Simple Ways to Increase your Vegetable Intake!

Six years ago, the only vegetables I ate were carrot sticks and romaine lettuce. As a matter of fact, I’d sometimes go days without eating any vegetables. After graduating from college and gaining more nutrition education, I knew my habits had to change. It didn’t happen over-night, but now I can easily get in 6+ cups of vegetables a day. When it comes to changing your nutrition habits, read some of the tips below to find what will work for you to get the ball rolling with eating vegetables consistently every day.

1.)    Switch out your grains for veggies

a. Wrap your sandwich in lettuce.

I like using this with tuna fish or ground turkey/chicken. I prefer to purchase butter lettuce.

b. Turn your normal lunch into a salad.

The typical American lunch is a sandwich & chips or a burger and fries. It’s easy to manipulate those meals to make them healthy. A salad is an easy way to get in 4+ servings of vegetables in one meal. Think – taco salads, tuna salad, deli meat salads, a bun-less burger with a large side salad. The extra veggies are low in calories, packed with fiber, and will help you stay full until the next meal.

c. Double up your veggies at dinner.

Instead of having potatoes, rice, noodles, or bread, replace it with a small dinner salad loaded with veggies. Also, look to add a side of broccoli, asparagus, kale, spinach, raw veggies or cooked veggies to go with your protein source.

2.)    Add vegetables into smoothies.

This is quite possibly the easiest way to sneak in vegetables to a meal. When it comes to constructing your own smoothie, look at the list below to add the suggested ingredients.

Protein source: a high quality protein powder or Greek Yogurt.

Fruit source: 1-2 servings. Sometimes people can over-do it on the fruit. I tend to use 1/2 of a frozen banana (peel before freezing) for my smoothies or 1 cup of frozen berries.

Vegetable source: 1-3 servings of vegetables. Spinach is my favorite because of it’s mild flavor, but kale & pumpkin are great too.

Healthy fat: 1-2 tablespoons. I like using a nut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, or raw nuts.

Liquid Source & Ice : 6-12 ounces. Unsweetened vanilla or chocolate almond milk is my favorite, but unsweetened coconut milk, water, or cow’s milk can be used. The more ice, the thicker the consistency.

3.)    Make recipes where vegetables dominant the meal.

When it comes to changing your habits, sometimes it’s best to plan your meal around your vegetables. The more you practice looking for a vegetable(s) every meal, the easier it will be to get your vegetables in.

Start by incorporating meals where vegetables dominate such as chili, stir-fry, or a salad.

4.)    Choose a day in your schedule to prepare raw vegetables for the work week.     

Planning is key to success, especially in the beginning of improving your nutrition habits. If we don’t practice this in the beginning, it’s easy to fall into old habits t foods by grabbing convenient foods such as chips, cookies, fast food or going out to dinner.

Choose a day (Sunday is great) to slice up raw vegetables so they become the convenient foods to snack on. Bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, carrots, head of lettuce, bag of lettuce, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes are all easy vegetables to prepare. Wash your lettuce and cherry tomatoes then place them in Ziploc bags or Tupperware in the refrigerator. Also, pre-slice peppers, celery, cucumbers, and carrots so they are easy to grab in the morning before work, can be easily thrown on a salad or can act as snacks.

Commit 1 hour or less to chop your veggies so when the busy week happens, you’re prepared to eat healthy. After consistent practice, you may find yourself not needing to chop everything up in advance. You’ll just making time for it because it’s a habit.

5.)    Spice up your veggies and cook them correctly. 

a. Raw vegetables can be boring. Instead of always eating vegetables raw, experiment with other ways of cooking your vegetables. Roasting, steaming, pickling, or sauteing them can drastically improve the taste. Also,  give them some flavor! Add olive oil, coconut oil, butter, or spices such as rosemary, garlic, sea salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, etc.

6.) Look to add vegetables into your go-to meals. 

Spaghetti is still a staple in my weekly meal plan. I’ve tweaked this meal quite a bit over the years, by eliminating some ingredients and replacing it with other ingredients. I’ll now add mushrooms, zucchini and bell pepper into my spaghetti sauce to increase my overall vegetable intake.

7.) Increase your vegetables one meal at a time.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming to change your nutrition habits, so instead, start small with one meal a day. Breakfast can be hard to sneak in vegetables, unless your whip up a smoothie. So, instead, focus on changing your other meals for lunch or dinner. Below is an example of my old meals vs. my new meal plan. With consistent practice, I now enjoying eating vegetables at every meal.

Breakfast Lunch Snacks Dinner
Six years ago Cereal, banana, juice Sandwich & chips Granola Bars Spaghetti, other pasta dishes, etc.
Current Protein smoothie or vegetable omelet Leftovers from dinner, deli wraps or a take-out salad. Vegetables with hummus or nut butter, fruit & nuts or rice cake. Grilled meat with vegetables or a variation of meat sauce.

