If you are researching what you eat on the internet, chances are you are already aware that almost every single person in the country could benefit from eating more vegetables. They’re lower in calories. They are PACKED with vitamins and minerals – especially when fresh. They’re more environmentally friendly and sustainable to produce. They’re cheaper. Etc, etc.
But you know what? It’s hard to just kick meat to the curb. Or even to kick part of our meat serving to the curb. And even when we do that, it’s hard to not replace it with just bread or pasta, which is a bad idea, nutrition-wise.
At our house, we try to do several dinners a week without meat at all. It’s actually pretty unlikely that our breakfast or lunch will contain meat, unless it’s leftovers from the night before. As for dinners, I would say maybe half have meat in them. But I haven’t been keeping exact track. But that doesn’t come without making a serious effort!
This is the salad that I’ll be eating for lunch today – it’s got marinated artichokes, kalamata olives and ultra-sweet tomatoes. And it ties into one of my tips! Read on:
1) Open your mind and your grocery cart to the wide world of the veggies that are available – if you are totally sick of steamed carrots and peas, skip them until you have mastered a few new styles of cooking veggies that you are ready to try. What about marinated artichokes? How about braised Swiss chard? Have you had any winter squash soup yet this year?
2) Try new techniques on old familiars. Remember those carrots I was talking about? Toss them in olive oil with quartered red onions and a little balsamic vinegar. Roast in the oven until soft and even a little charred (usually at a high temperature). You will be shocked what a different cooking application can do to veggies you may have given up on.
3) And on that note, make use of low-calorie accompaniments that pack a ton of flavor in salad dressings, sauces and marinades: balsamic vinegar – ANY flavored vinegar for that matter! Or try mustard, chimichurri, pickled veggies, olives, canned Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, pesto, hoisin sauce, miso, Greek yogurt and more.
4) Take flavors from your favorite high-calorie dishes and turn them into veggie-focused ones. That’s what I did with my salad for today. I love the combination of chicken, spinach and artichoke, but let’s be honest, even a “skinny” recipe for spinach and artichoke + chicken sandwich/dip is not that skinny because of the dairy and meat. So in my salad today, there’s still spinach, artichokes, and some thin slices of Parmesan. But instead of tons of dairy and meat, I’ve added kalamata olives and super-sweet tomatoes (you won’t get real sweetness from buying grocery store Romas – at least get the hothouse kind!). I’ve dressed the salad in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and sunflower seeds. I can’t wait to eat it! Haha.
5) This is the biggest one – plan ahead! You don’t have to plan a whole meal, but when you’re at the grocery store and you see that mushrooms are on sale, try to think about what you can do with them as you buy them – and try to have a couple of options. That way when meal time arrives, you aren’t racking your brain to figure out what to do. Mushrooms can be cooked in red wine or the caps can be stuffed with other chopped veggies (double veggie bonus!). A spinach salad would be great if you got some sun-dried tomatoes to go with it to pack a little punch. Roasted garlic? Yes please!
No matter how you look at it, a few more veggies in all of our lives is a good thing. So the way I see it is, we might as well make it fun and insanely delicious, right?
Do you have any tips, tricks or favorite recipes that pack more veggies in? Share them in the comments!