Vegetables are labeled as one of the most important food groups in the human diet. From the rich variety of vitamins they provide to their ability to help with vision and heart health, they’re nothing short of ingestible superheroes, ready to aid our bodies in any way possible.
Throughout the past year, I’ve embarked on a journey to uplevel my nutrition and boost my health, and along the way, I’ve found some of the most convenient and delicious ways to ensure that you’re maximizing all of the health benefits that vegetables have to offer. If you’re in search of some ways to make sure you’re eating enough veggies in 2021, look no further! While this list is hardly exhaustive, below are 10 of my favorite methods for adding as many vegetable servings to my meals as possible:
- Add leafy greens like spinach and kale to smoothies
When it comes to offering broad nutritional advice, I am a devout advocate of smoothies; after all, what other drink can manage to be so versatile and flavorful while providing some of the most beneficial antioxidants and vitamins for your body all at the same time? If you’re already a frequent smoothie drinker, consider adding green veggies like kale or spinach to your drink. Whether you’re making a smoothie at home in a personal blender or ordering one from a chain like Smoothie King or Jamba Juice, the addition of any green vegetable boosts the health benefits of a smoothie even further.
- Try out veggie pastas and noodles
Popular brands like Barilla and Ronzoni sell pastas boosted with servings of vegetables on the shelves of any ordinary Walmart or Target. Spaghetti made from zucchini and squash is readily available in most grocery freezer sections. Restaurants like Noodles and Company and Olive Garden offer vegetable noodles with a wide variety of sauces and toppings on their menus. Until recently, I had no idea that this was even an option, but now that I can enjoy a delicious bowl of pasta while getting some veggies in — multitasking, am I right? — my world is forever changed. If you’re someone who isn’t super into eating raw vegetables and needs a more subtle way of sneaking in servings, this is a perfect option.
- Add a side salad
I know that this isn’t particularly revolutionary or exciting advice, as I often overhear people who are trying to eat more vegetables mumble things like, I don’t want to just eat salads all day. But trust me: if you’re trying to increase your daily vegetable intake, salads are such an easy way to go, providing opportunities to add veggies like spinach, carrots, onions, cucumbers, and cabbage in addition to a base lettuce mix.
If you find the taste of plain lettuce with just a few other veggies and some dressing to be far too bland, don’t be afraid to spice things up! Salads can quickly grow in flavor and fun with the addition of ingredients like croutons, sunflower seeds, cheese, and hard boiled eggs, and while it’s not my personal cup of tea, many dried fruits, like cranberries and raisins, are also popular salad toppers. My favorite thing about salads is that they are so versatile and can offer such diverse nutrient profiles, so don’t be afraid to experiment and see what tastes best for you.
- Top pizzas and flatbreads with vegetables
While pizzas are often overlooked as a potential health source under the assumption that something containing high amounts of carbs and cheese couldn’t offer much nutrition, the inclusion of vegetable toppings prove that notion false. Here, the possibilities are limitless, with mushrooms, squash, eggplant, spinach, peppers, and onions all serving as popular options to sprinkle atop any pizza or flatbread.
- Dunk veggies in hummus, dressings, or dips
Munching on plain baby carrots or celery pieces can sometimes get boring, so don’t be afraid to switch it up by using various sauces and dips! I often find that there’s this widespread misconception that dipping carrots in ranch dressing suddenly diminishes the nutritional value of the carrots. A serving of vegetables is a serving of vegetables, and if the addition of ranch dressing makes your snacking experience more savory and enjoyable, then go for it!
- Opt for crafty vegetable side dishes
Vegetables are perhaps most capable as side dishes, where creative chefs continue to come up with fantastic compliments for every meal. While a simple Google search will lead you to an abundance of recipes for vegetable-based sides, some of my favorites include kale chips and fried sweet potatoes. Don’t hesitate to explore and see for yourself all of the veggie side dishes that exist.
- Add vegetable purees to chilis and sauces
Though this tip isn’t discussed with much frequency, it is still immensely helpful! Any time that you make a sauce or chili, adding some vegetable puree is a really easy way to boost your vegetable consumption. While a small amount of puree in a sauce may not be enough to form a full serving, the small amounts of extra vegetables certainly add up over time.
- Incorporate vegetables into egg scrambles and omelettes
Are you in search of a hearty breakfast that doubles as a high-protein source for hours of energy as well as an opportunity to sneak in some veggies? Consider a vegetable omelette! Try adding spinach, peppers, broccoli, onions, or mushrooms to your eggs for a breakfast that is both filling and heavily nutritious.
- Try a lettuce wrap
I’m all about carbs and generally don’t think that breads and pastas are something to shy away from, but if you’re trying to include more vegetables, the transition from a bread-based wrap to a lettuce wrap may be an excellent choice! Sandwich chain Jimmy John’s has popularized this option, offering their signature subs on white bread, wheat, or in their lettuce wrap dubbed as an “unwich.”
But if you’d rather enjoy a sandwich from home instead, most grocery stores sell some form of a lettuce or spinach wrap for your personal cooking. This option not only offers additional nutrition benefits, but it also brings a clean, crisp crunch with every bite.
- Make vegetable soups
I admittedly am not a soup fan, but if you like having something warm to slurp down during the colder months, soups present an excellent opportunity for additional vegetables. Whether it’s a snowy winter day or a summer afternoon, there’s always a soup ready to fit the mood and the weather as well as to help you get in some extra servings of vegetables.
When it comes to vegetables, you can hardly go wrong. Here’s to a new year full of balanced meals!