Since we’re kicking off a new year and it’s as good a time as any to make some confessions, I have a big one: I often go days without vegetables in my diet. Now, I’m a full-fledged grownup (over 35) and a parent — and I even consider myself a moderately healthy eater. I eat minimal sweets, choose protein-heavy snacks, and shun as many added ingredients as possible. I’ve certainly come a long way from my teenage and college ways.
But I’m harboring some major guilt, bordering embarrassment, that I don’t make the effort to include multiple servings of vegetables every day.
I honestly am fond of vegetables, but they slide right off my radar when busy hits. I’ll chop an apple, cook an egg, or peel a clementine without registering it as a sacrificial pocket of time when deadlines are looming. But enter the green stuff and immediately all the fuss is a chore. So what gives?
I won’t try to address any long-standing food issues in this post, but I am urging myself to get into a veggie habit. I know from experience that eating more vegetables on a regular basis makes me want them more, so the real challenge is getting started. There are a few reasons why now is a good time — my husband’s current salad-heavy diet, our toddler’s ever-expanding appetite, and a desire to move in the direction of a whole-food plan — but the truth is, there’s little excuse to arrange meals otherwise.
Here are a few ways I plan to incorporate more veggies into daily meals. If any of these are new to you, I hope they’ll help round out your daily pyramid.
Begin with Breakfast
Adding spinach to eggs keeps protein at the center of breakfast and sets me up for the rest of the day. Besides, resisting the urge to reach for a few cheerios and be done is a victory I can relish for at least a few hours.
Eat Side Salads with Lunch and Dinner
Having a side salad marks off that veggie box without much prep work, and let's be honest — it’s not unpleasant to savor a pile of spinach with a little dressing. Plus, green pretties up a plate quickly — and it only gets better with the addition of colorful peppers, onions, and seeds. I'll bet within a week or so I'll be eating the salad first instead of saving it as the last and least-loved item on my plate.
Soup Is Always Good
This time of year, a cold salad isn't necessarily the first thing my body craves, so when I prefer a warm meal instead, soup is the solution. The main advantage is packing a rainbow of vegetables I may be hesitant to eat outright into yummy broth. Soups are also a logistical dream — make a big batch and you're set with easy-to-reheat meals for the week.
Replace Carbs with Veggies at Dinner
We eat dinner at toddler time (5:50 p.m.), so my stomach is usually daydreaming about coffee and breakfast by bedtime if I leave the dinner table unsatisfied. But dietitians and trainers preach carb-free evenings with consistency, arguing that, at night, the body has less time to process and burn off those sugars. So what’s going to fill that empty spot on my plate? More veggies, of course!
When in Doubt, Make Vegetable Quesadillas
Most people will eat anything covered in cheese and folded between a tortilla. It’s the only way I get broccoli into my toddler. Storing ingredients (peppers, onion, spinach) already chopped in the fridge makes for a fast and warm lunch that feels like a treat.
Are the numbers of greens on your plate sitting well with your conscience? Do you have ideas on easy ways to integrate more good, green stuff? Bring on the links to sides, snacks, and breakfasts worthy of a Pinterest board that dares not be ignored!