 

Blueberry Vinaigrette Salad

Dressing

Spinach And Gorgonzola Salad2 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB olive oil
1 small handful of blueberries
Black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Put all ingredients into a blender and mix. This makes quite a few servings.

Salad
3 cups of mixed greens
1/2 cup of chopped cucumbers
1/2 cup of chopped green apple
1/2 cup of chopped bell pepper
2 marinated artichoke hearts

Small handful of walnuts
Small handful of feta cheese
Add your choice of protein: chicken, steak, salmon, shrimp, etc.

Drizzle blueberry vinaigrette on top.

This works great for any lunch or dinner and is packed with 5 servings of vegetables!

Meat Sauce

Delicious and Nutritious, Meat Sauce!

Ingredients:Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb 91% ground beef
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 medium red pepper
  • 1/4 cup black olives
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

Directions: Saute onion and garlic with olive oil until onions are near translucent. Add ground beef and cook through. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper. Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, zucchini, pepper, and olives.

Simmer at low heat for 20 minutes. 

Enjoy this dish with a side salad!

Nutritional Facts: Serving is 1.5 cups. 324 calories, 16 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbohydrates, 22 grams of protein

Learn How to Get Your Heart Rate Up Without Running on the Treadmill

My Favorite Type of Cardio

Treadmill

Have you thought you need to run in order to get the best workout? Incline walking is one of my favorite ways to get an intense cardio workout and help firm up the lower body. Use the chart below as a guide for your incline walking routine. If the speeds below are too fast for you, modify to a lower speed, but make sure you still notice your breathing and feel a burn in the legs after each interval.

For 2-5 minutes: walk at a comfortable pace

5:00-6:00: bring the incline up to 10%, walk at 2.5 mph

6:00-7:00: incline at 10%, walk at 3.5 mph

7:00-8:00: incline at 5%, walk at 3.0 mph

8:00-9:00: incline at 10%, walk at 3.5 mph

9:00-10:00: (recover) incline at 5%, walk at 3.0 mph

Continue to follow the interval pattern until you’ve reached 27 minutes. At 27 minutes, reduce the incline to 1% and speed to a cool down for 3 minutes

Get creative with your interval ratios: For beginners, walk at the faster pace for 30-60 seconds and recover for 2 minutes. For an intermediate level, keep the work to rest ratio equal (1 minute hard, 1 minute recovery)

* For an advanced workout, increase the incline to 15% and your fast interval to 4.0 mph. Walk at a faster speed for 90-120 seconds and recover for 60 seconds (negative rest period).

Note: to maximize the workout, try to keep your hands off the handle bar. By keeping your arms pumping by your sides and standing tall, you will increase your breathing and maximize core activation.

Do You Know What’s in Your Greek Yogurt?

Greek YogurtYour healthy treat may contain some hidden calories! When I first started eating Greek yogurt, I hated the plain flavor…mainly because it didn’t have any flavor! I always tell people it’s an acquired taste.

Greek yogurt has become quite popular due to its high protein content. However, some Greek yogurt is packed with sugar. All yogurt contains sugar naturally, so purchase the plain flavor to avoid the added sugar in the fruit flavoring. You’ll also save on carbohydrates.

What if the plain flavor tastes too sour? Consider slicing up fresh fruit, sweeten with stevia or add sliced nuts on top to improve the taste. By adding fresh fruit instead of buying fruit flavored yogurts, you’ll add more fiber to your snack.

Which brand is the creamiest? According to the Huffington post, Fage Total 2% and Fage Total 0% are the favorites!

Use Greek yogurt for cooking or baking substitutions!
2/3 cup yogurt + 1/4 buttermilk for 1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup butter for 1 cup butter

3/4 cup yogurt for 1 cup oil

1 cup yogurt for 1 cup sour cream

1 cup yogurt for 1 cup mayonnaise

1 cup yogurt for 1 cup cream cheese

Bite-size Frittatas

Breakfast or Snack On-The-Go!

This month, we’re sharing a recipe for delicious mini frittatas. They’re versatile enough to eat for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and of course they’re great for snacking, right out of the fridge.

Happy cooking!
Frittatas
6 eggs
6 egg whites
1 bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup spinach, chopped
4 sausage links, chopped
3 pinches of sun-dried tomato
Mozzarella cheese (optional)

Place whipped eggs in a bowl and chop up veggies, sausage, and sun-dried tomato. Grease your muffin tin then pinch a small amount of spinach, sun-dried tomato, onion, sausage link, cheese and pepper into each tin. Pour in eggs until each muffin tin is 2/3 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Makes 12 muffins.

Nutrition Facts for 1 muffin (including cheese): 4.8 grams of fat, 6.1 grams of protein, 1 carbohydrate.

**You can also use an 8×8 pan. Place all ingredients together, grease pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Cut into 9 squares.