Foolproof Tips to Eat More Veggies & Keep Them Fresh Longer
By Shelby Olson, MS, LN
June 25, 2019
“Eat your veggies.” You’ve probably heard this throughout your life, first from your parents and then from your nutritionist (and yourself!), but when you get down to it, it’s often hard to eat the recommended five to nine cups of vegetables each day. Many of our clients balk at this suggestion, and you may be doing the same now. But the benefits are truly outstanding (lower risk of heart disease, helps to prevent cancer, and maintain a healthy weight just to name a few!) and new research is coming out every day, like these two examples:
- Women who consumed 5 ½ servings of veggies each day, especially those from the cruciferous group (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and spinach), had a reduced risk of developing breast cancer compared to women who only consumed 2 ½ servings each day. The benefit was specifically noted with the more aggressive forms of breast cancer tumors. 1
- The Framingham Heart Study found that those who ate “three additional servings of vegetables reduced overall [stroke] risk by 22% and bleeding stroke by 51%."2
Even if we listed 50 amazing benefits, often that’s not enough because we need actual ideas on HOW to get MORE of these fiber-rich, nutrient dense carbohydrates on our plate. My first tip is to “eat the rainbow” (and I don’t mean Skittles or M&Ms), along with overlooked tips and tricks to help you eat more veggies (and reap those amazing benefits!).
Store Produce Properly
- Keep Fruit Full and Fresh – Gravity is the enemy when it comes to fresh fruits like blueberries and raspberries; once you get them home, take them out of their container and spread them evenly on a towel-lined plate or baking dish. By keeping them in a single layer, you prevent the weight of the other berries from piercing the tender skin and subsequently growing mold.
- Extend the Life of Greens & Herbs – No more slimy spinach or wilted greens! Once you open a bag of leafy greens place a dry paper towel between the container and the produce. This creates a dry barrier between the greens and any potential condensation on the packaging. This also works really well for extending the life of tender herbs like parsley, tarragon, and cilantro.
- Increase Veggie Crispness – Keep veggies crisp by storing them in a small amount of filtered water. This works especially well for radishes, asparagus spears, celery, carrot and jicama sticks. Take a small glass jar or container and place the veggies upright in about an inch of filtered water. I normally keep them in tall mason jars, uncovered on the top shelf so they are visible when I open the fridge.
Outsource Veggie Prep
- Eat More, Prep Less – Consider picking up the veggie tray at the grocery store if you are short on time. Of course you are paying a little more upfront to have the convenience of ready-to-eat veggies. On the flipside, if you end up not having time to cut and prep each individual veggie that you bought (and they turn into a science project growing in your crisper drawer) you didn’t actually save any money and also didn’t eat any veggies! That’s where a veggie tray is perfect. Just remember to ditch the veggie dip that often comes with the trays. Those dips are full of damaged oils (soybean, canola oil, etc.), which aren’t good for our health because they promote inflammation, drive up our cholesterol, and slow our metabolism. Instead replace it with our Lil’ Dipper Veggie Dip made with natural fats or for a dairy free option try this Green Veggie Dip.
- Buy the Kits – Don’t be afraid to buy the salad kits, stir fry veggies, broccoli slaw, or spiralized veggies. These can make a veggie side come together in a flash for an easy weeknight meal. Like the store-bought veggie dip, I am cautious about the salad dressings or sauces that come in the prepackaged veggies; most are made with damaged oils. Upgrade the fat by cooking your veggie kits in a real fat like butter, olive oil, or coconut oil. My favorite way to make stir fry veggies taste great is to use coconut oil in the pan and then drizzle coconut aminos and some toasted sesame oil over the top for more flavor. You could always eat the salad kits with our Simple Vinaigrette to make sure you have a high quality salad dressing.
Make It Fun for Kiddos (and You)
- Presentation Matters – Toothpicks and/or kabobs suddenly transform veggies and fruit into party food. Kids and adults alike will love small fruit kabobs as a snack dipped in this fresh Almond Cream (plus it will keep for leftovers in your fridge for two to three days).
- Experiment with Options – Head out to the farmer’s market or co-op with the goal of picking a new piece of produce to try once a week or once a month. If you have kids, get them involved in picking or preparing the new food. If you are not sure how to prepare your new food, ask the farmer or the produce person onsite for recommendations.
With summer here we’re in the midst of abundant seasonal produce. Hopefully our tips give you a nudge of motivation to get more fresh produce in the mix for you and your family. If you are struggling with picky eaters, consider working one-on-one with our nutritionists (either by phone or in-person) to create an individualized plan. We have seen it all and are eager to help you come up with creative ways to get a real food plan in motion.