Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eat Your Veggies

This post is born out of the realization that our family needs to eat more veggies. There are good days, but there are days when the three carrot sticks at lunch and the sauce on our pizza is the extent of our vegetable intake. I want to do better!

I know that we need to eat more vegetables, but this doesn't come easily for me. To assuage my guilt I lump fruits and veggies together in a group called "plants." Since fruits easily go down we eat a lot of them figuring that we are getting enough plants in our diets. That's not all bad. Some plants are better than no plants, but different parts of the plant are designed to perform different functions for the plant. The roots suck up water and nutrients from the ground. The leaves convert sun energy into food for the plant. The flower, the seeds, the stem and the fruit all have different nutrients based on their functions. In general vegetables contain more minerals than fruit (iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, etc.) Fruit is also generally higher in sugar than most veggies.  We need veggies as well as fruits (and more of them.)
Enough with the biology lesson, how are we going to get more vegetables into our diets? Well, here is my plan:
1) Serve More. Many times I excuse myself from serving an additional veggie if there is one in the main  dish(a casserole, pasta dish or soup.) That is the idea of a one dish meal-one and done, but realistically there is not a whole serving of veggies in the serving of the main dish. Heating up frozen mixed veggies alongside my pasta dish is not going to kill me! And what if we had a lettuce salad and green beans at supper? Or maybe carrots and broccoli?
2.) Cook More. Most of my family can eat raw veggies, and so we do them almost every day for lunch. That leaves out my baby. I need to cook more at night so that there are always some for her the next day for lunch. It is also important to prepare vegetables the way my family likes veggies. We are not a steamed family. We like them pan fried or grilled, and I have just started oven roasting sweet potato slices and broccoli. We eat more if they are cooked the way that we like them.
3.) Prep More. I recently discovered that my husband likes regular carrot sticks not baby carrots. I agreed that they are more flavorful. The trick is having them washed and cut ahead of time. A big bag of carrots or a head of broccoli does me no good at 11:55, sitting whole at the bottom of the fridge. I need to take the time to chop a week’s worth so they are a quick, convenient food.
I don't regularly hide veggies in other dishes because I don't have a lot of extra time to puree them. I also want my kids to be in the habit of choosing to eat veggies, but I do add cauliflower to my frozen mashed potatoes because it is beyond easy.
4.) Bake More. Pumpkin, rhubarb and zucchini bread or muffins are a way to get veggies in breakfast without a fight. (That also maybe because I add a handful of chocolate chips to my pumpkin bread!) The recipes are easy to double and tuck away in the freezer to pull out as needed.
5.) Snack More. Smoothies may not be the cheapest way to get vegetables down, but they are the only way that my boys are eating dark leafy greens. I make a big batch and freeze the leftovers as popsicles so we can eat them all week. I think that my baby is going to be a salad eater, but she for now just gnaws on the leaves. She will gladly take smoothie from a spoon or a straw (or even a popsicle if she is going straight to the bath afterward!)
Everyone is crawling on me at 5:30 waiting for Daddy to come home so they can eat supper. Snacking on veggies and ranch makes this time a little more peaceful. My boys will sit down with a bowl of frozen peas straight from the freezer. I don't get it, but whatever floats their boat!
6.) Try More. There are plenty of veggies that my family has never tried. We discovered last year that we love asparagus. We tried Brussels sprouts, but they didn't do it for us. I tried kale chips, but I think that I burnt them so I need to try it again. Maybe we can order new side dishes at restaurants, or I can ask friend who cooks different veggies to give me a few tips. We might find a few new favorites if we just try.
7.) Load on More. Another great option is to double the amount of veggies in the recipe. Adding an extra cup or two of chopped or frozen veggies takes seconds, adds nutrition and makes the soup or casserole go a little farther. A salad doesn't need to be just greens. Shredded carrots, broccoli florets, diced red peppers, grape tomatoes, and sprouts all dress up a salad and add more veggies to our diets.

Two Side Notes:
1.) Sugar Less. We have the ability to outdo nature when it comes to sweetness. When we train minds, bodies and taste buds to crave sugar at such great levels, it is hard to enjoy the flavor God gave the sugar snap pea. Even the best vegetable tastes bitter next to the high fructose corn syrup in a box of Mike and Ikes. (I am picking on a candy that doesn't do it for me so that when I read this it is less convicting.) This is one case where a spoon full of sugar does not help the medicine go down.
2.) Lead by example. My baby begs off my plate. My bigger kids want what I am snacking on. It is up to me set a good vegetable example! I say "Eat as I say, and not what I eat."

Well, it looks like I have a lot of chopping to do. I had better get to it! I would love to know; how are you eating more veggies?

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  1. I agree with the prepping. when I get home from the Farmer's Market or Supermarket I make a point to rinse everything, chop what needs to be chopped, take the grapes off the vine, chop the broccoli etc. and put into clear containers in my fridge. That way we always know what we have, it's easy for the kiddos to grab what they want and snacks are always available.

    1. We do the same with grapes too!

      I realized today as I nearly ran out of broccoli 5 days before I planned that I should have added one more point to this post. BUY MORE!

  2. I love all your tips, Tara! :) We do a lot of these same things... like serving another veggie even if there's one in the main dish (like a casserole). :) And my kids like frozen peas too! Funny. :)

    1. A couple of friends on facebook said that their kiddos eat frozen peas too. It must be a kid thing!

  3. We're working on the same thing here. Pass the veggies!!!!

    1. Just got our garden put in today so I hope some more great vegetables will be coming soon! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Great ideas for getting more veggies in your diet! Thanks for sharing with Healthy 2Day Wednesday; come back next Wednesday to see if you were featured!