10 Easy Ways to Add More Vegetables to Your Diet, According to a Dietitian

There was once a time where I thought a great Sunday morning included bottomless mimosas, somewhat suffocated in hollandaise and me, in a combination of change-dress-and-sunglasses that made brunch fancy a fashion show with friends. But a few years back, I underwent a mindset shift and realized that the end of the weekend is the perfect opportunity to incorporate a few go-to, easy ways to eat more vegetables. Let me explain.

These days, my weekend daydream includes me in a figure-forgiving nur dress and a pair of pleasant huaraches weaving me around a farmer’s market, looking at the parsnips and browsing the butter salad. Then set off with a tote bag filled with root vegetables to spice up our fridge and enough leafy greens to make a week of salads.

Yes, the older I get, the more my appetite has grown to primarily include vegetables. And when I say vegetables, I mean real vegetables – not the sneaky snacks I convinced myself that in my early parenting days, were fast. (Chip gang veggie sticks and schnapps peas, I look at you.) Filling my kitchen bowls up with an abundance of colorful edible things keeps heart-healthy consumption at the top of mind. In addition, they are just neat.

Feature image of Michelle Nash.

Picture of Suruchi Avasthi

I now know that for my family, the keys to overall well-being are pretty basic: plenty of rest, an abundance of clean airand lots of protein mixed with occasionally treat. However, the most important thing on my list is tons of vegetables in our stomachs every day. But I have to ask: With all the delicious products to choose from, are all vegetables created equal?

To help guide the way from farm to food on the table, I contacted a registered dietitian Jenna Volpe, RDN, LD, CLT. Jenna gave me a scoop on her favorite vegetables to eat every single day, why we should all eat more of these powerfoods, and how to seamlessly incorporate them into our diets.

Picture of Blue-green Thomsen

How many vegetables should we eat each day?

The “gold standard” for adults is to eat about five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day. What most people are not aware of is that a serving of vegetables is not just a few green beans next to dinner or a tablespoon of mushrooms in an omelette. A full serving equals two cups of leafy greens, one cup of fresh vegetables (like carrots, cucumbers or celery), 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables (like green beans, peppers, onions or mushrooms) or 1/2 3 cups of tomato sauce or salsa.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommended amount of vegetables For most adults, consuming every day translates to about two to four cups of vegetables a day (raw or cooked is not indicated).

Picture of Kristen Kilpatrick

What are your favorite vegetables to eat on a daily basis?

I love baby greens, which are nutritional powerhouses. They are packed with antioxidants, carotenoids, chlorophyll, vitamin K, calcium, iron and magnesium, and they are also very versatile and easy to prepare! I usually alternate between baby spinach, baby kale, arugula and mixed “super vegetables”.

I typically add sautéed baby greens to my meals at least once a day, usually in egg, pasta and stir. I also often throw baby greens in smoothies and sandwiches.

It’s too easy not to do these things, and in my opinion, incorporating baby greens into your daily routine is a habit that will go a long way in increasing the levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and energy in ways that supplements can “t.

Picture of Michelle Nash

As we get older, our nutritional needs change. What does it look like for vegetables?

The amount of recommended vegetable intake increases as the calorie requirement increases. Since babies and children do not need as much food as adults and they grow exponentially, it makes sense that more of their calories should come from macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) compared to vegetables. That said, babies and children do not need as many vegetables compared to adolescents and adults. Men also need more vegetables than women because on average they need more calories.

Below is USDA-recommended daily amounts of vegetables depending on age.

Why is it just exactly important to eat the recommended amount of vegetables?

Vegetables are packed with prebiotics (a natural food source for healthy “probiotic” bacteria in the gut), vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, vitality (vital energy) and more.

Eating vegetables is a simple but powerful way to reduce several disease risks exponentially, while also helping to regulate and balance blood sugar and hunger / satiety levels.

It’s not a complicated or complex concept, but I still find that most people do not reach the daily recommended amount of vegetable intake or even get close to it most days because our food system and diet industry are so far away from these simple, supportive solutions .

Picture of Michelle Nash

What is the most nutritious way to eat more vegetables?

The answer to this question will depend on what works best for people individually, but here is what works for me.

