In last week’s blog, we explored the benefits of protein and tips to help you get more protein into your day by prepping it at home. It only makes sense that we deliver to you a side of “prep tips to get more veggies into your day”.
The benefits of getting your daily dose of fruit and veggies goes far beyond only for weight loss. That chronic pain (inflammation), low energy, foggy brain, poor food choices, irregular poop (yes, we just referenced your poop!), are all signs that you may not be getting enough veggies. Veggies are packed with nutrients that help to give you a cleaner bill of health and manage your body’s inflammation so you feel great.
So you know the importance, but why are people low on their daily dose? Fruit and veggies do not have to be organic or fresh. You will reap loads of benefits from both inorganic, frozen or canned produce. Heck, the produce on the discount rack still has benefits, too!
Just start with more servings in your day. The tips here are for people who are just starting to incorporate fruit and veg into their day to those who are already getting some, but have space for more. Regardless of where you are, always, always, always, keep it simple!
21 Tips to Get You Eating More Veggies
1. Identify your current food preferences. Do they change by season? If so, adapt! You might notice that you tend to throw out containers filled with salad greens week after week in the winter. That could be a sign that you’re just not feeling salads while it's cold out. Surely you have the best intentions, but you’ll feel better and save money on food by buying what you will eat!
2. Find out which day produce arrives at the grocery store or local farmer’s market. This way, you’ll know what day to shop in order to have the freshest (longer lasting) produce. Afterall, it’s a bit annoying to find that the produce you purchased the day before has spoiled overnight!
3. Buy fruit and veggies that are in season and if they are local, even better. You’ll notice that in season and local produce tastes better, it’s richer in colour and usually costs less than out-of-season produce. Grab that extra container of berries and if you don’t get to eat it, toss them in the freezer for a smoothie later.
4. Prep food by washing and cutting it. You don’t have to prepare it all the way into ready-to-eat individual serving containers, but it is extremely helpful (especially when you are pressed for time or not in the mood to cook), to have your produce ready to be cooked. For example, you can have your carrots, peppers, onions, parsnips washed, peeled and cut, ready to be seasoned and put into the oven for roasting. Feeling some salads? Wash and cut tomatoes, cucumbers, beats or berries ready to toss into fresh salads. Set yourself up for success!
5. Figure out what textures you like or would like for your meals and make your veggies that texture. Maybe you're feeling some crispy roasted broccoli with your homemade air fryer chicken bites so you toss them in some oil and roast them in the oven. Alternatively maybe you want them to have more moisture so you make a stir fry. Mash sweet potato versus sweet potato fries. Bake, broil, air fry, grill, pan fry, steam, puree, slow cook, raw, dehydrated. In all the ways you can cook and season vegetables these days, there’s gotta be a way you like them. It’s sort of like, “Squats don't hurt your knees - how you squat hurts your knees.”
6. Cut the veggies different sizes to reflect their relative-to-each-other cooking time when cooking veggies all at once (like on a sheet pan, in a roast, or a slow cooker). For example, if you’re putting potatoes, carrots, and parsnips on the pan, cut potatoes smaller since they take longer to cook. Parsnips cook quicker than carrots, so carrots should be cut smaller than parsnips if you want everything to come out cooked at the same time. This stops you from opening the appliance multiple times to continue to check to see where everything is which means you are keeping heat in the oven, cooking everything more efficiently and evenly.
7. Touch food as little as possible - just let your pan or appliance do its thing! You can flip or turn food but constantly stirring food releases the heat, slows down the browning process (remember, browning = flavour), and you know the old saying “a watched pot never boils”.
8. Caramelization. It's hard to resist something that's caramelized! This is the process of cooking fruit or veg to oxidize the sugar naturally stored in it to create a change in flavour and texture. The food will brown slightly and create a sweet and nutty flavour. The best part: you can absolutely caramelize foods without adding sugar! Here are some foods that work well to caramelize: sweet onions, peaches, pineapples, bananas, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes to name a few. Make sure to slice thin for as much surface area to connect with heat as possible and cook single layer to avoid a mushy mess.
9. Season food as you cook. You really don’t want to wait until your food is done cooking to then know if it needs something. We want you to love love love your home cooked meals!
