Vegetables are key ingredients of a balanced diet. Study after study has confirmed that eating at least three servings of veggies every day helps you stay in shape and lower the risk of various illnesses and diseases.

 

Vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and fiber without many calories. Experts advise filling at least half of your dinner plate with veggies and fruits. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the just one in four adults in the United States consumes three or more daily servings.

 

Many fail to attain this goal because they find vegetables unappealing. These foods have a reputation for blandness, which is unfair because many types are extremely tasty and all of them can be improved with seasonings.

 

 

Most Nutritious Varieties

The vegetables that deliver the most benefits are the green, leafy kinds. Many authorities put kale at the top of this list. It not only offers a number of vitamins, as well as minerals like iron, but contains protein. Spinach also has protein, plus Omega-3 fatty acids. Swiss chard is known for its multiple flavonoids.

 

Garlic, considered one of nature’s “superfoods,” is effective in keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in check. It is an antioxidant that destroys the free radicals that cause disease.

 

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are loaded with B and C vitamins, plus iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They also happens to taste good. So do onions, mushrooms and avocados.

 

 

Veggies for Breakfast

You can get your day off to a terrific start by incorporating vegetables in your breakfast. One of the simplest methods is to stir onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, broccoli and other veggies into scrambled eggs. You can either eat this meal with toast or roll it up in a tortilla. Options are using similar ingredients in an omelet or baked casserole.

 

Don’t turn up your nose at oatmeal. It’s really not as boring as you may think, especially when you add blueberries, strawberries, raisins and cinnamon. Vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions also enhance oatmeal.

 

 

Lunch Ideas

Think soup for your mid-day meal. There may be no better way to pack a bunch of vegetables into a single entree. Just add water and spices. You can improve the flavor by using a tomato- or chicken-based soup or broth as a base. Broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, kale, spinach and onions are among the veggies you might want to try.

 

If you prefer a sandwich for lunch, skip the bread. Instead, use slices eggplant, sliced sweet potatoes or portabello mushroom caps. Between the slices, add more veggies along with chicken, turkey or tuna. Spread on some low-fat mayonnaise or pesto sauce.

 

Still craving a hamburger? How about a veggie burger featuring ingredients such as soy, eggs, nuts, and vegetables like mushrooms and sweet potatoes? With cheese and spices, you might not miss the meat as much as you feared.

 

An alternative is a tuna salad sandwich, with mayo and chopped vegetables and mayo mixed with the meat. The possibilities include carrots, onions, sweet peppers and cucumbers. Add a generous portion of spinach or another leafy veggie.

 

 

What’s For Dinner

While slicing vegetables for lunch, cut up some more for supper. Put them in a crock pot (with water or broth), maybe add some meat, and cook on low throughout the afternoon. This method blends the flavors and makes everything yummier. The best part is that you don’t have to prepare a meal after working all day. It’s waiting for you when you get home.

 

Just because you’re focusing on vegetables is no reason not to fire up the outdoor grill during the warm months of the year. Grilled veggies are delicious. Just slice them, add butter and seasonings, and wrap up the mixture in aluminum foil. Onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini and tomatoes are ideal. A grilled kebab is another option.

 

Pasta is a somewhat high-calorie food, but it is a great way to get more vegetables. There are some excellent recipes for lasagna with zucchini and other other veggies. You can even use strips of zucchini, sweet potatoes or carrots in place of traditional noodles.

Believe it or not, pizza can be a nutritious supper. Just adorn a really good frozen pizza with your favorite vegetables. To avoid the carbs found most pizzas, try a crust made with cauliflower or other veggies instead of flour.

 

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Tina Werner

Tina Werner

Health Coach

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