A recent study stated that only ‘1 in 10 adults meet the federal guidelines for fruit or vegetable consumption’ set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), so if you thought the flash backs of your parents bugging you to “eat your vegetables” at dinner would disappear with adulthood, you’re wrong (well, at least partly). Even though the nagging voices are no longer there, the message has certainly been ingrained and now you probably can’t go through a meal without the thought creeping in. So how do you honor your parents’ wishes, and ultimately nourish your body with the dark leafy greens and vibrant colored superfoods without feeling like you’re being tortured back at your childhood dinner table?
Here are some of my top tips as a nutrition expert on how to easily sneak these nutrition powerhouses into your everyday routine.
1) Convenience = simplicity and simplicity = consistency.
If you’re someone who buys produce with the best of intentions to go home and prep it, but ultimately it goes to the refrigerator bottom bin “to die,” then consider spending a little bit more and buy pre-chopped, pre-sliced, pre-portioned veggie options like mini-bagged carrots, spiralized veggie noodles, a cut vegetable platter, apple slice pouches, etc.
2) Pair your produce with a delish spread, dip, or dressing. There’s no need to eat your vegetables raw when you can jazz up the taste and increase the nutritional benefit by enjoying them with peanut or almond butter, plain Greek yogurt mixed with seasoning packets (I really like a taco seasoning or ranch seasoning packet), vinaigrette-based salad dressings, salsa, preserves, or spicy mustard.
3) Sneak fruits and vegetables into sauces, spreads, smoothies and dips by pureeing and mixing them into the recipe; breakfast smoothies and protein shakes, pasta sauce, pizza sauce, hummus, olive oil drizzle, Greek yogurt dips, salsa, avocado toast spreads, and sandwich/ wrap spreads will all boost your intake of fruits and veggies.
4) Always have vegetables on hand. Purchase several bags of microwave-steamable options to toss into the microwave and have ready for a dinner side in less than 90 seconds!
5) Arrange vegetables so that they’re visually appealing, front-and-center in the fridge. That will allow you to see and grab them first, as opposed to another not-so-healthy option positioned in the back.
6) Plan for vegetable based-meals throughout the week. For breakfast have a loaded vegetable omelet with a side of spinach avocado smoothie, for lunch whip up a cauliflower “grain-bowl” using a frozen bag of cauliflower rice and another bag of assorted vegetables, and then for dinner make some zoodle pasta dishes with spiralized zucchini, nutritious boosted vegetable sauce, and an assortment of grilled vegetables!
We tell our children to eat their fruits and vegetables and we stress the importance of all the beneficial vitamins, minerals, and nutrients necessary for their growth and development, but then we as adults don’t apply the same reasoning (or you could say “follow our own advice” instead of “apply the same reasoning). Even though adults are no longer growing and developing, fighting off disease and living a healthy life are the reasons “eat your vegetables” remains important and timeless advice.