What’s the most versatile ingredient in the kitchen? OK, trick question. It’s not a single ingredient, it’s an entire food group: vegetables! They can easily be incorporated into most meals, sauces, baked goods and even crunchy snacks.
Whether fresh, frozen, canned or freeze-dried, veggies are a kitchen chameleon that bring out flavors and textures while delivering powerful nutrition. Many studies have shown that eating an abundance of vegetables contributes to overall health of the gut, heart and even brain.
Keeping veggies at the core of what we eat may improve longevity and decrease risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer and metabolic syndrome.
Eat the Rainbow!
Cooking with veggies is a simple hack for getting adequate intake levels of vitamins, nutrients and phytonutrients. Also called phytochemicals, phytonutrients are naturally occurring plant chemicals that can have protective qualities for our health. Each color of the phytochemical rainbow plays a role in supporting different benefits.
Red, Purple & Blue
Blueberries, purple cabbage and blackberries all contain anthocyanin and lycopene pigments which may help improve heart and brain health.
- Add red cabbage to coleslaw or salad
- Make stuffed red peppers for a healthy dose of nutrients
- Puree roasted red peppers for a romesco sauce
- Add beet powder to baked goods for color and nutrition
- Add cherry tomatoes to an omelet
- Make a purple potato soup
Green vegetables contain lutein and chlorophyll pigments which may help support vision and prevent cellular damage.
- Chop and dice fresh cucumbers to mix with plain Greek yogurt and a squeeze of lemon for a Greek tzatziki sauce.
- Spinach about to go bad? Chop and store in ice tray halfway full of water. Pop out frozen cubes to add to smoothies.
- Zucchini bread is always a good way to sneak some vegetables into your kids' diet. Try one with double the amount of zucchini.
- Collard greens can easily be used as a low carb wrap! Make this fiber-boosting Greek Collard Greens Wrap as a part of your meal prep this week.
Orange & Yellow
Orange and yellow produce contain carotenoid pigments which may be beneficial for eyes, skin and immune system health. A healthy dose of Vitamin A is easy to achieve with a serving of this color vegetable.
- Add carrots to your stir-fry for an extra crunch.
- Use spaghetti squash as a delicious alternative to pasta.
- Enjoy corn fritters as a tasty appetizer.
- Try sliced yellow peppers for dipping.
- Top your tacos with black bean and corn salsa.
How Much Should I Eat?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should aim for three to five servings of vegetables a day. A serving of vegetables is 1 cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. That’s about the size of your fist. Begin by incorporating one vegetable with each meal. Here’s an example:
- Breakfast: Sauté 1 cup spinach before adding scrambled eggs to an omelet.
- Lunch: Add tomato, lettuce and/or peppers to your sandwich or wrap.
- Dinner: Make a veggie bowl for dinner with potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts.
There is a world of possibilities when it comes to cooking vegetables at home. From roasting, to sautéing to air-frying the possibilities are un-pea-lievable!