A staggering 87 percent of Americans are avoiding one food that’s known to control appetite, stabilize blood sugars, prevent obesity, keep bowels regular, reduce blood pressure, lower the risk of heart disease, inhibit cataract formation and protect against some forms of cancer. Could it be acai berries? Green coffee bean extract? Kefir?
The answer is simple: Vegetables. That’s right, 87 percent of Americans are missing out on the recommended intake of 2½ cups of veggies each day. The same veggies have been sitting under our noses for eternity but are frequently overlooked. Meanwhile, the limelight is put on superfoods or fad diets that generally lack scientific data to back up their health claims.
Healthy eating is individualistic, and it’s rare to find one nutrition recommendation that will apply to the entire population. But for 87 percent of you, the solution can be straightforward: eat more vegetables. Whether it’s due to dislike, poor availability or lack of time, here are five tips to incorporate veggies into your daily routine and start reaping major health benefits.
- Change your mindset: The first step to becoming a vegetable eater is simple: stop saying that you hate vegetables. Drop the “hater” label and instead accept that you haven’t found a vegetable that you like yet. You may be thinking, “I’ve already tried all vegetables and yes, I definitely hate them.” The key is to try different ways of preparing vegetables. Do you hate broccoli? Perhaps the aversion came from being forced to eat over-boiled, mushy broccoli in your childhood. Give broccoli a second chance, and prepare it differently such as roasting it with some oil, garlic and herbs. Whatever your hated vegetable is, challenge yourself to try it in a new way and you may end up surprising yourself.
- Have a “Veggie Hour”: Even if you’re a vegetable lover, the thought of eating vegetables can be daunting due to the necessary prep work. Oftentimes, it’s easier to grab a pre-packaged snack such as a bag of chips instead of washing, drying, peeling and cutting an assortment of vegetables. Make the healthy choice the easy choice by taking an hour out of your week to cut up vegetables ahead of time. Keep cut-up vegetables such as bell peppers, cucumbers and carrots in a clear container that you’ll see when you open the fridge seeking a snack. Find more prep ideas at Cook Smarts (http://www.cooksmarts.com/cooking-lessons/cooking-produce/produce-prep-guide/) to make your life easier all week long.
- Embrace food porn: Believe it or not, vegetables can be drool-worthy. Check out Healthy Aperture (http://healthyaperture.com), which is basically Instagram for healthy food ideas. The site is curated by registered dietitians and is the perfect spot to explore new ways to prepare vegetables.
- Ignore “superfoods”: A single food isn’t going provide all the nutrients you need to be healthy. In other words, you don’t have to eat kale if you don’t want to. Every vegetable has its claim to fame, whether it’s kale for vitamin K or carrots for vitamin A. Instead of focusing on a certain food, focus on getting a variety. Adding any vegetable where it didn’t exist before is a step in the right direction.
- Choose quality: Focus on in-season vegetables to get the most affordable, flavorful and nutritious products. Discover what’s in season at Sustainable Table (http://www.sustainabletable.org/seasonalfoodguide/) and check out a local farmers market to buy them. Can’t make it to a market? Sign up for a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription to try freshly picked produce that is boxed by local farmers and available for pickup or delivery.
Check out more tips on how to get your veggies on USDA’s Choose My Plate website (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/vegetables-tips#sthash.ZqDUDnmj.dpuf).