12 easy ways to eat more veg will give you lots of ideas to help you hit your five a day.
Amongst the many conflicting views on healthy food, one message consistently stands out: the need to include more vegetables to our diet. Vegetables are an incredibly rich source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to boost your health. But although we know the benefits of eating more veg, it isn’t always easy when we're busy, often eating on the go, and cooking in a rush. And of course, it's key to make vegetables taste good so that they are enjoyable.
So here are some tips and recipes to help you on your way.
Replace some of your carbs with vegetables
White potatoes don’t count towards one of your five a day. But there are other starchy root vegetables which are still comforting and delicious, and provide an easy way to eat more veg.
Instead of serving white potatoes by themselves, roast them with a medley of other healthy veg. Sweet potatoes and carrots make a delicious addition to your roasties, as roasting sweetens and concentrates their flavour. Swede is a comforting starchy veg that counts as one of your five a day. Mashed swede and carrots works brilliantly as a lower carb replacement for mashed potatoes. Serve it as a healthy side dish or as a topping to a shepherd’s pie or fish pie. Or try baked sweet potatoes as a tasty healthy alternative to jacket potatoes.
White beans are another great alternative to potatoes. Try warming them through and mash with a drizzle of olive oil and some seasoning.
And when you’re boiling pasta, pop in some frozen peas, so there’s less pasta and more vegetables on your plate. Or switch out the pasta for another portion of veg such as cauliflower rice.
These filling and comforting recipes use extra vegetables in the place of some carbs
- Healthy cottage pie (includes 3 portions of veg)
- Easy vegetarian carbonara
- Gluten free lasagne
- Healthy fish and chips
- Easy fish chowder
- Roast sweet potatoes, white potatoes and carrots
Add some beans and lentils, they're an easy way to eat more veg
You can include pulses as one of your five a day. Beans and lentils are great sources of fibre, vitamins and minerals. If you don't fancy going for the full vegetarian option, add them to dishes such as beef lasagne. They are a great way of making meat go further. Lentils also work well in salads such as this delicious quick balsamic lentil salad. Tinned pulses are an easy way to add an extra portion of veg. Dried red lentils take very little time to cook, and are great for thickening soups and stews. If you want to make a soup or casserole more hearty, add some red lentils.
You can even use beans as a replacement for flour in some sweet treats. Why not try healthy adzuki bean brownies?
Chickpeas are another great healthy addition to your diet, and I’ve noticed that hummus seems to be a real hit with children. In Middle Eastern cooking, people often serve hummus with meat to add flavour and moistness. And try substituting hummus for mayonnaise in wraps and sandwiches. Roast chickpeas are also delicious and make a lovely crunchy snack. You can also use other pulses such as butter beans to make hummus.
Make veg the hero
Making a dish where the vegetables take centre stage is an easy (and delicious) way to eat more veg
Rather than just putting a portion of veg on the side of your plate, make vegetables the hero of your meal. Try cooking them in different ways to add extra flavour and textures. Slow cooker red cabbage is delicious braised with apple and onion, and roasted sweet potato and cauliflower is packed with flavour. When courgettes and tomatoes are in season, whip up a batch of quick one pan ratatouille, and you can easily have 3 portions of veg in one dish. Another tasty combination to try is beans-and-beans – a mix of green beans and tinned haricot beans with a simple lemony dressing.
Store cupboard veg
Make sure you always have a good and varied supply of vegetables on hand. If all you have is a yellowed stalk of broccoli lurking in the bottom of the fridge, it’s all too easy to skip eating veg. Some fresh vegetables store very well, such as onions, carrots, pumpkins and squash, sweet potatoes and cabbage, so make sure you have plenty in stock. And don’t forget to have some canned sweetcorn, tomatoes and pulses such as lentils and beans in the cupboard on standby.
Use the freezer to help you eat more veg
Stock up your freezer with veg such as peas, green beans and sweetcorn which all freeze brilliantly. Even better, the prep time is zero, so it’s super easy to eat more vegetables. Frozen spinach is also great for including in recipes. Add it to mash, smoothies, quiches, and sauces. Frozen veg are every bit as nutritious as fresh veg, sometimes even more so as the nutrients are better preserved. And don’t forget to cook extra portions of vegetable dishes such as slow cooker red cabbage and ratatouille to pop in the freezer and save time another day. You can also freeze pulses successfully – try cooking up a big batch of haricot beans or green lentils and freeze them in small pots.
