5 Simple Ways to Eat Your Veggies for World Vegetarian Day
I’d love for you to take a moment to close your eyes and envision your future. See yourself in your 60’s, 70’s 80’s or even 90’s. What do you see?
Do you see the wiser, older vision of yourself as vibrant and healthy? Are you kickin’ around with some pep in your step? This is certainly my vision. I want to be living a fun and fit life. I want to be swinging my grandkids around, active enough to volunteer and enjoying the “winter season” of my life.
In order to live this lovely life I do have one rule for myself: “Eat your veggies!” Not only do vegetables help keep me full, which means I eat less of the more indulgent stuff, vegetables also have these side effects – they truly are a “magic pill” for a healthier life!
- According to the American Heart Association, “Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber – and they’re low in calories. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables may help you control your weight and blood pressure.” The American Heart Association recommends at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. I personally shoot for 9!
- According to the USDA: “Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke.” Remember, heart disease is the NUMBER 1 killer of women AND men.
- Also according to the USDA: “Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against certain types of cancers.”
- According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, each increment of 3 daily servings of fruit and vegetables equate to a 22% decrease in risk of stroke.
You just feel better when you eat fruits and vegetables. This unscientific opinion source? Me. Do you need to increase your consumption of vegetables? Studies show most of us do. Here are 5 easy ways to eat your veggies.
- Start with a sofrito . A sofrito is basically a very fine blend of vegetables, just shy of a puree. I start many of my recipes with a sofrito as do many Latin chefs. Chili’s, sauces, soups, stews, they all start with sofrito! I love the depth flavor and balance the sofrito lends to a recipe, the health benefits and nutrition boost are an added bonus! A base for many of my recipes starts with a carrot, bell pepper, onion, garlic and fresh herbs. I often toss in kale, spinach, zucchini or whatever other bits of leftover vegetables I have in the refrigerator that don’t have any other plan for them.
- Scoop with vegetables . Instead of reaching for chips or crackers, my scooper of all things delicious including guacamole, hummus, red pepper dips, etc. are vegetables. Jicama makes a nice “chip” and I have a great recipe for pineapple stir-fried shrimp “nachos” using jicama “chips”. I love sweet, crunchy bell pepper strips as a perfect vessel for scooping everything, especially hummus or this Yumm-y Sauce.
- Eat a salad a day. I’m not talking a wimpy simple lettuce salad. I’m talking a hearty, satisfying, gigantic bowl of goodness that makes you feel like you could run a marathon after consuming. I aim for one salad a day, either for lunch or dinner. My salads are loaded with not only fresh, crunchy lettuce (see my tip on how to keep lettuce salad-ready and fresh) they also include at least another serving or two of a different vegetable or fruit, hunger-satisfying protein and healthy fats from either nuts or high quality cheese. Gain inspiration for your new goal of a salad a day here with my 4 recipes to make you swoon over salad.
- Plan your meals around the vegetable, not the protein. Whether you’re vegetarian or not, it is usually easy to decide how to prepare your protein/main entrée of choice. I instead plan my entrée around the vegetables. I let my CSA delivery box or trip to the farmers market determine what we’ll be having for dinner. Cauliflower? Dinner may be an Indian curry, or I may plan on making stir fried cauliflower “rice” with it so I know I’ll be making a stir-fry of some sort to go with it. Found a gorgeous bunch of beets I couldn’t resist? That night I’ll be making a roasted beet salad with feta cheese, or grating them up to make root vegetable hashbrown stacks. Did your garden go gang-busters this week with zucchini? A fresh whole grain zucchini bread will be on the breakfast and snack menu for the next couple of days. Let your inspiration come from your vegetable, not your protein.
- Use the MyPlate.Gov recommendation – fill one quarter of your plate with vegetables, one quarter with fruit. This is a nice, simple way to help kids also learn how to build a healthy plate.
I hope these tips will help you eat more vegetables! Let’s plan on meeting in 30-40 years to high-five our vibrant, healthy, older versions of ourselves. Be a great example yourself and help create a healthy family legacy of your own!
Chef Kirsten Helle is personal chef and nutrition consultant to several of the Seattle Seahawks, athletes and A-list celebrities. She is the CEO of Mesa de Vida…Table of Life and Menus by Mesa de Vida which helps members become healthy kitchen rock stars. Mesa de Vida was voted the top 2 food blog in Seattle this past year on the Evening Magazine Best of polls and you can vote for her this year too! Kirsten shares hundreds of recipes, and more about her 100 lb weight loss and resources to help you create a healthy family legacy as well!