Are you getting enough vegetables in your diet? Unfortunately, most people are not. In fact, a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that only 9% of Americans eat at least 1.5 to 2 cups of vegetables daily, the recommended amount and some experts believe we need even more.
That’s an astonishingly low number, especially when you consider the many health benefits that vegetables offer. Why would so many choose not to eat them? Vegetables are nutrient-dense, meaning they’re an exceptionally rich source of vitamins and minerals. Yet, they’re low in calories, making them important for weight control. They also contain phytonutrients, plant-based chemicals that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Finally, they’re rich in fiber, a dietary component that most of don’t get enough of. Vegetables are the total health package!
Some folks are doing better than others at getting their veggies. A recent survey showed the number of people who eat their vegetables varies by locality. Based on the survey, people living in South Dakota are least likely to get their daily servings of vegetables, while residents of Alaska were the most likely. However, we all can do better when it comes to eating veggies. One trick for getting enough servings in each day is to start early – at breakfast rather than waiting until lunch or dinner to try to fit in a couple of servings. You might not think of vegetables as being a breakfast food but there are ways to slip them into breakfast fare that you might not have thought of. Let’s look at five of these.
Veggify Your Oatmeal
Veggies in oatmeal? It might sound a little strange, but, yes, vegetables in oatmeal can be tasty or at least not offensive. The next time you fix your morning porridge, add some pureed cauliflower to your steel-cut or old-fashioned oats along your favorite berries and nuts. Cauliflower has a neutral taste you won’t notice, especially if you add berries and nuts. It also thickens the porridge and treats you to an extra helping of cauliflower, a cruciferous vegetable that has anti-cancer benefits.
Cauliflower isn’t the only vegetable that jives with oatmeal. Why not open a can of pureed pumpkin and stir a few tablespoons into your hot cereal? Pumpkin is jam-packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that your body converts a portion of to vitamin A and also adds a pleasant taste to a bowl of oatmeal. Plus, beta-carotene also has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Beta-carotene is the same orange pigment that gives carrots their health benefits.
You can also finely grate zucchini squash or butternut or yellow squash into fine pieces and add it to your oats in the morning. Make a quick overnight oatmeal that contains grated zucchini in a mason jar. To do this, add a cup of raw oats to the jar along with a cup of finely, grated zucchini. Then, stir in a small mashed banana. For more fiber, toss in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed and 1 ¼ cup of your favorite milk. You don’t have to use dairy milk. Plant-based milk, like cashew, almond, or coconut, will work too. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon and nutmeg before refrigerating overnight. Wake up to oatmeal and a serving of veggies! How’s that for getting a jump on your vegetable quota for the day?
Slurp or Spoon Your Veggies
What will get you out the door quicker than a smoothie for breakfast? A breakfast smoothie is a quick and convenient way to get a serving or two of green, leafy vegetables. Green smoothies are all the rage and you can customize them to meet your tastes. Scour the recipes online and experiment with designing your own using your favorite greens and fruit.
A good formula for making green smoothies is to add two cups of your favorite leafy greens to a blender jar. Blend with water until smooth. Then, add your choice of fruits to add a hint of sweetness. Frozen fruit works well. A different twist on smoothies is smoothie bowls, a thick, green smoothie you eat with a spoon. Thicken a smoothie and make it spoonable by adding more mashed banana.
Breakfast Vegetables on Toast
It’s really a fruit, but we sometimes think of avocados as being a vegetable. What makes them special are the healthy fats they contain and the fact that they’re one of the best sources of potassium. Not to mention, they’re an abundant source of minerals, carotenoids, and antioxidants. Plus, studies show that eating a diet rich in avocados lowers the risk of metabolic syndrome. So, skip the butter on your morning toast, and spread it with mashed avocado mixed with a touch of lemon juice and olive oil instead. Avocado toast is all the rage right now and you can customize it by placing whatever healthy foods you want on top. Try layering on sliced strawberries or, for more protein, wild caught salmon. Experiment and come up with your own favorite variations.
Omelets are an ideal medium for adding vegetables of all types to the first meal of the day. Plus, an omelet offers lots of protein in a bioavailable form. Studies show that eggs contain the highest quality protein of any food. The key is to pile on the veggies in all shades – red peppers, green peppers, onions, broccoli florets, chopped tomatoes, and any other vegetables you might have left over. Add some hot sauce to start your morning off on a spicy note!
Don’t Eat a Conventional Breakfast
Who says you have to eat breakfast food for breakfast? If you have veggies left over from dinner, why not eat them with a source of protein like cottage cheese or tofu? Breakfast doesn’t have to be just eggs and cereal. If you have veggies left over from the day before, heat them up in the microwave and turn them into breakfast.
The Bottom Line
If you fall short on getting enough vegetables each day, start early – with breakfast. Veggies for breakfast? Yes! Here are five ways to easily add vegetables to the first meal of the day.
The Guardian. “Only one in 10 Americans eat enough fruits and vegetables, CDC study finds”
Science Daily. “Avocados may help combat the metabolic syndrome”
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