Tips to increase your vegetable intake throughout your day
Ways to increase your veggies.
As the weather changes, it is important to fuel our bodies with vegetables for necessary vitamins and minerals. Vegetables are available fresh, frozen, canned, or dried; vegetables can be served raw or cooked. The key is to consume a variety of colorful vegetables on a regular basis in order to get a variety of nutrients. Vegetables provide calories, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and dietary fiber for a balanced diet. In addition, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suggests consuming vegetables is a way to help with weight management.
Based on a 2,000 calorie diet, individuals should consume 2 ½ cups of vegetables per day. However, some people may require more or less depending on their age, gender, and physical activity levels. It’s always important to consult with your health provider or nutritionist if you have questions regarding your nutritional needs.
You may be asking yourself, what counts as a cup? A cup may be:
- 1 cup of 100 percent vegetable juice
- 1 cup of cooked beans or peas
- 1 cup of raw or cooked vegetables
- 2 cups of raw leafy greens
Some of the nutrients in vegetables are vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Vitamin A promotes healthy tissues (skins, eyes, bones, muscles, etc) and can help against infections. Vitamin C helps boost our immune system, can help keep our teeth and gums healthy, and promote proper wound healing. Dietary fiber helps reduce calorie and blood cholesterol absorption from our intestines and may lower the risk of heart disease.
Michigan State University Extension, encourages all Americans to follow these easy steps to help add more vegetables into your diet (Adapted from USDA’s ten tips to help you eat more vegetables):
- Discover fast ways to cook vegetables- cook fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave or consider steaming your vegetables.
- Be ahead of the game- cut up bell peppers, carrots or broccoli for quick and simple meals like a salad.
- Choose vegetables rich in color- select red, orange or dark leafy green vegetables. Sample sweet potatoes, bell peppers, acorn squash, or spinach to name a few.
- Check the freezer aisle- frozen vegetables contain the same nutritional values as fresh vegetables. And are easy to cook!
- Stock up on veggies- keep on hand canned vegetables like tomatoes, beans, mushrooms, and green beans. They can be a great addition to a meal.
- Make your garden salad glow with color- add color to your salad by using colorful vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, beet, black beans, or red cabbage.
- Sip on some vegetable soup- Simple as heating it and eating it. Try vegetable soup, tomato, or butternut squash. Remember to look for reduced or low sodium soups.
- While you’re out- If eating out, request a side of vegetable or salad instead of a fried side dish.
- Savor the flavor of seasonal vegetables- Buy vegetables that are in season for flavor and cheap prices. Visit your local grocery store or farmer’s market.
- Try something new- Select a new vegetable and add it to your recipe!
Following these simple steps can help you increase your vegetable consumption for a healthier lifestyle. Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children. To learn more about our services, please visit Michigan State University Extension.