Whatever diet you happen to subscribe to, they pretty much all say that non-starchy vegetables are healthy and we should all eat more of them. (Especially leafy greens.) Focusing on veggies can be a way to eat less and lose weight. If you eat all of the veggies you're supposed to, there is not room for much else! Here are some tips I have found helpful in increasing my consumption of these things:
1. Green drinks for breakfast (or afternoon or late night snack) - I know it sounds disgusting and they can look like swamp water, but green drinks are delicious! I have one of these everyday for breakfast. Sometimes, I get my "5-a day" in before my day starts! You can blend up green veggies with fruit and you only taste the fruit. I start with 1/2 of a banana in my blender (I use a Vitamix), then I fill it up with spinach, kale, chard, or lettuce; and finally top it off with frozen berries, pineapple, mango; or whatever else strikes my fancy. Be creative! If you use frozen fruit and pre-washed greens, it's quick and easy to blend up on the go. (Note: If you drink these everyday like I do, you should rotate your greens to avoid getting an upset tummy. Apparently, there are toxins in greens that can build up if you only eat the same kind every day. Rotating prevents this. If you want to know more, read Green for Life or check out the FAQ's on their website.)
2. The Big Salad - (I just love that Seinfeld episode, don't you?) Yes, a big salad can be a great meal. I like to have a variety of greens as a base then add drained, canned beans, whatever veggies I have around (even leftover cooked ones), and top with salsa and roasted edamame. Yum! According to Dr. Fuhrman in Eat to Live, "the salad IS the main course!" You can use pre-made salad dressing, but I like to make my own. This Green Goddess is my fav.
3. Slaw - If you're not much of a salad person, then slaw may be a better idea. You can use pre-cut broccoli slaw mix or coleslaw mix, add a handful each of raisins and walnuts, a dollop of veganaise (or mayo), a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and some curry powder to make a delicious slaw. You can eat it as a side dish or use it in sandwiches or wraps. My husband doesn't like salad but he loves slaw!
4. Steamed veg - Buy bags of frozen mixed vegetables and keep in your freezer. Then, you can steam them whenever you want a quick side dish. If you pack your lunch, all you have to do is put some in a tupperware with a sprinkle of oregano. It'll keep the rest of your lunch cold as they slowly thaw. Then, by lunchtime, you just have to microwave them for a minute and they're done!
5. Roasted vegetables - Roast a bunch of veggies at once and keep in the fridge. They are great on their own, in sandwiches, soups, or salads. Some vegetables that work well are: cauliflower, zucchini, butternut squash, eggplant, tomatoes, parsnips, and bell peppers. Make an adventure of it and try some of those crazy vegetables you see but don't know what to do with like sunchokes, rutabagas, asian eggplant, celery root, etc. What I do is chop up all the vegetables, add some canola oil, and whatever herbs and spices I feel like. (garlic, curry, and/or rosemary work well. You can even use taco seasoning.) Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30-45 minutes.
6. Vegetables as a main dish - We normally think of vegetables as a side dish, but there are some amazingly delicious main vegetable dishes. Check out Indian food. The Indians have figured out how to make vegetables delicious and interesting. I had a cauliflower curry once that was out of this world! Also, consider adding some vegetarian and vegan meals to your week. There is some awesome vegan food out there! I love the recipes on www.choosingraw.com.
7. Sneak veggies into stuff - Add pureed and steamed carrots or squash to spaghetti sauce, pureed spinach to guacamole, and cauliflower to dips. Pureed spinach also works well in brownies since the chocolate hides the color. Just add 1/3 cup to your brownie recipe. Don't have time to steam and puree? Use babyfood if you're in a hurry! Also, check out this recipe for spinach ice-cream. I promise, you don't even taste the spinach.
8. Veggie trays - Surprisingly, kids love 'em! Cut up raw vegetables and keep in a tupperware in the fridge. (Even lettuce leaves can be good to roll up and dip.) I like to have hummous on hand for dipping. Alternatively, you can make bean dip with a can of beans, the juice of a lemon, and whatever spices and herbs you like. (I like garlic, cilantro, and curry.) If you set out a plate of chopped veggies and dip, they disappear surprisingly fast!
9. Green wraps! - I recently discovered that you can wrap up sandwich fillings in nori (the stuff they use to wrap up sushi) to make a delicious wrap. The one I had contained roasted eggplant, tomatoes, spinach, banana peppers, bell pepper, tempeh, avocado, red onion, and lemon vinaigrette. Yum! Also, cabbage or bibb lettuce leaves can make great low-carb wraps while adding another vegetable to your diet.
10. Soup for you! - You know how you buy all those veggies with the best of intentions, then you never use them and they're about to go bad? Well, take them all and put them in a soup! I like to put dried beans along with whatever vegetables I have and some veggie broth (or just use water and spices) in the slow cooker.