7 habits to help you eat more vegetables
It’s official: 10 a day is the new 5 a day! But how easy is it to include more vegetables in your diet?
We all know that we should eat more vegetables. The fruit recommendation is easy enough to achieve so I will not focus on that in this post. Reaching our vegetable requirement however can be a challenge even for a nutritionist!
These guidelines are based on research carried out by Imperial College London. You can read the research paper here. It is important to note that if you eat 2 portions of fruit and 3 portions of vegetables, you are already well on your way to reducing disease risks. Going up to 10 portions a day is associated with a further risk reduction of heart disease (24%), stroke (33%), cardiovascular disease (28%) and cancer (13%).
So what should you do now? Well, small steps are the way to go. Here are 7 habits to introduce to help you reach your 10 a day.
1. Go for savoury breakfast
We are so used to eating sweet breakfasts. To really fuel your body first thing in the morning, the best breakfast you can choose is a savoury option that includes some protein. Here are my favourites:
- Sweet potato toasts: they might be slightly sweet but they are a fantastic vegetable.
- Porridge made with quinoa and amaranth or with soaked buckwheat groats.
- Wholewheat pitta bread with tomato and sliced boiled eggs
- Rye bread with smoked salmon
- Omelette with greens (spinach, kale or chard)
- Mini Frittatas with mixed vegetables
2. Snack on vegetables
If you leave work peckish because you didn’t have a big lunch, why not snack on vegetable sticks? You can prepare those the night before. It will take 10 minutes at the most. Cucumber, celery, peppers, carrots are handy with a dip of your choice. I love hummus (which counts as another one of your 10 a day). Why not try this courgette dip for a change?
3. Make the most of frozen vegetables
Your freezer should be your best friend in the kitchen. When you are in a rush, having some veggies you can add to soups and stews is really handy. I tend to keep frozen spinach, peas, peppers and roasted veg mix for those emergencies. Supermarkets are stocking some interesting mixes. Make the most of it!
4. Pimp your favourite dishes
Do you like spaghetti bolognese? Why not grate some carrots and some courgettes in the sauce to add a couple of portions of vegetables for your family? Try adding vegetables to lasagna (I like to add a layer or two of aubergine slices). And I load all my casseroles with extra vegetables.
5. Add veggies to your smoothies
The easiest way to increase your green leafy vegetable intake is by adding them to your smoothie. Ok, they will turn your drink green but the taste will still be amazing.
Spinach, chard, kale and lettuce work really well. It is important to vary your greens and avoid going for the same leafy greens in your smoothie. I love this “New Again” smoothie from SuperWellness.
6. Pulses: nutrient powerhouses
Although pulses only count as one of your 10 portions a day (even if you eat more), they have so many added benefits. Pulses include beans, lentils and peas. They are a cheap source of protein and they are rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals. Aim to eat those several times a week.
7. Have a salad most days
The key point with salads is to have the ingredients in your fridge. I always keep 3 to 4 vegetables that can be turned into a salad very quickly. These include red peppers, carrots, celery and green leaves. If you like following the season, getting a veg box is great. Aim to have either a salad for lunch with added protein to make sure they are filling or for dinner as a starter.
The secret to including more vegetables in your diet and reaching those 10-a-day portions is to keep things simple. Try to introduce some of these habits, one at a time and once they become familiar, you can focus on a new one.
I also love doing what I call a “big one a day”, usually a smoothie or a huge salad that includes at least 3 portions. With a couple of pieces of fruit as snacks, you have already reached your 5 a day. It can be done and you will feel amazing for it.
To see how other people have done this, enjoy this great article.