Long work hours, family responsibilities, and daily chores can occasionally cause us to feel overly busy, stressed, and worn out. With all that life throws at us, healthy eating can easily slip low on the list of priorities. In our rush for quick and convenient meals, we too often rely heavily on carbohydrate-rich foods and neglect our vegetables. Who can blame us? The carbohydrates we take in from foods such as frozen pizza, pasta, and take- out meals are quick, tasty and readily available. They also cause a chemical response in the body that makes us feel more calm and relaxed. Unfortunately, this positive mood is short lived and ultimately leaves us feeling sluggish and irritable all over again, perpetuation a nasty cycle.
In contrast, the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals you get from fresh vegetables truly revitalizes your body, your health, and your mood. Whether your struggles with vegetables lies in their planning, preparation, or taste, here are some east ways to sneak some veggies into your busy schedule:
- Invest a few dollars in a simple vegetable steamer that can be used in any size pan. Use it to steam carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and other vegetables.
- Always keep a supply of bagged baby spinach on hand. Add handfuls of this to soups, pizzas, pastas, and burritos.
- Try roasting you veggies with a little olive oil. This cooking method caramelizes the natural sugars found in belle peppers, carrots, and onions. Make extras, and you’ll have pre-cooked vegetables for the week that can easily be slipped into lunches or added to dinners.
- Cut out the middle man. Order your produce through an online delivery service such as AmazonFresh.com or spud.com. You can place your order on your own time and omit the trip to the grocery store.
- Stock up on easy, grab-and-go veggies such as bagged baby carrots, snow peas, or broccoli florets. Add some low-fat ranch dip or hummus for additional flavor.
- Pick up a party platter of veggies next time you’re at the store and you’ll have a wide variety of pre-cut, pre-washed vegetables that will last for the whole week. If you’ve got time, portion them into individual baggies once you get home or just pull from the platter if things get hectic.
- Don’t like the taste of vegetables? Try hiding them. Grate zucchini and add it to meatloaf, whip us a protein smoothie with blueberries and a handful of greens such as a spinach or kale, or add carrots to your favorite muffin or bread recipe.
- Order the red sauce. Cooked tomatoes deliver a more bioavailable form of phytochemical lycopene than fresh tomatoes. So opt for the red sauce over your pasta rather than the white. Bake chicken breasts with a topping of marinara sauce and melted cheese or try out a slow cooker ragu sauce.
- Got out of the grocery store. Make vegetable shopping less of a chore by shopping at a farmer’s market. This can be a great way to combine family or social time with a chore time. Here in the Northwest, we’re fortunate to have an abundance of thriving markets where you can spend a day tasting, exploring, and talking to the people growing your food. Find the farmer’s market closest to you through the Washington State Farmer’s Market Association at wafarmersmarkets.com.
Making vegetables a priority will not only help you to feel better, but your waistline may thank you as well. Studies show that by increasing your vegetable intake, along with reducing your fat intake, you make lose a third more weight than by reducing fat alone. Vegetables are high in fiber and water ad help fill you up on fewer calories. So don’t give up on veggies. Give in instead. And welcome back good health, a fitter physique, and increased vitality.
Originally from PRO Pulse July-August 2009
By Kathryn Ponio, RD, CD