In 2017, the CSIRO released its Fruit, Vegetables and Diet Score report, which shows that two-thirds of Australian adults are not eating enough vegetables and 51 per cent are not eating enough fruit.
Why is this a problem? Quite simply, fruit and vegetables are vital for good health. The nutrients and phytochemicals in vegetables especially are believed to reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.
Vegetables are also fundamental to keeping your weight at a healthy level because they’re nutrient-dense and high in fibre but low in kilojoules — as long as you don’t always serve them in a pool of butter or cheese sauce. Vegetables are also much cheaper than meat, especially if you buy what’s in season, and don’t forget that frozen veg can be a great economical yet nutritious option.
Eat a rainbow
As well as making sure that you get your recommended daily intake of vegetables, try to eat as wide a variety as you can. Just eating broccoli and carrots, for example, certainly isn’t bad for you, but you’ll be missing out on all the health benefits other vegetables provide. Plan to get several colours on your plate to make the most of the different nutrients available.
Getting more vegetables into your diet doesn’t mean you have to give up meat altogether, but choosing to have a few meat-free meals a week is a great way to increase your vegetable consumption. Here are a few simple swaps and adjustments you can make.
- If you usually have bacon and eggs for breakfast on the weekend, try the infamous smashed avo on toast, or stick with eggs but replace the bacon with sides of spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
- Try a green smoothie. They can be surprisingly delicious, but can also be high-kilojoule if they’ve got a lot of fruit (rather than veggies) in them. In other words, think of a green smoothie as a meal in itself rather than a drink on the side.
- Make a vegetable frittata with capsicum, onion, mushrooms, and spinach. For portability, you can also bake this in muffin tins — it makes a great lunch too, especially with a salad on the side.
- If you’re a fan of the humble sandwich, it’s easy to ramp up your veg. Instead of just the predictable tomato and lettuce, think about delicious additions like roasted eggplant or zucchini, shredded carrot or cabbage, kimchi, sauerkraut, etc.
- And then there’s the Instagram-friendly salad in a mason jar. You don’t really have to create a work of art, but starting with a delicious grain (freekeh, brown or black rice, quinoa, etc) and adding a rainbow of veg, a sprinkling of seeds or nuts, and a simple dressing (packed separately to add when you’re ready to eat) is tasty and healthy.
- More likely to grab takeaway and eat at your desk? Go for a salad that’s heavy on the dark leafy greens and avoid super-rich dressings. Or choose a tofu and vegetable stir-fry instead of the red beef curry (and opt for brown rice rather than white, if it’s an option).
- Remember the rainbow — go for at least three different coloured vegetables in your meal, even if you are eating meat as well.
- Soup is super! Homemade veggie soup is an easy way to get a whole range of vegetables into your meal. Think hearty minestrone, zesty gazpacho, or a refreshing summer soup with peas, lettuce, and mint. Whether you like your soup hot or cold, smooth or chunky, there’s an infinite number of options. If your soup only has a couple of different coloured vegetables in it, think about serving it with a salad to round out your rainbow.
- If dinner is usually focused on meat, try using a different protein source, whether it’s tofu, vegetarian sausages, or just a combination of legumes and grains.
For more ideas on eating for your best life, check out The Midlife Kitchen by Mimi Spencer and Sam Rice.
How do you add vegetables to your regular meals?