Although we know that vegetables are an important food group, we may have no idea how to easily increase our daily vegetable intake. According to the CDC, 91% of the American population's vegetable consumption is inadequate. Let’s look at some ways that we can increase our daily consumption.
1. The Importance of Vegetables in Our Diet
We all realize that vegetables are a beneficial food group for our health. Vegetable intake is directly related to the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all-cause mortality. A study in Europe stated that fruit and vegetable intake is significantly related to weight change.
Although public health officials have tried for years to persuade the public to increase their vegetable consumption, most efforts have failed. Now, in the age of blogs and social media, there is a unique opportunity to influence society for the better.
2. The Role of Vegetables in Our Meals
The daily recommended amount of vegetables depends on age, gender, and physical activity. In general, adults should eat two to three cups of vegetables a day, with the amount decreasing with age.
The MyPlate method, which has been suggested by the American nutrition authorities since 2011, can help you achieve the recommended daily intake of vegetables. The goal of the MyPlate method is to put vegetables on at least a quarter of your plate.
Let's take a look at how to increase our daily vegetable intake at meals:
Breakfast is the perfect meal to increase your daily consumption of vegetables! You can add many raw vegetables to your omelet like onion, spinach, green pepper, mushroom, zucchini, or broccoli. Maybe you prefer a fast and simple breakfast instead. In that case, a quick smoothie is a great choice for you. Prepare delicious smoothies with vegetables and fruits such as spinach, cabbage, carrots, bananas, or blueberries.
If you bring your lunch from home, your choices can range from vegetable soups or large-sized salads to vegetable spaghetti. If you usually eat lunch outside, try to order from a vegetarian menu. Get your sandwich with vegetables or choose a veggie pizza. Ask for a salad instead of fries. These are small but effective tips.
Take the time each week to plan your weekly menu. Then use the menu to make a shopping list of which vegetables you need. Finding a market with a good selection of vegetables will also help you make a habit of adding veggies to your diet. Purchase fresh fruits and vegetables on sale and then freeze them at home. This will help ensure that half of your plate is filled with vegetables. And always be sure to start dinner with vegetables. This rule will help you lose weight.
Vegetable chips are great snacks with the right dips and can help you feel full until dinner. Vegetables are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without guilt. Why not give veggies a try the next time you need a snack?
3. Cooking Techniques
You’ve bought vegetables and are looking for some tasty recipes. This is a great start! But do you know how cooking techniques can affect the nutritional content of vegetables? After all, the reason you are increasing your daily intake of vegetables is to consume their beneficial nutrients. So what are the best techniques to use? Microwaving and steaming top the list of the best ways to cook vegetables.
Microwaving is a time-friendly method, and the short cooking time preserves the content of the vegetable. Some studies reveal that microwaving can preserve the antioxidant capacity of vegetables that are high in antioxidants, such as garlic and artichokes. With techniques such as boiling, 70-80% of vitamins, especially vitamin C, may be lost. That drops to 20% with microwaving. Pretty good!
Steaming is the best technique to preserve the nutritional values of a vegetable. When you cook vegetables such as broccoli and spinach with the steaming technique, only 9-15% of vitamin C is lost.
If the steamed vegetables are too soft, you can solve this problem by flavoring them with spices and olive oil. Steam cooking is one of the best cooking methods to protect nutrients, including water-soluble vitamins.
In general, use as little water as possible when cooking vegetables. After boiling a vegetable, use the remaining water to make soup. Consuming the vegetable within two days of cooking prevents the loss of vitamin C. Try to cook vegetables when they are at their freshest.
Vegetables don’t always have to look like vegetables for us to add them to our meals. These delicious veggie burgers can help you increase your vegetable intake in an unexpected way. Let’s start cooking!
Black Bean & Roasted Red Pepper Veggie Burgers
- 1 15-oz can black beans(400 g), drained and rinsed
- ½ cup jarred roasted red pepper(90 g), finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup cornmeal(40 g)
- Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C).
- In a large bowl, microwave black beans for 1 minute, or until softened.
- Add roasted red peppers, garlic, cayenne, cumin, and salt. Mash until black beans are finely mashed.
- Add cornmeal and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Using a ½ cup (120 ml) measuring cup, portion 5 patties from the mixture. Place onto a lightly greased parchment paper-lined sheet pan.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until firm and browned, flipping over halfway through.
- Serve burgers with your favorite fixings.