Simple Eating: Love them veggies

Aug 18th
Simple eating vegetables

Welcome back to the Simple Eating series. This time, we’re talking about veggies! This is an important food group, obviously, but many people grew up with an aversion to veggies and have never really grown to have an appreciation for them. And you know what? I was one of those people.

I don’t consider myself a very adventurous eater (at least not when I’m doing the cooking), but that doesn’t mean I can’t work hard to get in vegetables every day. Again, this series is meant to be the basics — eating and cooking 101 for those of us who just want to start making better choices now that we’re solely responsible for what goes in our bodies.

So how much veg are you supposed to have each day? Well, the USDA says 2 1/2 cups for adult women each day (go here if you want details for other folks), and they even go into detail about how much that should be for each vegetable sub-group. By the way… only about 27% of Americans are actually eating that much veg each day. Not cool.

Anyway, each WEEK, you should have:

  • 1 1/2 cups of dark green vegetables
  • 5 1/2 cups of red and orange vegetables (thank goodness I love carrots!)
  • 1 1/2 cups of beans and peas (black eyed or split)
  • 5 cups of starchy vegetables (corn, green peas, and white potatoes … we’ll talk more about this in a bit)
  • 4 cups of other vegetables (cabbage, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, green peppers, zucchini … that kind of stuff)

While I wouldn’t worry yourself about what your breakdown is, it’s an important reminder to eat lots of different colors. Don’t get caught eating the same two things over and over. It’s all about variety, people.

This MyPlate chart gives a really nice breakdown of what counts as a cup of a vegetable, as well as vegetables that fall into each subgroup, so I’d recommend giving that a browse. If you’re like me and love pictures, check out this post by the kitchn, which shows you what a days worth of fruits and veggies really looks like. Cool, huh?

So how do you go about getting 2 1/2 cups of vegetables into your daily diet? Salads! I’m totally kidding. I actually hate salads. I think there are three lines of thinking that will help you keep veggies top of mind:

Simple eating vegetable snacks

1. Snacks

One of the best things you can do for yourself is find a few veggies you like snacking on. I love carrot sticks, grape/cherry tomatoes and green pepper slices. I can eat all of these items plain, or I enjoy them with a little bit of hummus. My warning for you here is not to use any dipping sauces, like ranch. If you have to have something, hummus is the way to go (in moderation, of course). Pre-cut and pre-portion these items for yourself at the beginning of the week. This will help prevent you from getting lazy mid-week and skipping out on the healthy snacks.

Simple eating vegetable sides

2. Sides

Maybe this is a Midwestern thing, but I grew up eating a meat, a carb-y side, and a vegetable every night for dinner. That’s just how we rolled. If you’re planning your meals in this manner (which I think is really easy and smart), don’t forget about that very hefty veggie side. This should be the biggest portion of your plate. Sure, you could do a reduced sodium can of corn or beans, or you could do something a little more fun, like a stir fry or fancy sweet potato with salsa and chives on top. My word of warning here? Watch out for sodium in the canned items, and be careful with some of the newer frozen, steam-in-a-bag items. A lot of those now come with sauces as part of the ingredients, which can include a lot of fat, sodium and overall calories. Go plain instead and season yourself.

Tomato and avocado

3. Add-ins

This is my favorite veggie tactic, honestly. Next time you’re making a meal, think to yourself, “how could I incorporate veggies into this?” For example, you could make scrambled eggs for breakfast … or you could make an omelette with mushroom and green pepper. You could make a turkey and cheese sandwich … or you could make a turkey and cheese sandwich with tomato, spinach and avocado (yes, I know avocado is technically a fruit but go with it). You could make pasta and red sauce for dinner, or you could cook up some peppers, onions and zucchini to stir into the sauce. Right there, we’ve added lots of veggies right into breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Feeling a little bit better about working veggies into what you’re eating? I hope so. Now go enjoy!