If you’re anything like the 93.2% of the population (ABS, 2014) who aren’t meeting their recommended vegetable intake, you’ll know that meeting the 5 a day can be difficult. But it doesn’t have to be! Here’s my guide to up your intake and enjoy your vegies in the process!
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends 5 serves of vegetables a day for most adults (slightly more for younger and middle-aged men and lactating women).
But what’s a serve?
A serve of veg is about 75g which is equivalent to:
- ½ cup cooked vegetables
- 1 cup salad vegetables
- ½ medium potato or sweet potato
- 1 medium tomato
- ½ cup cooked legumes (beans, peas, lentils)- that’s right, legumes count as a veg!
So, how do you fit all of that into a day?
As an example, you could aim to include 2 cups of salad veg with lunch and 1.5 cups of cooked veg with dinner. Alternatively, you could experiment with including vegies in your cooked brekky or raw vegie sticks into a snack.
My top tips for a vegie-packed day:
1. Make buying vegetables a main part of your weekly shop so you always have something in the crisper, pantry or freezer.
And they don’t all have to be fresh, cans of tomatoes and legumes, or frozen peas and other vegetable mixes are just as good!
2. Stuck in a vegie rut? Try a vegetable you haven’t tried before.
Sick of the same carrots, peas and broccoli? Make an effort to try a new seasonal veg each week- eggplant, leek, silverbeet? Here’s looking at you!
3. Spice things up… literally!
Plain veg can be a little bland- toss your vegies through with herbs, garlic, chilli, nuts, dukkah or lemon juice and make vegies the flavour stand-out of the dish!
4. Experiment with different cooking methods.
Do you usually just boil or steam your veg? Why not try spraying with a little olive oil and stir-frying, roasting or barbequing your veg? Charred, caramelised or crispy vegies add a whole other dimension.
5. Sneak some extra veg into your casseroles, pasta dishes or even sweet baking!
Boost the fibre of your meal by replacing some of the meat with lentils, red kidney beans or chickpeas, grated carrot or zucchini, finely sliced mushroom or capsicum or a handful of spinach. And they don’t just have to be in savoury meals- carrot and cinnamon in a cake are a match made in heaven and beetroot and chocolate are delicious too!
6. Dish out your vegies first, not last, when plating up.
An easy way to ensure you meet your serves is to regularly stick to the ¼, ¼, ½ plate rule and dish out ½ a plate of vegies followed by the protein and carbohydrate portions of the meal.
7. Eat the rainbow.
And no, I don’t mean the Skittles rainbow. Try eat a range of vegetable colours every day- red, orange, green, purple, white- they all contain different vitamins and minerals, so eating a variety will mean you make it easier to meet all your nutrient needs. Aim for at least 3 different colours or types of veg on every plate.
8. Don’t ‘save’ all your vegie portions for dinner- spread them throughout the day.
Some grilled tomato, mushrooms and wilted spinach with eggs & toast for brekky, some roasted chickpeas or carrot and celery sticks with hommus for a snack, and a delicious salad sandwich or leftover stir-fry for lunch. Just to name a few!
9. Join the meat-free Monday revolution.
Change the way you think by planning meals around types of veg rather than types of meat. Stuffed capsicums, cauliflower ‘rice’, grilled vegie stack, lentil burgers, red kidney bean burritos or pumpkin soup. There are so many delicious dishes that make vegies the star.
10. Get in touch with nature and where your vegies are coming from.
Why not grow your own vegie patch? It doesn’t have to be big and there’s something very satisfying about eating home-grown, nothing-added, fresh-as-you-can-get veg! Don’t have the space? Check out your local farmer’s markets and get to know the growers.