10 Tips to Easily Fit In More Veggies to Boost Your Diet's Nutrient Power
Updated: May 21
You heard that vegetables are "good for you," but how do you eat more when you are busy or maybe aren't sure how to make them taste good?
Maybe you have an occasional salad at lunch and usually a vegetable with dinner...but is that enough? The answer is "no."
How many servings of vegetables should we be eating on a daily basis?
Recommended intake of total vegetables and fruits combined ranges from 5-10 servings per day!
Almost 90% of the U.S. population is NOT eating the USDA recommended servings of vegetables, which is 3 servings per day...a minimum target. Almost 80% of Americans are NOT eating the recommended servings of fruits, which is 2 servings per day, another minimum target.
The USDA recommendation of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables combined daily is not being achieved by most, and that minimum recommendation may not even be enough to prevent chronic disease! Other research indicates that vegetable and fruit intake combined at 8-10 servings per day is associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, cancer and all-cause mortality. With heart disease and cancer as the top two diseases in America, finding strategies to increase vegetable (and fruit) intake seems like a logical choice.
10 Tips to Successfully Eat More Veggies Starting Today
1. Start with a small goal.
If you only eat 0-1 vegetables daily, then set an initial goal of eating one vegetable every day. Once you achieve that goal and maintain it for about a week, then increase your goal to two vegetables per day...and so on.
2. Commit to your goal and PLAN.
If you don't have a roadmap, you'll get lost. If you're going to eat one vegetable every day, then which vegetable are you going to choose? Is it in your refrigerator or do you need to plan a grocery shopping day? Will it be at breakfast (i.e., omelet), lunch, or dinner?
3. Start with vegetables you know you like.
In order to make any dietary change and make it stick, you have to choose foods that taste good. If you say, "I don't like many vegetables," then we need to do a bit of exploring and experimenting. Say out loud, "I know I would enjoy (your veggie of choice) with my lunch every day." Still struggling for ideas? Read on...
4. Make it easy.
If you are overwhelmed by the time it may take to slice and dice, then invest in prewashed, precut veggie options. Try the ready-to-eat lettuce greens or carrots in a bag. Pick up a prepared veggie tray from your grocery store on Sunday and have fresh cut veggies to snack on all week. Didn't eat them all by Friday? Use the remaining veggies from the tray in a simple soup recipe on Saturday.
5. Tell yourself that you are worth the investment.
Let's be clear here. Purchasing healthy whole foods is an investment in your health. Think about what you may be buying that is not contributing anything, or possibly taking away, from your health? Could it be fast food, sugary coffee drinks, snack chips or sweets? Why would you spend $5 or more on a coffee shop latte, but pass on the fresh organic strawberries because they cost $5?
You can also choose to be cost conscious in your purchasing of fresh vegetables. View your grocery store sales ad online before going to the grocery store. Buying veggies that are on sale will reduce cost AND will promote a variety of intake as sale items change weekly.
6. Change it up.
When we get bored of a certain food, we don't want to eat it anymore. Tired of carrot sticks with your lunch? Try some bell pepper sticks in varieties of green, red, and yellow to make it interesting. A little bit of hummus or veggie dip can jazz up the taste too. If salads are your go-to, then change your salad dressing and other ingredients in your salad to totally change the taste. Whether you go for a chef salad, Caesar salad, Mexican-style salad, Greek salad, or Asian-style salad...the variety of flavors are endless.
7. Try one new vegetable recipe each week.
Find one new vegetable recipe online before you make your shopping list for the week. Or better yet, check your grocery sales ad online for veggies on sale, and then find a recipe online to match. Pick a night when you will have time to make the new recipe (it doesn't have to be complicated or take long).
No time to find a recipe this week? Got you covered with my standard "I Don't Have a Vegetable Recipe" recipe. It includes cooking the vegetable in olive oil, crushed garlic clove, slice of onion minced (or just garlic and onion powder), and a little bit of salt and pepper to taste. Super easy! This works for any vegetable whether you sauté in a pan (i.e., yellow or green zucchini), or steam in a pot (i.e., green beans or asparagus).
