By Kait Spong
Your mother always told you to “eat your vegetables,” and well, this is one of the many cases in life where she turned out to be absolutely correct. While you don’t have to ditch meat completely, eating your recommended servings of veggies is one of the healthiest nutritional habits that you can develop in your adult years. In fact, we’d even venture to say that vegetables are one of the most important food groups in the human diet. From the rich variety of vitamins they provide to their ability to boost vision and heart health, they’re nothing short of ingestible wellness remedies, ready to help our bodies achieve their greatest potential.
With all of this being said, it can be difficult to incorporate five to thirteen servings of vegetables – depending on your age, gender, and physical activity – into your daily meal plan. Make this feat easier on yourself, while giving Mom a reason to be proud, with these 5 sneaky tips that will make it simpler to fit in all of your vegetable servings each day.
Add leafy greens to your smoothies.
Smoothies are “in” again, and if you’re the type of person who always makes a breakfast smoothie before your in-person and/or virtual lectures, we suggest that you don’t skip the leafy greens. Adding leafy green veggies, like kale or spinach, to your drink can make your smoothie more flavorful, while also providing your body with beneficial antioxidants and vitamins. Prefer to order your blends from your favorite local spot near campus? Opt for a smoothie made with these types of vegetables, or simply ask for them to be mixed into your preferred drink. Before you know it, you’ll be sneaking in those extra veggie servings without a second thought!
Include a side salad with your meal.
While this tip is not particularly revolutionary, it is extremely helpful in adding extra vegetables to your diet. No one wants to eat salads all day – or every day, for that matter – but, they serve as an excellent way to meet your nutritional goals when you’re trying to load up on veggies. The best thing about a salad is that you can make it as simple or complex as your heart desires! Simply start by mixing in a number of vegetables, like carrots, onions, broccoli, or cucumbers, to a base lettuce mix, and go from there in building a side salad to your personal liking. You can even rotate which ingredients you incorporate and add toppings, like croutons, sunflower seeds, or hardboiled eggs, to keep your meals interesting.
Give veggie pasta and noodles a shot.
Think pasta can only be made from carb-heavy wheat products? Think again! Satisfy your craving for comfort food, while getting in those veggie servings on the sly with vegetable-based pasta and noodles. Visit your preferred grocer, and you’ll easily find dried or frozen pastas made from vegetables, including zucchini or squash. If you’re ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant, you might also be surprised to learn that many offer vegetable noodle alternatives on their menus. With many noodle dishes still served with a wide variety of sauces or toppings, your taste buds won’t notice that the pasta underneath is veggie-based. This will help you meet your daily vegetable servings without the pressure of the “all-or-nothing” mentality.
Opt for a lettuce wrap instead of a flatbread.
Everyone loves carbs. There’s absolutely no denying that! French fries, cereal, pasta, bread, even beer – we know how difficult this food group can be to resist, especially for college students. If you’re trying to include more vegetables in your diet, however, replacing good, ol’ carbohydrates with veggie alternatives might be a reasonable place to start. One of the easiest ways to do this is by transforming how you eat sandwiches and flatbreads by ditching your typical sliced bread, tortilla, or pita for a piece of bibb or romaine lettuce. Even popular chains, like Jimmy John’s, offer this option if you’re looking for a grab-and-go meal that still allows you to meet your veggie quota. This lettuce wrap option not only offers additional nutritional benefits, but it also brings a clean, crisp crunch with every bite. Delish!
Make veggie soups or purees.
Like many of the other options in our blog, soups present an excellent opportunity for additional vegetables to be incorporated into your regular diet. Luckily enough for you, most of your favorite soup recipes already come loaded with a considerable amount of veggies, whether it’s tomato basil, potato and leek, or simple chicken and noodle. In any one of these options, you’ll find carrots, celery, onions, and more. If you’re not much of a soup person, consider adding a vegetable puree to a sauce or chili that you’re already making for yourself. Even a small amount of puree can potentially add up to a full serving of veggies to your meal, and if it doesn’t, never fear – small steps add up to major changes in the long run!
A diet rich in vegetables doesn’t stop being important once you become a young adult attending the college of your choice. Veggies are just as vital to a twenty-something’s nutritional well-being as they are to any toddler’s, and you want to ensure that you’re fitting in all of your servings on the daily basis. However, if you don’t want to find yourself stuck in a monotonous rut of the same chicken breast, wheat rice, and bland broccoli dish, you’ll need to get a bit creative. Start with the 5 tips above, and you’ll equip yourself with the mentality you need to feed your body the right way.