Diet Detective: How to eat more veggies

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — At this point, it’s indisputable that we all need to eat our vegetables. So here are 14 ways to increase the amount of veggies in your diet.

1. Join Something: How about joining an organic buying club or a Community- Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program to support a local farm and get a share of the produce? Along with green markets, these programs offer easy ways to access locally grown foods. You can start by sharing a membership with neighbors and alternating pickups. Go to http://www.localharvest.org and put in your location to find a club in your area, or try one of the following:

Grow Your Own Vegetables or Start a Community Garden: A great way to get locally grown, healthy produce is to grow your own. Depending on where you live, you’d be surprised at how many different types of vegetables you can grow right in your own backyard. Here is a checklist to help you start a Community Garden: http://www.letsmove.gov/community-garden-checklist. Also, take a look at the list below:

Starting Up:
According to Craig Jenkins-Sutton, owner of Topiarius Urban Garden and Floral Design, there are four steps to creating an urban vegetable garden:

Here are a few additional web sites to review:

2. Chop It Up and Have It Ready: Cut up vegetables such as onions, broccoli, peppers and asparagus in advance. Put them in pre-portioned baggies or containers and store them in the fridge. You can put veggies in any dish you make: scrambled eggs, sautéed chicken or beef, and on any sandwich. If you don’t like raw vegetables that’s fine. Cook them in a bit of oil until you find the taste you like. That’s key – making sure that you use vegetables you enjoy.

3. Not Too Many Starchy Veggies: Watch your intake of starchy vegetables, they’re carbs-they can be high in calories and not have same impact. Examples include: corn, peas, potatoes, , and sweet potatoes.

4. Restaurant Ordering: We eat out a lot, and we can easily add more vegetables to our restaurant food with the following tips:

5. Partially Prepared: Buy bags of pre-washed lettuce (try for organic), broccoli and cauliflower florets, or pre-cut mixed vegetables. Check out the salad bar to stock up on other pre-cut veggies. Yes, this can be more expensive, but it still costs less (and is a lot healthier) than ordering from a fast-food restaurant. You can also try veggies that don’t require too much preparation, such as baby carrots, celery and cherry tomatoes.

6. Put Them in Front: Most people put their vegetables out of sight in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge (which provides increased air circulation and minimizes drying) to keep them fresher longer. But the problem is that you can forget you have them, which defeats the entire purpose. Keep them where you can see them so that you can grab them on the go for a snack and remember to use them when you’re preparing a meal.

7. Buy Garlic and Fresh Herbs and Spices: Learn how to cook your vegetables with flavor. Seek out fresh herbs, such as basil, dill, and parsley, and spices such as oregano, salt, pepper, curry powder, cumin and especially fresh garlic. Not only does garlic make almost any vegetable taste amazing, it’s an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of vitamin B6 and vitamin C and a good source of selenium. Chopping garlic releases the enzyme that activates its phytochemicals. Cooking it too much, however, destroys that enzyme, so chop garlic and let it rest for about 10 minutes while you prepare other ingredients, then add it toward the end of the cooking process.

8. Learn to Cook Great Veggies: There are several databases that offer healthful vegetarian (and vegetable) recipes, and they’re free online.

9. Learn the Vegetable Seasons: Generally speaking, you’ll get more veggies for your dollar when them buying in season: https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce .

10. Frozen vegetables: They’re still good and easy to quickly prepare. It’s not fresh or nothing. Frozen vegetables retain most of their nutrients, so they are a fast alternative for people who have trouble keeping their fridge stocked with fresh. Look for frozen spinach, bell peppers, asparagus, peas, broccoli, mixed vegetables and green beans.

11. Experiment:
– Eat Chinese or Indian, but make sure to order your veggies steamed, and get brown rice.
– Make a big pot of delicious veggie soup. It’s easy.

12. Have a Green Smoothie: There are some great green smoothie recipes as well as store-bought veggie smoothies. Make sure when purchasing to check the labels and make sure they are clean –meaning just veggies and/or fruit – nothing else.

13. Discover the Tricks of the Trade: Learn about the dirty dozen so that you know when you really should be buying organic. See: www .foodnews.org/fulldataset.php.

14. Serve with Style: Presentation does matter. Dress up your vegetables; don’t just toss them on the plate. And use a variety of colors for visual interest. See the following tips:http://www.dietdetective.com/diet-detectives-food-styling-healthier-food-taste-better/

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CHARLES PLATKIN, PhD is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com, and the Director of the New York City Food Policy Center at Hunter College. Copyright 2016 by Charles Platkin. All rights reserved. Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www .DietDetective.com