Boil vegetables to boost the flavor

I’m not a fan of eating raw vegetables, so cooking vegetables (eg roasting or sautéing) is a great way to reduce the amount of vegetables while enhancing the taste and flavor with good quality oil and spices. . I find that combining cooked vegetables with other meals (like pasta or stir) is relatively effortless (and tastes delicious!). I aim to make at least half of my plate of vegetables for lunch and dinner, and it’s easy when I cook with vegetables I love!

Find sneaky ways to get your vegetables

Using spiralized zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash instead of pasta is a really easy way to meet a daily vegetable need in just one meal. (Two cups of zucchini noodles provide four servings of vegetables!) Plus, by using red sauce adds an extra serving of vegetables. Then there is only left to add some proteinwhich could be ground turkey, grass-fed beef, Beyond Meat or any chicken or shrimp.

Drink your greens

During the spring and summer months, you throw a lot of vegetables in one green juice can be a refreshing way to extract vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and living enzymes from vegetables (as long as people do not add too much fruit to their juice mixture, which will increase the sugar content significantly). One thing to keep in mind with juice is that most of the fibers are removed. As a result, I do not recommend relying solely on juice to get all servings of vegetables on a daily basis.

Enjoy a smoothie

Throwing frozen vegetables in smoothies is a great way to maximize the nutritional offerings of your morning drink / meal hybrid. You can also displace the taste with something delicious like cocoa powder and a natural sweetener.

Picture of Suruchi Avasthi

Are all vegetables the same, or are some better than others?

All vegetables have something to offer, but I do not think they are created from a nutritional perspective. Either way, I generally do not put too much focus or emphasis on ranking vegetables, as the most important thing from a big picture is that people eat more vegetables.

It is important to get a variety of colors of vegetables as the colors are indicative of the types of vitamins and antioxidants contained in the vegetables.

For example, leafy greens are packed with the antioxidant chlorophyll, while sweet potatoes, butternut squash and carrots are rich in beta-carotene (the orange carotenoid pigment, which is a precursor to vitamin A). It is better to have vegetables in several different colors a day and a week than to focus only on e.g. orange vegetables.

The Biggest Bang-For-Your-Buck Vegetables

From a nutritional point of view, some of the most nutrient-dense and / or antioxidant-rich vegetables are leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula), broccoli, beets, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, butternut squash and tomatoes.

Nutritionally, the lowest ranking vegetables would definitely be corn and potatoes. I do not really count these as vegetables in my clinical practice as they are primarily starch. Iceberg lettuce is also less nutritionally dense compared to its other leafy green counterparts.

While certain vegetables like onion and mushrooms does not rank at the top in terms of their vitamin and mineral content, I still include them in my routine because of their particular antioxidant potential. Antioxidants help fight oxidation (cell damage), which is one of the leading causes of aging and many types of diseases.

Picture of Michelle Nash

10 Easy Ways To Add More Vegetables To Your Daily Diet

  1. Replace pasta with spiral zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash in a pasta.
  2. Add 1/3 cup salsa or pico de gallo to a snack with whole grain tortilla chips and a little guacamole.
  3. Incorporate vegetables into a brownie recipe (this is a favorite– You would never know!).
  4. Throw fresh or frozen leafy vegetables in smoothies. I typically use organic greens. For fresh vegetables, I like Olivia’s brand, and for frozen ones, I usually get Cascadian Farm or the store brand if they have an organic option! (This Chocolate Green Smoothie is a go-to.)
  5. Add cooked vegetables to omelettes and scrambled eggs – and frittataof course.
  6. Add cooked vegetables like peppers and onions to fajitas and tacos.
  7. Add vegetables such as peppers, onions, mushrooms and / or leafy greens to pasta dishes. A lemon-tahini dressing makes any veggie taste better – as is the case in this one Vegetable pasta salad.
  8. Try swapping plain rice for boiled “rice cauliflower” in a batter or other recipe that requires rice.
  9. Add a little cauliflower to your mashed potatoes. They will still be airy, indulgent and absolutely delicious. Here is a good recipe to get started.
  10. Add vegetables to soups (this gazpacho or this vegan minestrone are tasty summer options. And if you really go for it, try doubling or tripling the amount of vegetables that a recipe calls for.

Related Posts