Sneak in an extra portion of veg
Try adding extra vegetables to recipes that you are cooking. Add an onion or two. Onions add a lovely flavour to so many dishes, and make other more expensive and less healthy ingredients go further. Grated carrot can adds a delicious sweetness to many recipes.
Beans and lentils can often be substituted for some, or even all, of the meat in a recipes. Why not try this gluten free beef lasagne recipe with 2 portions of hidden veg. And don't forget herbs and spices. They may not count as a whole portion of veg, but they are packed with health benefits, and add flavour. The following recipes have been developed to make it easy to add more vegetables to everyday meals.
- Healthy cottage pie (includes 3 portions of veg)
- Healthy turkey bolognese
- Sweet potato and kale lasagne
- Gluten free beef lasagne with 2 portions of hidden veg
Make a veggie sauce
Often the sauce is the element that pulls a meal together and transforms it from dull to delicious. Master a couple of good vegetable based sauces, and maybe stash a few pots in the freezer. A couple of my favourites are spinach or broccoli sauce, and a healthy tomato sauce. Many veg can also be pureed down into a tasty healthy sauce
Start with a soup, an easy way to eat more veg
Soup is a super easy way to eat more vegetables. Whether it’s a hearty warming winter soup or something lighter, you can easily pack in an extra two portions of veg with a bowl of soup. Some of my favourites include hearty tomato and lentil soup, sweet carrot and apple soup and super healthy green soup. These can mostly be made with store cupboard ingredients. When you’re on the go, try taking a flask of warm soup with you on a cold day. It’ll keep you going and ward off hunger pangs. A quick warm mug of soup is also a great healthy snack to have at home on a cold day
There are also more ideas for soup recipes here.
Include veg in your smoothies
Smoothies are also a great easy way to eat more veg. One of our favourites is apple and spinach smoothie. Grab a tall jug, add some apple puree and three or four balls of defrosted chopped frozen spinach, blitz, and add water to make the desired consistency. (If you've forgotten to defrost the spinach, use boiling water.) Just two minutes and you’ll have a fresh tasting smoothie packed with healthy green goodness. Remember though, a smoothie will only count as one portion of fruit and veg, however much you have, as some of the fibre has been removed. See the recipe for spinach and applesauce smoothie here.
Salads, a great way to eat more raw veg
We tend to think of salads in the summer. But having a big bowl of salad with your meal can be a tasty addition at any time of year, and adds crunch and extra healthy goodness to your diet. It also looks lovely, so grab yourself a pretty bowl, and add some colourful raw vegetables to the table. Leafy greens are easy healthy choice, but grated carrot or a few crudites are also delicious.
When you’re packing a lunchbox, make sure that there’s always at least two portions of veg in there: mangetout, carrot, pepper, tomatoes, sweetcorn… Cooked veg can also make a great addition to a salad: make extra when you're cooking roast veg such as sweet potatoes so they are ready in the fridge. And don’t forget the dressing – a drizzle of olive oil will help your body to absorb some of the vitamins more efficiently
Don't skimp on portion sizes
Ensuring that you eat a wide variety of vegetables is undoubtedly good for your health. However much you eat of one particular type of veg, it’ll still only count as one portion of your five a day. But you do need to eat sufficient quantities of each portion to make a difference to your health. One small stem of broccoli, a few peas and two slices of carrot won't count as three full portions. Each portion should be around 80 grs, (about 3 tablespoons). See https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/5-a-day-portion-sizes/ for further information about portion sizes. Make sure you are generous with your helpings and pile those veggies onto your plate
Grow your own vegetables
Last but not least, grow your own veggies. You'll know they are pesticide free, and you'll be tempted to eat more veggies when they are fresh from the garden. Plus, you can save money: a large pot, filled with leafy greens will pay for itself many times over. Some vegetables are particularly easy to grow, such as lettuce, kale and leaf beet, so give it a go. And in the winter, sprout some seeds to sprinkle over your food. Sprouted seeds are packed with goodness, and super easy to grow. Egg and cress salad anyone?
Do you find it easy to include plenty of veggies in your diet? If you've got any questions or ideas, please do get in contact.
You might also be interested in this post on how to eat more fibre.