Do you find it a challenge to get in three well-rounded meals every day? It can be so easy to let healthy meals slide when life gets busy. Or perhaps, you are serving wholesome home-cooked meals, but still find it a challenge to eat veggies like you should. If this is the case, you aren’t alone!
In fact, did you know 87% of the population in America does not consistently meet the recommended daily vegetable intake? (This data obtained from NHANES even counted beans as vegetables!) And sadly, 93% of all children (age 1-18) consumed fewer vegetables than recommended.
Think about what you’ve eaten so far today? How many cups of vegetables did you eat?
I truly understand the challenge. In fact, right now we are in the middle of a move (this is our 6th move in 7 years 😦) and it is definitely taking some creativity for us to continue eating our veggies and keep up with our busy lives!
How many vegetables should you eat in a day?
Perhaps you are now wondering if you would’ve met your vegetable quota if included in the study. How many servings you need in a day depends on several factors such as age, activity level, etc. For adults, it ranges from 2-4 cups per day (older and less active adults being on the lower end.)
Another good rule of thumb (and perhaps more intuitive than adding cups of veggies together in your head all day) is to aim to make half your plate non-starchy vegetables.
Easy Ways to Add Veggies
Meeting your daily veggie recommendation can certainly be done with careful planning and commitment. Here are some simple strategies to help you consistently get in your veggies, even on the busiest of days and craziest of weeks!
1. Keep Fresh Veggies Ready
Plan and Prep Ahead
Find a time that works for you to prep ahead for a busy week. Perhaps it could be your weekly routine to spend a little time on Sunday afternoon or evening cutting veggies for your week. It doesn’t take long and you’ll be so glad you did it.
If you feel like I’ve said it once (read: Weeknight Dinners: Making them Happen), and this probably won’t be the last time I say it, one way to save time and still have healthy choices available is to buy ready to eat precut veggies!
Have Hummus or Veggie Dip Ready
You can make a delicious ranch dip or other veggie dip using greek yogurt. Hummus is also a perfect option for dipping veggies and it’s easy to buy a decent brand at the grocery store.
Salad Bar in Your Fridge
Keeping all the ingredients ready-to-go for a salad bar makes for a really quick and easy lunch or dinner! Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Wash and cut lettuce, kale, or other greens, or keep fresh ready-to-eat spinach in your fridge and you’ll be prepared to fix a salad anytime.
- Fresh veggies cut and ready to go (see above.)
- Protein sources: Canned or dried beans work great and require minimal/no planning. You can also prepare shredded chicken or use leftover meat from another meal to top on your salad.
- Non-perishable toppings you can keep on hand include: slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, and dried cranberries.
- Adding even a little cheese can really add some big flavor to your salad! Experiment with your favorites, but I usually keep feta and cheddar on hand for our salads.
- Salad dressing: We usually use oil and vinegar (red wine vinegar), which is really simple and low maintenance. However, I also love to use this salad dressing mixing bottle which helps you make quick and easy dressings at home.
- If you like you can also cook ahead grains for your salad, or use leftover grains from another dish. My favorite for salad bowls are quinoa and rice.
If you really just don’t love salads that’s okay too! You can also stuff your salad ingredients in a wrap or even turn it into a burrito bowl starting with rice (with or without a Mexican theme…your choice!)
2. Buy Frozen Veggies for Weeknight Dinners
Have your freezer stocked with frozen veggies ready to fix in a hurry on a weeknight. There are lots of different things you can do with frozen veggies at dinner.
- For certain entrees, you can mix frozen veggies in with your main dish. This works well with casseroles (add more than what the recipe calls for to really bulk it up), soups, and even pasta dishes.
- Steam frozen veggies for a quick side item to your meat.
- Buy stir fry veggie mix to keep on hand and this can easily be cooked on the stove and served alongside rice for a quick and easy dinner stocked full of veggies!
3. Add Veggies To Your Breakfast
Thinking of ways to get your veggies in at lunch and dinner may seem easier, but a trick to adding even more veggies to your day is to work them into your breakfast as well! Here are a few ideas:
- Add them to an Egg Bake – Check out my 5 Minute Egg Bake recipe, which has broccoli as a main ingredient.
- Sautee spinach or kale and mix it in your scrambled eggs and put in on an egg sandwich.
- Use sweet potatoes and a few other veggies such as greens and mushrooms to make a hash.
- Green Smoothie – Try my Apple Cider Green Smoothie Recipe
4. Green (Veggie) Smoothie Anytime
They aren’t just for breakfast! Perhaps you are tired of eating your veggies and want to drink them! Enjoy a green smoothie as a snack, with another meal, or anytime you feel like you are low on veggies. My Apple Cider Green Smoothie recipe is a great start for beginners because the apple cider adds just enough sweetness. However, generally just use water or coconut water for liquid, fruit, greens, and a few other veggies. Other veggies I commonly add include: carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery leaves.
5. Veggies in Place of Grains
While I believe grains can have a healthy (and enjoyable) place in your diet, no one can argue that veggies are full of benefits! Take some of those grain-heavy meals and see if you can swap in some veggies instead. Here are a few ideas:
- Spaghetti Squash instead of Spaghetti or Pasta – I love this one! Spaghetti squash is really easy to prepare and a delicious replacement for pasta noodles in a variety of recipes. Simply serve it with your favorite pasta sauce over top for a super quick and easy weeknight dinner!
- Cauliflower Rice – Don’t worry, you don’t have to even process this yourself anymore. It’s pretty easy to find cauliflower rice now in grocery stores. I’ve seen it at Kroger, Aldi (not consistently), Walmart, and Trader Joes.
- Spiralize your veggies – Spiralize your sweet potatoes, zucchini, and carrots to make beautiful dishes! I admittedly don’t currently have a decent spiralizer. However, I’ve borrowed/used the Paderno spiralizer before and it works very well. (I plan to buy either the Paderno or the mueller spiralizer. I’m open to feedback on either of these to help my decision making process- if anyone has any!)
- Lettuce Wraps – Wrap your sandwich in lettuce! Make you sure whatever lettuce you choose has strong leaves.
- Pizza Crust – There are tons of cauliflower crusted pizza recipes out there. Again, in all transparency I haven’t tried this yet. It has literally been on my list of “things to try” for years by now. Anyone else have a Pinterest full of things they have yet to try?
Easy Ways to Add Veggies
With a little planning ahead you can increase your veggies and still keep up with your busy life. Make it a habit to pick up fresh and frozen vegetables at the store. Small decisions every day to work in a few extra veggies will add up over time. Make it a point today to be in the 13% of Americans getting all of their veggies in! If you have any tips on easy ways to add veggies to your daily life I would love to hear them in the comments below!