This week is National Nutrition Week and this year it’s all about boosting our veggie volume and getting our five servings of vegetables a day! You already know that around these parts we are huge veggie fans! Whether you choose fresh, frozen, or tinned vegetables, the number one thing you can do to increase your health and wellbeing is choose to add more vegetables to your plate every day! According to recent results the average person is only getting half of their recommended 5 servings of vegetables per day.
I think sometimes people struggle to enjoy vegetables and meet the recommendation because they see veggies as boring, bland, and expensive, or they think veggies are only for dinner time. As an Official Vegetable Lover (disclaimer: this title may or may not be my own invention) I want everyone to enjoy getting more veggies in their daily eats, and I want them to realise how delicious vegetables can be! That’s why this National Nutrition Week I am sharing my Top 5 Ways to Eat 5 a Day!
Start at Breakfast Time!
Veggies aren’t just for lunch and dinner; breakfast is the perfect time to start enjoying vegetables. If you are a smoothie lover why not throw in a cup of baby spinach (one serve of veggies) to your morning smoothie? You won’t notice the flavour but your body will love the vitamins A, B2, C and K, and magnesium, manganese, folate, iron, calcium and potassium! If you are more of a savoury breakfast person try pairing your morning eggs with a dose of vegetables! Perhaps a slice of frittata or crustless quiche? My recipes for Corn and Feta Frittata and my Asparagus, Pumpkin and Feta Crustless Quiche are full of veggie flavour and can easily be made ahead and eaten on busy mornings! Mexican Baked Eggy Tortilla Cups are another easy, veggie-full option and are busy-morning friendly for sure! If you’re looking for an easy vegan option how about Zucchini Tofu Scramble or an easy, traditional baked beans on toast!
You think I’m about to talk about carrot sticks and celery, don’t you? Well…I am going to mention them in passing but only because they make delicious vehicles for veggie packed dips like Lemon Avocado Hummus, or Baba Ganoush!
But, sticks aside, veggies make for a great snack option! Fold them into Thai Spring Rolls, bake them into a healthy twist on Sweet Potato Fries, or pile them high on a piece of toast – my current favourites are this Balsamic Roasted Eggplant and Tomato version and these Rainbow Croissant Sandwiches. Or simply make a snacking plate with a whole heap of your favourite veggies (blanched asparagus and broccoli are my faves) with a little of your favourite cheese and a few nuts. The roasted chickpeas from this recipe are also a great snack option all on their own! Did you know that legumes, like chickpeas and butter beans, and lentils are also considered part of the veggie group too! Load up!
Add a Side Salad
Now, I don’t mean that little bowl of iceberg lettuce and pink tomatoes found in every restaurant the world over. I mean side salads that are tasty morsels in their own right. That doesn’t mean slaving over side dishes for hours – you just need to consider a few elements to create the perfect side salad.
My side salad tips:
- Choose the freshest greens available – try a mix of leaves if you want to boost the flavour even more. My favourite: baby spinach and baby rocket.
- Have one super star ingredient and make it shine- an abundance of fresh summer tomatoes, lashings of roasted capsicum, sweet potatoes gone wild!
- Sprinkle on something salty – feta, parmesan cheese, toasted nut or seeds – make it interesting and choose a few!
- Add some protein to keep it hearty – butter beans, chickpeas, quinoa, maybe a few halved boiled eggs? Make your sides simple but substantial.
A few of my favourites from the blog:
It’s Not Just About Salad Though
I know, I just professed my love for the salad, and it’s true that we have been involved in a long and often torrid affair, but my love for vegetables with every meal doesn’t stop at salads. Veggies make a great focus for so many types of meals. How about soups, stews, curries, stir-fry, pasta, bakes, bowls, tacos and stuffed things! There are so many great recipes that put veggies at the center of the plate and celebrate their unique flavours – you don’t have to be limited to salads! Get curious with your tastebuds, try out a new recipe every week, and discover how amazing pumped up, pimped out, vegetable heavy dishes can be. (Note: for omivores, add some of your favourite protein if vegetarian isn’t your style, just remember to be curious about veggies.)
Here are a few of my favourite veggie-centric meals from the blog:
Spicy Peanut Zucchini Noodle Stuffed Capsicums (<– that peanut sauce….)
Make it Easy as 1,2,3!
I think the vegetable aisle can sometimes be daunting. There are so many messages about what we should buy when it comes to vegetables that it’s easy to get confused when you face the fresh food section. Organic v.s. conventional? Fresh v.s. Frozen? Farmer’s Market v.s. Supermarket? Here’s my advice. Make it easy on yourself and your budget.
- Organic produce has not been proven to be any nutritionally better than conventionally grown produce (great article from a dietitian here) so choose the conventionally grown produce if it’s cheaper.
- Fresh and frozen vegetables are just as good as each other, and some frozen vegetables have higher levels of nutrients as they have been picked and frozen before the levels start to drop. Plus, many frozen vegetables are just convenient! I keep frozen peas and corn on hand all the time for quick additions to any meal. Also, pre-sliced veggies, sometimes you save me on busy days.
- If you like the farmer’s market (I do!) then enjoy your veggie shopping outside! You can also sometimes get great bargains on bulk fruit and veggies at the markets too. I also love my local greengrocer and supermarket when I can’t make it to the supermarket.
The key here is making it easy to choose to add more veggies to your meals! Don’t listen to celebrity gurus who say that you have to love kale, or find organic apples. If you don’t like kale, eat spinach. If your budget doesn’t allow for organic apples (mine doesn’t) go for the conventional ones. You are still doing your body good!
My key message:
Get curious about vegetables! Try recipes with new vegetables, or different ways of preparing your favourites. Challenge yourself to pick a new recipe every week and give it a try. Listen to what veggies your body is really craving and make yourself a heaping serve of those at your next meal (I’m looking at you mushrooms and asparagus). Eat a rainbow!
This National Nutrition Week dietitians and nutritionists from all over are tagging their creations on social media with #TryFor5 and #NNW2016 – take a look at these tags for great ideas on how to get more veggies on your plate. Let’s eat the rainbow!
Although I am a dietitian this post is not intended to replace individual medical and nutrition advice. For a personalised approach please visit the Dietitians Association of Australia to find a dietitian close to you.