We all know how good vegetables are for us and that we should be eating more of them, but how do we get more into our diet?
Veg is a good source of fibre and packed with vitamins and minerals. Instead of just 5 portions of fruit and veg a day, we should be aiming for more like 7 (or maybe even 10). Frozen veg has been shown to have just as many, if not more, nutrients as fresh veg. So I’ve put together my top 5 tips on how to get more veg in your diet.
To help familiarise yourself, a portion of veg is roughly:
• 80g, or
• 3 heaped tablespoons of cooked veg, or
• serving that fits into the palm of your hand.
1. Less meat and more veg
Meat is a great source of protein but we don’t need to eat as much as we do, especially red and processed meats. Veg should no longer be just a side dish, they should and can be the hero on your plate.
There are other excellent sources of protein, like beans and lentils, which are much lower in fat and higher in fibre, which can be combined with lots of veg. You can try swapping meat for other good sources of protein in some of your favourite dishes, like veggie lasagne, shepherd’s pie made with lentils, veggie burgers made with chickpeas and chilli con carne made with borlotti beans. And even better, when beans and lentils are combined with grains, they actually create a high quality or “complete” protein source that is similar to meat.
2. Swap starchy foods like rice and pasta for veg
Carbohydrates such as rice and pasta often take up a large portion of our plates. Many people have begun replacing these starchy foods with low-carb veg alternatives such as cauliflower rice and courgetti. Although wholegrains are a good source of fibre and B vitamins, replacing some of these with veg can be a really good way to get more veg into your diet.
Cauliflower rice and courgetti are really easy to make at home but you can also them buy ready made if you’re a bit strapped for time. You can also buy broccoli rice, butternut squash tagliatelle and butternut squash slices to use in replace of lasagne sheets.
3. Snack on veg
We all know how easy it is to pick up a chocolate bar or a sharing packet of potato crisps. But a really delicious and easy way to get more veg into your diet, is to turn them in to a tasty snack. Just pick your favourite raw veg such as carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers and red peppers, slice them into sticks and dip into houmous or guacamole.
Tip: chickpeas, which are used to make houmous, as well as other beans and pulses, also count towards one of your 5 a day.
Roasted veg such as sweet potato wedges, peppers, carrots and aubergine, also taste great eaten cold as a snack. Cook a large batch for dinner and snack on it at work the next day, or mix through some fresh pesto and spinach leaves for a tasty lunch.
4. Make veg the star of every meal
Another great way to get more veg into your diet is to try and get more into every meal. Here’s a few easy ideas…
Try adding tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, spinach, courgette and peppers to your morning omelette.
Bulk your sandwich out with spinach, avocado, roasted peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, beetroot and grated carrot.
Add onions, peppers, carrots, courgettes and mushrooms to a spaghetti bolognaise or shepherd’s pie, and mange tout, baby corn, courgettes, broccoli and spinach to a stir fry or green Thai curry.
5. Liven up your veg
Some veg taste great by themselves but others could do with a little jazzing up. No more mushy peas, soggy broccoli or cold carrots that remind us of being back at school!
Remember veg doesn’t just have to be boiled or steamed. There are so many ways to retain the flavour and nutrients in veg, whether it’s lightly steamed, sautéed, stir-fried, griddled, roasted, or made into veggie meatballs. Stock your cupboard with some staple spices, like paprika, nutmeg, fennel seeds, oregano and chilli flakes, and add fresh herbs to really help put veg front and centre on your plate.
Bored of boiled broccoli? It tastes amazing roasted in the oven with extra virgin olive oil and garlic, or try sautéing spinach with a little butter and nutmeg – it goes great with ricotta and rolled inside aubergine slices.
We are fortunate in the UK to have such an amazing selection of veg in our shops, so try to mix it up and experiment with different ways to get more veg onto your plate.
Speak again soon,
Gemma, The Food Doctor nutritionist