“Johnny, eat your Brussel sprouts!” Many of us most likely grew up in a household where our mothers were constantly yelling at us to eat our vegetables or else we weren’t getting our dessert. Your mom yelled at you for good reason because according to Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s Fruits & Veggies More Matters initiative, only 6% of Americans eat their recommended veggies each day. In 2012, the top three vegetables consumed in the United States were potatoes, tomatoes and onions.
Vegetables are important to the human diet because they provide essential nutrients that our bodies need for daily living. Vegetables contain nutrients such as calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and numerous other vitamins and minerals. Not all vegetables are created equal so it is important to eat a variety of vegetables to ensure you get a sufficient amount of reach nutrient. For example, collard greens and spinach are a great source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and teeth.
The American Institute of Cancer Research has found that vegetables, especially leafy greens, can help prevent cancer. Leafy greens include vegetables such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and leaf lettuce. These vegetables are excellent sources of fiber, folate, and various carotenoids. Some research studies have indicated that carotenoids may help prevent cancer by acting as antioxidants.
The USDA Choose My Plate Initiative recommends for 3 cups for adult men and 2 cups for adult women of vegetables daily. Not everyone enjoys eating their vegetables so 2-3 cups a day can be quite hard. There are many ways outside of eating a salad a day to get in your vegetable servings.
Who doesn’t like smoothies? Smoothies are super easy to make, even in your cab of your truck! Smoothies are an excellent way to add in some of your vegetables, especially those cancer-preventing leafy greens, because you can mask the taste of the vegetables by adding fruit, yogurt, or milk. Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of fiber that is retained even when you hit the blend button. Fiber aids in digestion and can help you feel full longer. Smoothies make excellent breakfasts. Small blenders, such as the Nutribullet, can even be kept in your truck to make healthy snacks and meals while traveling.
Soups are another easy and versatile food that can be used as a vehicle to eat more vegetables. Stay clear from most canned soups as they contain high levels of sodium. Any broth-based soup, such as chicken noodle soup or minestrone soup, can accommodate a wide range of tasty vegetables. If a recipe calls for one cup of carrots, add in two!
Moms have used this method of sneaking in vegetables for their picky kids for years now. It’s perfectly acceptable for adults too! Finely grated or chopped zucchini or summer squash can be added to virtually any casserole dish without any hint of its presence. Other vegetables can also be added for additional taste and nutritional value. The Greatist has put together an excellent list of 40 easy casserole recipes containing a whole slew of vegetables in them.
Eggs are an excellent source of protein and nutrients. Instead of traditional scrambled eggs, try adding vegetables to your scramble or have an omelet. Eggs are very versatile and taste yummy with lots of different vegetables. Add in for onions (high in fiber and vitamin C), bell peppers (high in vitamin C and carotenoids), and spinach (high in vitamin K, folate, and manganese) for a delicious and healthy breakfast.
Sandwiches are great for traveling on the road. They are easy to carry ingredients for in a cooler and to make when you get hungry. Instead of a classic peanut butter and jelly or ham and cheese sandwich, try adding vegetables to your sandwiches! Pita bread or wraps are the best “breads” to grab to fill with lots of veggies. Start with a leafy green base, such as spinach or kale, and add your favorite vegetables. You can easily add in some meat and cheese or even try some hummus for an all-around healthy snack or lunch.
Eating vegetables every day should not be a chore. It’s easy to add them to any meal and sometimes you won’t even taste them! It’s best to choose a variety of vegetables because each vegetable has a unique nutrient content. Some are high in vitamin C while others are high in calcium. For more information on the nutrition information for vegetables and fruit, head over to the FDA’s Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish. Happy eating!
Image Source - https://www.flickr.com/photos/tasselflower/