After recently cutting out dairy and grains from my life (difficult, but I’m feeling much better), I’ve been forced to eat a lot more fruits and vegetables than I’m used to, which of course is a good thing. Over the past two weeks I’ve been trying out new recipes, especially quick and easy dishes, because as much as I like to cook, I’d rather be doing other things than washing dishes all evening.
As always, if I find techniques or ideas that work for me, I share it on my blog. So here are a few suggestions for boosting your “9-a-day” for optimal health.
This is probably my favorite, because smoothies taste like dessert, take seconds to make, and I can eat vegetables without even knowing it.
What’s good in a smoothie?
Veggies: Kale, swiss chard, spinach, butternut squash, pumpkin, carrots (some people even add peppers, but I don’t think I’d like that). Try canned pumpkin or squash (not a pie mix). With vegetables, you don’t need a lot, or else the smoothie won’t taste sweet enough.
Fruits: Berries, bananas, pomegranates, mango, pineapple, watermelon, cherries, plums, kiwi, oranges. I like to use frozen fruits. Frozen fruits have nearly the same nutrient content as fresh (since they are frozen at their peak), you don’t have to worry about spoilage, and they add the icy, thick texture you want in a smoothie, without having to add ice which will just dilute your nutrient intake.
I also like to add ground flaxseed. High in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. You can try adding mint leaves to a berry smoothie for a little extra kick, too.
2. Replace Starches At Mealtimes With Fruits and Vegetables
Many people still plan meals around the idea of meat, potato (rice, pasta), and small vegetable (often frozen and gross) on the side. Instead, try a few of the following in place of your typical starches. The first five on the list require no recipe and you can prep them in minutes.
* Baked sweet potatoes or yams with cinnamon and a sprinkle of brown sugar
* Diced butternut squash with cranberries (baked)
* Diced sweet potatoes with red onions and a dash of cumin
* Baked cauliflower with olive oil and garlic
* Grill/bake yellow squash, eggplant, zucchini, vidalia onion (first), then bake on top of a thin layer of ricotta cheese and sprinkle parmesan on top
* Cabbage salad made with red and white cabbage, dried cranberries, walnuts, and a red wine vinaigrette dressing (make ahead of time for optimal flavor). Or try this recipe I love from Whole Foods Market made with apples and walnuts.
* Grilled portabello mushrooms with onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Or try these portabello steaks.
* Brussels sprouts with bacon or pancetta (good recipe by Bobby Flay)
3. Homemade Vegetable Chips
* Kale leaves with olive oil and sea salt (or seasoned salt). Put in the oven at 275 degrees for 15 minutes. Very tasty.
* Sliced beets sautéed in olive oil, then sprinkle with salt
* Thin slice a variety of sweet potatoes, carrots, purple carrots, parsnips, etc… bake with olive oil and experiment with different seasoning mixes.
Try using pureed vegetables for dips such as cauliflower, beans, eggplant, artichokes, tomatoes, and avocados. They make great bases for dip in lieu of the usual sour cream which is high in saturated fat, but low in nutritional value.
Here you’ll find a few good vegetable dip recipes.
5. Load Up Your Salads
Salads can be very filling if you add a lot to them. We tend to think salads have to be limited to fit a title (think of how a Mediterranean salad has lettuce and cucumbers, a caesar salad has only romaine), but you can add a lot of different fruits and vegetables into one salad without following any rules. I like to add fruits to all of my salads.
* Diced apples (goes well with cheddar)
* Diced pears (with goat cheese)
* Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries (with goat cheese, or I prefer berries without any cheese)
* Black and red grapes (halved), (with feta)
* Pomegranate seeds (with a citrus vinaigrette)
* Diced oranges (fresh, not mandarin)
Some other suggestions…
* Cook and puree vegetables then add to sauces and soups.
* Various sliced vegetables with olive oil on top of naan bread
* Always eat fresh fruit before your meals to fill up on the good stuff, first.
* Prep vegetable sticks ahead of time so they are ready when you’re hungry. They last a day or two in the fridge.