I’m always trying to get more vegetables into my and my family’s diet. The recommended intake of vegetables is 5 portions per day, and in some countries this has increased to 7!! From doing my workshops and talking to clients, some people find it hard to even get 3 portions in on a daily basis.
There are lots of natural ways to increase vegetables into your diet and get to that magic number of 5. With some simple swaps using my tips and tricks below, a bit of planning you can increase your vegetable intake very easily.
Myself, I try to add them in at breakfast, that way I know I’ve already got some in early in the day. Plus dinner, and sometimes lunch, are probably more traditionally associated with vegetables. For my kids I also add them in as snack in their lunch boxes.
Everyone knows that we need to get more vegetables into our diets, right? But do you know why? What’s the big benefit? And do I need to worry if I can’t get them in?
Vegetables are foremost a great source of vitamins and other nutrients. They contain many of the vitamins and minerals our body’s need to live. The brassica family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts) have high amounts of vitamin C, B, K and E to name a few. They also have protective nutrients such as Sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol that have shown to protect against cancer1. The brightly orange coloured vegetables are very high in beta-carotene and vitamin C (pre-cursor to Vitamin A) such as butternut squash, carrots, pumpkin2.
They are a great source of fibre. There are two main types of fibre – soluble and insoluble – which help to keep our bowels regular. But there is another type called resistant starch. These are really important as they are fermented by our gut microbes, and in turn that produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as butyrate, that produce energy for our cells3, 4! Some of the vegetables high in resistant starch are cooked and cooled white and sweet potatoes, beans and legumes.
They are also a great source of plant-chemicals called polyphenols and antioxidants – think of all those bright colours, which reduce the risk of many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity5.
So if you want to increase your vegetable intake across the day, here are my top 6 tips and tricks for getting those 5-a-day into your diet:
Include vegetables for breakfast
I know, when I first started doing this it took a little while to get my head around this myself! I was used to having porridge every morning, and while that was heathy, if I wanted to get my vegetable intake up I had to entertain some other ideas….Now my go to is scrambled eggs and spinach with some seaweed flakes to spice it up! Other ideas are a vegetable omelette, portobello mushroom toast and a poached egg, egg and vegetable muffins, smoked salmon, spinach and feta salad, a smoothie with avocado and spinach (or any other vegetable you prefer)
Soups for lunch – delicious at this time of year
Soups are a handy way to have vegetables, and if someone is not great at eating them, when blended soups are your ideal choice. I generally use up whatever vegetables I have in the fridge, but I have been known to follow some recipes like this one for Pumpkin Soup recently!
Use them in snacks
While fruit has traditionally been a popular snack, if we’re trying to increase our vegetable intake swapping some of the fruit snacks for a vegetable one will all add up. Some snacks I use are hummus with veggie sticks as one portion of beans or lentils per day also counts towards our vegetables. This recipe from The Happy Pear is a firm favourite here, or the ones from the supermarkets are also a good buy if you’re strapped for time.
Grate them to reduce bulk or add them to sauces and stews
I’m a divil for following a recipe to a point and then just adding in more vegetables, especially if I know it’s a dish my family already love – sure they won’t notice the extra vegetables in there! And it’s true, they don’t!
But if you prefer to follow a recipe, check out one of our family favourites from Jamie Oliver – this chicken stew contains 3 of your 5-a-day in just one dish and it’s so easy to prepare, great for these cold days!
Swap pasta and rice for their vegetable alternative – courgetti noodles and cauliflower rice. For anyone on a low carbohydrate healthy fat (LCHF) diet, this is a delicious way to still enjoy a favourite meal, but without the higher carbs. And everyone else it adds another vegetable into our meal. Check out my easy cauliflower rice recipe here.