Serve Raw Vegetables at Every Meal
Nearly everyone likes carrot sticks, celery sticks, cucumber slices, string beans, cherry tomatoes, and green pepper strips. They’re healthy, they have virtually no calories, they have a satisfying crunch, and they can substantially cut your consumption of the more calorie-dense main course. So make it a practice: A plate of raw vegetables in the center of the table, no matter what the meal is.
Take Advantage of Prepared Veggies
We usually don’t espouse prepared foods. They’re usually more expensive and high in artificial flavorings, sugars, and sodium. But when it comes to prepared veggies—bagged salads, pre-washed spinach, peeled and diced butternut squash, washed and chopped kale—we’re all for it.
Sneak Vegetables into Breakfast and Lunch
One reason we don’t get enough vegetables is that many of us consider them merely a side dish to dinner. If you really want to increase your vegetable consumption, you have no choice but to eat them at other meals.
Fill Your Spaghetti Sauce with Vegetables
We typically take a jar of low-sodium prepared sauce and add in string beans, peas, corn, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and more. Like it chunky? Cut them in big pieces. Don’t want to know they’re there? Shred or puree them with a bit of sauce in the blender, then add.
Order Your Pizza with Extra Veggies
Instead of the same old pepperoni and onions, do your health and digestion a favor and ask for artichoke hearts, broccoli, hot peppers, and other exotic vegetables many pizza joints stock these days for their gourmet pies.
Build a Sandwich with More Lettuce and Tomato than Meat
Stack the meat filler in the sandwich to no higher than the thickness of a standard slice of bread. Then pile on low-calorie slices of lettuce and tomatoes to the combined height of both slices of bread. Presto: Your sandwich tower has the height of the Empire State Building, yet the svelteness of the Eiffel Tower.
Upgrade Your Soup
Add chopped kale or other hearty greens to your next soup or stew. Just a couple of minutes is all that’s needed to steam the greens down to tenderness and add quantities of potassium, fiber, and calcium to your soup, says Lisa C. Andrews, R.D., a clinical dietitian for the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati.
Go Vegetarian One Day a Week
You can do this by substituting the meat serving with a vegetable serving (suggestion: make it a crunchy, strong-flavored vegetable like broccoli). Or you can dabble in the world of vegetarian cooking, in which recipes are developed specifically to make a filling, robust meal out of vegetables and whole grains. For those times, you should get yourself a good vegetarian cookbook.
Use Salsa Liberally
First, make sure you have a large batch filled with vegetables. One good approach: Add chopped yellow squash and zucchini to store-bought salsa. Then put salsa on everything: baked potatoes, rice, chicken breasts, sandwiches, eggs, steak, even bread. Salsa shouldn’t be just for chips. It’s too tasty and healthy not to be used all the time.
Roast Your Vegetables
Here is one of the great side dishes, easy to make, delicious to eat, and amazingly healthy. Plus, it tastes surprisingly sweet, and lasts well as a leftover, meaning you can make large batches and serve throughout the week. Cut hearty root vegetables like parsnips, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, and onions into inch-thick chunks and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and fresh or dried herbs. Roast in a 450°F oven until soft, about 45 minutes, turning once. That’s it!
Use Vegetables as Sauces
How about pureed roasted red peppers seasoned with herbs and a bit of lemon juice, then drizzled over fish? Or puree butternut or acorn squash with carrots, grated ginger, and bit of brown sugar for a yummy topping for chicken or turkey. Cooked vegetables are easily converted into sauces. It just takes a little ingenuity and a blender.
Use Canned Pumpkin for Dessert
Just sprinkle it with cinnamon, and mix in two packets of Splenda. Even if you eat the whole can, this dessert is only 140 calories and packs a healthy 9 grams of fiber. For 1⁄2 cup you get 40 calories and 3.5 grams of fiber, not to mention tons of beta-carotene.