Eat more vegetables for your health
Vegetables are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When included as part of a well-balanced diet and a healthy active lifestyle, vegetables can help: lower your cholesterol, reduce obesity and maintain a healthy weight, and lower your blood pressure. Vegetables contain phytochemicals that help to lower risk of diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
What foods are in the vegetable group?
Any vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as being in the vegetable group. Vegetables can be raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated; and may be whole, cut-up, or mashed.
Based on their nutrient content, vegetables are organized into 5 subgroups:
- Dark green like broccoli or spinach
- Starchy like corn or potatoes
- Red & orange like carrots or red peppers
- Peas & dried beans (these can also be the protein group) like black beans or kidney beans
- Other like green beans and onions
*For a more inclusive list, go to: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html
Helpful tips to eat more veggies
- Make it easy. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens. Buy bagged baby carrots or celery sticks.
- Keep meals interesting – vary your veggie choices.
- Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to taste their best.
- Stock up on frozen veggies for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
- Try your vegetables crunchy, raw, or lightly steamed.
- For lunch, have a main dish salad (go easy on the salad dressing).
- Make a vegetable main dish like a soup or vegetable stir-fry. Then add foods from the other four food groups to complement it.
- Shred carrots or zucchini into meatloaf, casseroles, breads, muffins, and spaghetti sauce.
- Include more green salads with your lunches and dinners.
- For more flavor and nutrients, use pureed, cooked veggies like potatoes to thicken soups, stews, and gravies.
- Load the veggies onto pizzas and into omelets.
- Grilled vegetables like eggplant are terrific. Use mushrooms, green peppers, and onions to make kabobs.
- Color, color, color – orange carrots, purple shredded cabbage, red or green peppers, white cauliflower, yellow squash. How many colors can you add?
- Many vegetables taste great with a low-fat dip or dressing.
- Don’t forget to add those dried beans into salads, chili, and soups.
- Keep a see-through container of cut-up veggies up front in the refrigerator. When you open the door, those yummy, colorful vegetables are the first thing the whole family sees.
Veggie tips for kids
- Be the good example. Eat vegetables with all your meals and snacks.
- Let children choose vegetables while shopping and let them help prepare the veggies for the meal.
Vegetables on a budget
Plan meals around vegetables that go a long way. Include veggies you can grab for quick snacks or turn into casseroles and soups that you can eat a couple of times during the week. Buy extra vegetables when they are on sale. Then freeze the veggies or prepare a dish to be frozen for a busy night’s dinner. Prepare more vegetables than you need so you have leftovers. Try substituting half the meat in a recipe with beans or vegetables. This will reduce the fat, increase fiber, and save you money.
Super meals planned around vegetables
Stir-fried vegetables, Pasta primavera, vegetable lasagna, vegetable chili, bean soup, and baked potatoes topped with broccoli and sprinkled with grated cheese.
So, what are you waiting for? Eat more – veggies.