Increasing Vegetable Intake

Several staff members have asked for more information on how to add more vegetables to their meals and I decided to expand on this topic here.

The nutrition recommendations to address all chronic disease are the same-increase fruit and vegetable intake, make half your plate produce, include more meatless meals.

It is overwhelming and sometimes hard to know where to start. If you are already asking how to to add more vegetables, that means you are thinking about it and mindful and that is the first step of changing behavior.

Is this your starting point?

Half the plate is vegetable BUT are they the best choice?

To make the plate above healthier, reduce the portion of chicken to 1 leg, baked is better than fried, add a half cup of whole grain (if you want to) and replace the starchy corn and potatoes with a salad and another cooked vegetable. Choose color.

Look instead at the picture below for a framework of what a meal should look like.

If you are just starting out, then simply adding raw vegetables to your meal is the easiest and fastest solution. When I plan meals, I have the above picture in mind in terms of protein, grain, produce.

Here are my tips for adding more vegetables to your day:

  1. If you are a morning smoothie person, add some greens to your smoothie. This is a smart and easy way to get a serving or 2 in at breakfast.

  2. Eat a vegetable based lunch. Make a veg soup or stew on the weekend to bring during the week. Before reheating, add spinach or kale to your soup/stew. The greens will wilt during reheat and you just added another serving. Eating a vegetable based lunch with added greens can equal 2-3 servings of vegetables.

  3. Snack on veggies. I did this last week with carrots. I now have a very sedentary job and I need a snack in the afternoon to keep me awake and also because I am starving. I could easily eat an entire box of crackers while sitting at my desk every day! Last week I brought carrot sticks which filled me up and satisfied my need for crunch.

  4. Have a side salad with dinner every day and add spinach and kale to your lettuce mix.

  5. Add a cooked veg as a second side. The easiest way to prepare any veg is to roast chunks of vegetables tossed with olive oil on a sheet pan for 30-40 minutes.

Learning how to include more vegetables is a process and takes time. As you become more accustomed to including vegetables with your meals, you will become more comfortable trying new vegetables and new recipes that use them. Baby steps!

Roasted Mediterranean Chicken

4 servings

From Diabetic Living Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

  • 1½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts

  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced

  • 1 red onion, sliced

  • ½ cup chopped red and/or green bell pepper

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into (2 to 3 inch) pieces

  • (15 to 16 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 cup red and/or yellow cherry tomatoes

  • 10 pitted kalamata olives

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Preparation

Prep 25 m

Ready in 1 h 10 m

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Line two 15x10x1-inch baking pans with foil; set aside. Combine parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, salt and ground pepper in a small bowl. Place chicken on one of the prepared pans. Sprinkle with half of the herb mixture. Combine mushrooms, onion, bell pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil; toss to coat. Place mushroom mixture on the other prepared baking pan.

  2. Roast chicken and vegetables 30 minutes, stirring vegetable mixture once. If chicken is tender and no longer pink (180°F), remove from oven and cover to keep warm; if not, continue roasting until done. Add asparagus, beans, tomatoes, olives, balsamic vinegar and the remaining herb mixture to the vegetables in pan; stir to combine. Continue to roast about 15 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender.

  3. To serve, cut chicken into bite-size pieces; combine with roasted vegetables.

Nutrition Info:

  • Serving size: 2 cups

  • Per serving: 360 calories; 12 g fat(2 g sat); 9 g fiber; 27 g carbohydrates; 43 g protein; 65 mcg folate; 161 mg cholesterol; 6 g sugars; 1,190 IU vitamin A; 32 mg vitamin C; 91 mg calcium; 5 mg iron; 524 mg sodium; 1,015 mg potassium

  • Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (53% daily value), Iron (28% dv), Vitamin A (24% dv)

  • Carbohydrate Servings: 2

  • Exchanges: 5 lean protein, 2 vegetable, 1 starch, ½ fat

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