10. Don’t be afraid of heat! Spicy flavours help you appreciate the other flavours in your dish while adding elements of taste and feel to your dish. Peppers also have a huge array of health benefits (improve metabolism, heart health, blood pressure, and digestion). Cooking from home, you can also adjust the level of hot to your, too! Some versatile pepper powders to consider for your pantry:
- Paprika - mild in heat (made from sweet peppers. Spanish paprika is smoked while drying so it has a smokey flavour. You can pretty much put paprika on anything.
- Chipotle pepper - this is smoked, ripe jalapeno pepper. We see fresh jalapeno peppers are green at the store, but kept on the vine and ripened, they turn red. Chipotle power is smokey in flavour. Since chipotle is bold in flavour, try using it in hearty meals that can carry the flavour, while jalapenos can be for lighter dishes. This is not as hot as the next one...
- Cayenne - medium hot chilli pepper. For those who are looking at some heat without worrying that they’ll ruin their dish by adding it in. Cayenne gives you that extra bite to your meals.
Note: The more you cook spicy peppers, the hotter the dish gets. The breakdown of the pepper releases more capsaicin into the dish. Capsaicin is a natural active component (an irritant to mammals) in chili peppers that creates the sensation of burning in any tissues it comes into contact with. So make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after touching *hot* peppers and don’t touch your eyes! The oils can still be maintained on your skin for a few hours after so be extra careful. If you do, don’t worry. It goes away eventually. Tough lesson to learn but you’ll be more careful next time.
11. Invest in herb plants. Not only will you gain satisfaction from watching your babies grow, you’ll save on packaged herbs from the grocery store. Guaranteed, eaten right from the plant will give you the best flavour and also, how convenient!
12. Dry out fresh herbs before they spoil. Collect the stems together, tie with an elastic and hang off of a handle in your kitchen until dried.
13. Have these versatile ingredients on hand if you’re looking to recreate some of our favourite flavours:
- Greek - Oregano, rosemary, thyme, olive oil, lemon,
- Italian - Basil, parsley, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, tomatoes
- Asian - Ginger, spring onion, Thai chillis, white ground pepper, sesame oil, crushed peanuts
- Mexican - Chipotle powder, cumin, green onion, limes, cilantro
14. Invest in an appliance for convenience. Let’s face it, during busy times in our lives we look for and pay for convenience. Knowing this, pick up an appliance that makes life easier (and healthier) for you and encourages you to cook at home. Our favourite small home appliance (aside from the coffee maker) is an air fryer! You can literally cook any protein and vegetable in it. Food comes out with great texture, it’s easy to clean, and takes up little space on the counter.
15. Use a splash of fresh citrus or vinegar to enhance flavours. If you’re always throwing out old lemons and limes, get the squeeze bottle kind. No judgement here. Check the ingredients to make sure it’s as close to only juice as possible.
16. Don’t be afraid of fresh garlic or onion. Using this fresh with other fresh ingredients really brings your plate alive! Homemade guacamole, greek salad, tomato & basil salad to name a few.
17. Use avocado instead of mayo! Slices add slices to sandwiches, burgers, and wraps or smash some avocado with lime, S&P for a tasty dip. Similar creamy texture without the processed oils!
18. You want to get more leafy greens in but the volume of salads are time consuming to eat? Give this a try: Prep your salad and tightly roll it into a wrap with your favourite protein! It’s compact, portable, and feels less like you’re eating a big bowl of leaves. The other way to wrap up veggies is with rice paper! If you have a little more time on your hands and want to make little salad bites, pick up some rice paper wraps and prep your veggies and protein. Wrap tight and grab your favourite dip. Voila! Fresh hand-held salad rolls!
20. Find a dip or hummus you like to have with raw veggies. Don’t forget, raw veggies = zero cooking time! Use this dip to get you in the habit of eating veggies. You can then change your dip based on your needs and preferences. Here’s an easy and tasty homemade hummus recipe.
21. Eat a variety of fruit and veg. Even if you don’t like them at first. The more you eat them, the more “ugly reps” you get in and this means more opportunity to learn different ways to use them better.
There you have it! A tip for every step of the preparation process to get you more veggies into you. Like everything else that you take on that’s new, be patient with yourself. Have fun in the process and don’t be discouraged by a few kitchen blips. The more reps you get in, the better the reps get. Be proud of your meals and feel free to post on your social media and tag us @the.better.method once you’ve tried a tip or two.
We would love to hear any food prep tips that you stand by to keep you consistent so please share in the comments below!