How to Add More Vegetables Into Your Diet

When I was growing up, everything kids my age learned about food came from the hallowed food pyramid.

Ye Olde Foode Pyramid of Yore. Source: WikiCommons

The amount of fruits and vegetables you were supposed to eat was based on a daily serving suggestion, with 3-5 daily servings of vegetables recommended.

In 2011, however, the food pyramid was phased out in favor of MyPlate, an initiative spearheaded by First Lady/Superhero Michelle Obama and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. Instead of focusing on daily servings suggestions like MyPyramid, MyPlate focused on making each meal balanced by using a plate as a template to show Americans how to fill their plates.

MyPlate
Source: WikiCommons

All of this is a long-winded intro to a question Cass asked on my last post: How can I incorporate more vegetables into my diet?

First of all, I love the way Cass phrased the question, because it implies that the best way to eat more vegetables isn’t necessarily to replace a pizza with a salad (although that certainly doesn’t hurt). The best way to add more vegetables into your diet is to find creative ways to add them into foods you already love, not by taking out a meal you love and replacing it with a vegetable-filled meal you hate eating, or eating exactly three servings of spinach just to make sure you’re hitting your daily vegetable requirement (like in the MyPyramid days of yore).

To give you more specific examples of incorporating more vegetables in your day, let’s take a look at each meal and how you can incorporate vegetables into the food you already love.

Breakfast

If you eat scrambled eggs …

Try scrambling your eggs with sauteed vegetables like spinach, onions, peppers, or tomatoes. I also love topping eggs and omelets with salsa (and hot sauce!)

If you eat yogurt and fruit …

Grab your blender and throw in a couple of handfuls of spinach. I promise, you won’t even taste it. Need a go-to smoothie recipe? Here’s my favorite.

If you eat toast or an English muffin …

Add a little avocado and siracha (I know that avocado is really a fruit, but shhhhh). Alternatively, consider turning your toast into bruschetta or topping it with arugula, shaved parmesan, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

If you eat oatmeal …

Add spinach and stir it up until it’s nice and wilted. KIDDING! That’s gross. Honestly, you have a pass here. Add some fruit and save the veggies for a mid-morning snack.

Or, if none of these options sound particularly appetizing, try making a breakfast salad. They’re real, I Googled to check, and the images popping up are making my mouth water. Man, arugula is possibly the best thing in the world.

Lunch

If you eat a sandwich …

Easy enough to add some greens and some raw veggies, right? (Especially if it’s a grilled cheese… mmmm, grilled cheese and tomatoes) Alternatively, trade your bread for some lettuce and wrap it up, or add a cup of veggie-rich soup like minestrone as a side item.

If you eat at an unnamed Mexican place that rhymes with Bibotle …

Add veggies to your quesadilla or burrito; corn, peppers, onions, and greens are especially delicious. If you opt for a burrito bowl, sub half your rice for greens. There’s enough rice to feed a small village in one of those bowls anyway- I promise you won’t miss it.

If you grab a slice of pizza …

Make your pizza all the colors of the rainbows and add all of the veggies you can handle. Ask for a slice with a spinach puree in addition to regular tomato sauce. Or, opt for a “pizza salad”- throw a salad on top of your pizza and eat it all together like the animal you are.

If you eat a salad …

You’re on top of your shit.

Dinner

If you’re a pasta slurper …

Try your hand at spiralizing. (Don’t own one of those fancy gadgets? Grab a regular vegetable peeler and go to town on a zucchini) I’m also a HUGE fan of spaghetti squash as a substitute for regular noodles (it’s totally worth the work it takes to break the squash down). Or, blend your own veggie-rich pasta sauce to top your noodles with carrots, peppers, onions, greens, and tomatoes.

If you’re a meat and potatoes person …

Health up your potatoes by mixing sweet potatoes in with regular mashed potatoes in a 1:1 ratio.

If you love a good casserole …

Grate zucchini or squash on top of any casserole for more veggies without a noticeable taste or texture.

If mac and cheese is your comfort foods …

Add in spinach, tomatoes, peas, and/or broccoli. Hand to God, the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever had (shoutout to Atomic Cafe in Lexington) has peas in it. It’s a revelation.

If you like Asian cuisine …

Beef up your quick stir-fry with whatever vegetables you have handy.

Snacks

A veggie-based dip like salsa, hummus or guac is a great vehicle for anything from pita chips to raw veggie sticks. Grocery stores also sell edamame that’s shelled and ready for you to eat by the handful (that’s just me? oh).

Careful here, though – stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have perfected the art of taking a healthy food and turning it into a preservative-laden snack food that still maintains an aura of health. Make sure you read the labels.

Dessert

We’ve tested avocado chocolate pudding ourselves, and you know we wouldn’t steer you wrong. Zucchini bread is another classic veggie-hiding dessert, and I’m super intrigued by #39 on this list.

 

Eating vegetables isn’t about replacing your favorite foods with watered-down iceberg lettuce drizzled with ranch. Instead, it’s about finding ways to work vegetables into things you love.

Let us know!

Eat Hacks & Tips

About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.

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