets, frittatas, even toast with kale and an egg. "I prep some cooked greens in a three- or four-serving size," says LGHEZ, "and keep them in a plastic zip bag so I can microwave a serving to eat with an egg for breakfast." Smart!
- Drink your veggies! - Another breakfast idea is to juice your carrots, greens, and beets. Or throw them into a green smoothie, like the one Sewtrashy makes: "Smoothies! I make a green smoothie every morning. Lots of greens (spinach, mache, kale, etc.) with a piece of two of fruit, like apples or berries and two cups of water. If you do nothing else, do this. It's so great for you and gives you a ton of vitamins and good stuff."
- Eat a salad at every meal - I buy bags of pre-washed greens and arugula for easy, fast salads. I also keep a jar of delicious homemade salad dressing in the fridge, which helps a lot. And salads aren't just for dinner or lunch; I am a big fan of salad with breakfast, whether it's a true breakfast salad or a simple pile of arugula next to a cheese omelet. Escondido gives an example of a heartier sort of salad that could last well in the fridge: "We also always have a salad, maybe with cucumber/green beans/apple/pear." Yum!
- Substitute raw vegetables for crackers, pita, tortillas, and other breads - I eat a lot of baba ghanoush and other dips, and while I don't practice low-carb eating, I do find that a big container of cut-up bell pepper and cucumber is fresher and better for me than a box of pita chips. I also really liked this idea from SophieO who says, "Use leafy greens as wraps for tacos, sandwiches, etc., instead of tortillas or pita. Collards and lacinato kale work particularly well for this."
- Don't forget frozen vegetables! - While we may idealize that box of fresh, leafy greens straight from the farm, don't overlook the humble frozen veggie. They are often frozen right at the farm, picked at their peak, and certain vegetables (peas, especially) taste great from the freezer. And they are always good for soups, scrambles, and pasta — how many times have I realized I could dump a whole bag of frozen spinach into soup? Ta-da! Kristen @Batterlicker.com agrees: "I keep several bags of frozen veggies (spinach, artichoke hearts, etc.) in the freezer for those nights/weeks when I just haven't made it to the store/market, so I can mix some veggies in with pantry staples (rice, pasta, quinoa, etc.).
More advice from our readers on eating vegetables: What Are Your Best Strategies & Tips for Eating More Vegetables?
Vegetable Recipes & Advice
• A Guide To Selecting the Best Produce: Vegetables
• Your Autumn Vegetable Inspiration File: 40 Recipes for Fall
• On Drinking a Pile of Vegetables for Dinner
• Recipe: Orange Roasted Carrots & Parsnips
• Autumn Recipe: Brown Butter & Maple Glazed Turnips
• Quick, Easy Ways to Get More Vegetables Into My Diet?
• Five Ways To: Eat More Vegetables
• 15 More Ways To Eat Your Vegetables
• Eat More Veggies: Nature Matching System Placemats
(Images: Gwoeii via Shutterstock, Jan Krcmar via Shutterstock, Emily Ho)