8. Sneak more vegetables into unsuspected places.
Add more vegetables to any soup recipe to make it more of a vegetable stew. If sandwiches are a lunch staple, bulk up the lettuce, tomato, onion and other veggies you like (green peppers, cucumbers, sprouts, etc.) to make a Dagwood sandwich - heavy on the veggies. The sandwich will be more filling and nutrient-dense without adding significant calories.
Another idea is adding puréed cooked cauliflower to your mashed potato recipe to boost your variety of vegetables and phytonutrient intake. Likewise, add some cooked, puréed carrots to your spaghetti sauce. Kids won't see it and they will also get a boost in phytonutrient benefits. Throw in some fresh spinach with your fruit smoothie ingredients. It's amazing how the taste of the fruit masks the taste of the spinach! It is best to use a high-powered blender or smoothie blender.
9. Have veggie snacks on-hand.
Alternate the vegetables you have on hand for snacks so you don't get bored, and have them ready to grab for the day. Carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes are great options to eat with a healthy dip or hummus. Changing the hummus flavors can make it interesting too, such as garlic, roasted red pepper, or spicy hummus. Try a nut butter on your celery sticks and throw on a few raisins for some good old fashioned Ants on a Log. Feel like a Mediterranean snack? Take a handful of cherry tomatoes and chop one cheese stick and put on a plate. Drizzle olive oil and Italian spice blend on top. Mangia!
10. Be strategic with your time.
We all need time-saving tips in this busy world in order to support our healthy food choices. Remember that putting your health as the FIRST priority in your life will help you GAIN time. Investing in your health will give you more energy, better mental clarity, and lower your risk for disease. Here are some time-saving tips to get more veggies:
Invest in precut, prewashed vegetables.
Explore the produce section at your grocery store - there are many more options beyond the bag of salad and carrots.
Do all of your chopping in one day.
Pick one day a week when you have an open schedule (Sunday is usually good for most), and chop away. Make the process enjoyable by playing your favorite music or watching your favorite TV show while you chop. This can be "me time" in more ways than one!
Use a grocery delivery service.
This is a big time saver. You can use an app on your phone to select your veggies and other grocery items to be delivered the same day. Use the time you would have spent driving to the grocery store and doing your shopping to chop your vegetables for the week instead. Really short on time? Select the prewashed, precut veggies in your delivery order.
Keep frozen veggies on hand.
Let's face it. There are days when we need to throw something on the stove and cook quickly. Have frozen vegetable blends on hand that you can toss in pot to make soup or use in a quick stir fry recipe.
To make this work in a pinch, you simply need to keep your pantry stocked with vegetable or chicken broth, noodles, rice, and low-sodium stir fry sauce. Having diced skinless boneless chicken breast pieces or tofu in your fridge or freezer will boost the protein in your quick prep soup or stir fry. No time to crush garlic or slice a bit of onion? Keep garlic and onion powder in your spice cabinet for some easy flavor.
This quick vegetable soup and stir fry will take less time to prep than going through a fast food drive-thru at 5:00...and it will be much more nutritious for you and your family! Win-win!
Invest in Your Health
Making any lifestyle change will take some time and effort. The goal is to make the process easier by implementing small changes you can maintain. Those who try to do too much at once tend to give up because it becomes overwhelming. If you don't reach your goal one week, it's o.k. Figure out what got in the way of meeting your goal and try again next week. Don't give up on your health. I guarantee your health is worth every investment you make!
Consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) for additional assistance with meal planning and personalized diet recommendations to help you meet your health goals.
Analysis of What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016, ages 1 and older, 2 days dietary intake data, weighted. Recommended Intake Ranges: Healthy U.S.-Style Dietary Patterns (see Appendix 3).
Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, Fadnes LT, Keum N, Norat T, Greenwood DC, Riboli E, Vatten LJ, Tonstad S. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol. 2017 Jun 1;46(3):1029-1056. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw319. PMID: 28338764; PMCID: PMC5837313.