Hey healthy humans! Today’s post is all about a topic I’m very passionate about – vegetables! We all know that we need to be eating more of them, and a whole-foods plant-based diet (aka a healthy vegan diet) puts a strong emphasis on getting those veggies in. This article from the Harvard School of Public Health does a great job of summarizing a number of studies and meta-analyses that demonstrate specific health benefits of eating vegetables. In short: a diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been shown to lower blood pressure, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, promote blood sugar stability, and promote weight loss. Each vegetable has a slightly different nutritional profile, so varying the types of vegetables you eat will allow you to maximize the amazing benefits that veggies have to offer! Varying your vegetables will also nourish the good bacteria in your gut – I recommend this episode of the Plant Proof podcast and this episode of the Party in Your Plants podcast for a deep dive into the connection between vegetables and gut health!
So now that we know how important it is to maximize our vegetable intake, let’s talk about how to do it! If you’re already vegan, I hope that you can use these tips to optimize your diet even more, and if you’re not yet vegan, I hope you’ll be able to work in vegetables to crowd out the animal products! With these tips, it’s easy to sneak in vegetables with everything you eat. Let’s dive in!
- – Blend cauliflower rice and greens into your smoothies. Trader Joe’s sells pre-cut cauliflower and broccoli rice that are perfect to add to smoothies – you don’t taste them at all! Spinach and kale are awesome greens for blending (you also can’t really taste them), but any type of leafy green is great!
- – When you cook your grains, add vegetables in. Batch-cooking your grains before the week is a handy meal-prep strategy – cook a batch of rice, quinoa, or another whole grain so that you’ll have some grains to pair with your different meals! If you throw some veggies into the weekly rice-cooking party, you’ll sneakily eat more veggies every week. For example, I always cook a batch of quinoa in my Instant Pot on Friday afternoons, and I put in a bag of frozen vegetables or some cut up broccoli or cauliflower, as well as some leafy greens like kale, arugula, bok choy or spinach. I also like to add some turmeric and black pepper for turmeric anti-inflammatory benefits! I cook one cup quinoa to two cups water on manual in the Instant Pot for 1 minute (yes, only one!!!). If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can also do this on the stove by heating quinoa and water at a 1:2 ratio for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I can use this quinoa for recipes all week, such as my anti-inflammatory Buddha Bowl.
- – Roast vegetables to add to meals. Another awesome meal-prep strategy. Chop up a bunch of veggies (this is a great way to vary your vegetables!), coat in whatever spices you’d like, and roast at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-50 minutes. I haven’t yet been disappointed by a roasted vegetable, so assume that you can roast pretty much any veggie you want, but some of my favorites are: zucchini, eggplant, sweet potato, summer squash, butternut squash, kabocha squash, jicama, white potato, cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper, celery, carrot, and cucumber. As for spices, again it’s totally up to you. I love cinnamon and turmeric (always add a little bit of black pepper to turmeric because it activates the anti-inflammatory ingredient); cumin and Italian herbs; nutritional yeast, cumin, and garlic powder; and garam masala or even curry powder if you like things spicy. The cook time totally depends on which vegetables you choose. Starchy and root vegetables like sweet potato, squash, beets, carrots, and potatoes, will take closer to the 45-50 minute mark to cook while cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, brussel sprouts, broccoli, and kale will roast closer to the 15-20 minute mark. You’ll need to be pretty watchful the first few times you roast a new vegetable (or just google the roasting time) to make sure you don’t overcook it! You can store these veggies in a tupperware in the fridge and add them to all of your meals for some added nutrients!
- – Stir vegetables into every sauce you make. If you’re making pasta, how about some broccoli, spinach, and brussel sprouts in the tomato sauce? If you want to make tofu curry, add in all the veggies you can. If you want to make peanut or almond noodles (or even peanut kelp noodles!) add in some cabbage, carrots, and green onion. It’s easy to add veggies to whatever you’re already making.
- – Make veggie-centric mains. Let your veggies be the stars of the shoe. Here are a few veggie-centric entree recipes:
- – A salad a day… leafy greens are considered some of the healthiest foods you can eat. Leafy greens are excellent sources of: fiber, folate, carotenoids, vitamin C, vitamin K, iron, and calcium. Making an effort to incorporate just one salad a day is an easy way to up your intake of leafy greens. Ellen Fisher has the best salad recipes both on her Youtube channel and in her ebooks.
- – Add leafy greens into every meal. Maybe (like me) you’re not super into salads. You can still eat raw leafy greens without having salads! I always try to add greens into whatever I’m eating. Say I made myself some quinoa chili for dinner. I would serve it with some raw greens like arugula, kale, romaine, bok choy, etc. Or I could have a few of my sweet potato black bean burgers served over a bed of spinach. Making spring rolls would be great too because I get that kale from TJ’s cruciferous veggie mix. Make sure you’re adding your greens in!! It may take a little bit to get used to the taste if you’re not used to it, but soon you’ll feel like your meals are a little incomplete without your greens!
- – Bake your veggies into desserts. Zucchini bread, carrot cake, sweet potato muffins, pumpkin bread, the list goes on. There are ways you can sneak vegetables into lots of desserts! Check out my hidden veggie dessert recipes board on Pinterest.
- – Cinnamon roasted veggies. Yes, I already talked about roasting veggies, but this one deserves its own mention. Cinnamon roasted veggies are the star of my sweet potato breakfast bowl and are a great way to eat vegetables while satisfying your sweet tooth! I love roasting cauliflower, eggplant, zucchini, sweet potato, summer squash, and jicama with cinnamon. You can add these to lots of meals as well – I’ve even added cinnamon roasted cauliflower to pancakes and it was really good, believe it or not.
- – Put veggies into your morning oatmeal. Try some carrot cake oatmeal, or try adding zucchini, sweet potato, pumpkin, or beets. You can also make baked oatmeal with vegetables in it; the Maple Roasted Vegetable Crumble from Maddie Lymburner’s new ebook Always Oats is amazing.
- – Sign up for a produce delivery service like Hungry Harvest. When a variety of vegetables is delivered to your door each week, you’ll have no excuse not to eat them! Buying rescued produce from Hungry Harvest also allows you to fight food waste while saving money on groceries. Click through this link or use the code mailleodonnell for $5 off your first order!
I hope you all found these tips useful! What ways have you found to work more vegetables into your diet?
PS check out Why Vegan and Can’t Be Vegan Because Your Favorite Food Isn’t?