If you were to make one tiny change to your diet, that would boost your health enormously, eating more veggies would be it. We know they’re healthy – packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. But did you know people who eat more veggies have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and even some cancers? Those are some pretty good reasons to up your intake.
This week is National Nutrition Week, and the theme for 2016 is ‘Try for 5,’ that is – five serves of vegetables, every day. It sounds pretty ambitious, and most of us struggle to get there. In fact, less than four per cent of Australians meet the ‘5-a-day’ target. But it doesn’t need to be so hard. Follow my five tips to fit your five serves in:
What does a serve look like?
- Start early.
Getting one or more types of veggies in your breakfast is a top way to start the day. On a practical level, knocking off a few serves means you’re almost halfway to your target before lunchtime, and also, so many delicious options!
- Grilled tomato, spinach, and/or mushrooms with toast and eggs
- Baked beans with toast (more on this later)
- A cheese and tomato toastie
I’ve always been a sweet-over-savoury breakfast kind of girl, and that’s ok. In fact, new research of Australian breakfast habits found half a million of us already add veggies to our breakfast cereal… While I haven’t jumped on the zoats trend just yet (zucchini oats), I’ve been enjoying carrot cake porridge for a good few years – take a look at Emma Stubbs’ beautiful recipe.
- Snack on veg
Hummus, need I say more? Or whatever dip you like really. Cut up a whole heap of carrots, capsicum, cucumber, and celery – ready to dip whenever you’re hungry.
- Challenge your reliance on meat
There are plenty of reasons to eat meat. It’s an excellent source of protein, and red meat particularly is packed with iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 – which all help keep our nervous and immune systems healthy. But the fact is, many of us eat too much meat. In fact, 2015 saw us dubbed the ‘meat eating capital of the world,’ with the average Aussie putting back more than 90 kilograms of meat each year, surpassing even USA averages. So why not experiment with a few vegetarian meals each week. Take inspiration from meat-free protein sources like tofu, eggs, and legumes – and you might just notice your veg serves increase.
- Love your legumes
Speaking of legumes, these tricky foods are like a two-for-one. As the only food to appear in two food groups in our Dietary Guidelines, legumes double as a ‘meat alternative’ (being packed with plant-based protein), and a vegetable. So add in chickpeas, lentils, kidney or black beans to your salads, soups, even a spag bol – and keep a can of baked beans handy for when you have nothing else on hand to eat.
- Experiment, enjoy, and make it a priority
Finally, try some new varieties. We’re so lucky to have access to a fantastic food supply, so experiment with the rainbow on offer at the local shops or market. If you don’t like kale, don’t bother – there are so many other veggies to enjoy. But ultimately, make it your mission to meet your target of 5 serves a day – it’s the easiest, and best move you can make for your health today.