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As the new year rolls around, it seems the only thing as ubiquitous as a post-holiday hangover are lofty resolutions for better health. Starting with our diets, it does not take the Department of Health to tell us that there is plenty of room on our plates for more fruits and vegetables. The rule of thumb, according to their guidelines, is at least five portions a day, which lowers the overall risk of heart disease and certain strains of cancer. An easy way that doubles as a quirky motivator is to aim for a rainbow each day, gunning for a variety of fruits and vegetables, no matter fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. To make it a little easier to forge this into a full-time habit, here are our top tips on how to up your intake of veggies.
Regardless of your stance when it comes to the “tomato is a fruit” debate, these plump red orbs are a highly malleable ingredient that can be turned into wonderful sauces and a base for meals like curries, soups, and pasta. Simply throw in some onions, garlic, carrots, and seasoning and blend them into your mixes. A simple hack for picky eaters!
When it comes to increasing the number of vegetables in your diet, aim for a third of your daily nutrition to be made up of the good stuff. Like many starter courses in restaurants, try beginning your meal with a salad. All you need is a base of leafy vegetables like lettuce, rocket, or any of your other favourite varieties. Then, add in other textures like cucumbers for crunch, cherry tomatoes for zest, avocado for a dense, buttery mouthfeel, and even red onions for a spike of savoury flavour. Mix and match this rainbow of vegetables as you please!
Able to go together with all sorts of dishes—and even drinks because of its muted flavour—spinach leaves are your secret ticket to a little green boost of essential nutrients like vitamins K, A, and iron. Stir them into stews and curries once you are about to take them off the stove, or even grab a handful to throw into your breakfast smoothies.
Although it has been ingrained into our general knowledge that carbohydrates are the bedrock of the food pyramid, the types of carbs that make up our meals are something that deserve greater attention. If you find yourself tucking into options like white bread and white rice, maybe it is time to switch out these refined starches to wholegrain options and vegetables instead. In fact, you can substitute your carbs with vegetables without it tasting or feeling lacking. By blending cauliflower, you can churn them into cauliflower rice to use as a “grain” base. Spiralise or julienne courgettes and you will have spaghetti noodles that are just as yummy to slurp up. When it comes to bread, it is also worth swapping them for little gem lettuce, which offers a whole new way to enjoy your food.
Snacking is branded a bad habit for sure, but that is only because most of us are reaching for things like cookies, crisps, and chocolates. Instead of correcting such a habit, why not simply make a few changes to the snacks themselves? Next time you find yourself inching towards a tub of ice cream in the fridge, replace them with vegetable sticks like celery, cucumber, and carrots that sit at the eye-level section for easy access. You can even bring them to work to enjoy with dips like low-fat hummus or Greek yoghurt. Chickpeas in hummus pack in protein and help to keep you sated for longer, turning snacking into something that does good for your body.
Staying hydrated is important, and fruits and vegetables can certainly help with that. You might be surprised to learn that certain vegetables have a high water content despite the way they look or taste. We were shocked to find out that Brussels sprouts actually outweigh oranges in terms of water percentage! Other notable veggies are cucumbers (96 percent water), yellow melons (91 percent water), and spinach (93 percent), with more options waiting to be explored.
Seriously simple to prep, the perfect comfort meal during winter months, and a great way to prevent kitchen wastage, a piping hot bowl of soup is an easy and nourishing way dish that’s always welcome on our dining table. Since the types of soups you can make are so diverse, you can always try out new recipes using existing vegetables in your pantry, making for some exciting flavour combinations and new tastes through different ways of cooking.
Another imaginative way of sneaking vegetables into dishes you would never expect is by incorporating them into your baking. Carrots, for one, have the advantage of being naturally sweet and a gorgeous orange pigment, making them an alternative to sugar and an interesting source of colour. Other sorts of produce like beetroot and courgette are also great choices that can become part of your muffins, breakfast bakes, and other baked goodies.
At the end of the day, the key to it all is sneaking at least some vegetables into each meal wherever you can, emphasising consistency and nutritional quality over bingeing excessive portions once in a while. Attempting to plan for your food in advance and making plant-filled grocery shopping lists are also beneficial in keeping track and making sure nothing goes to waste. May the new you of this new year be a healthier version of you!