So many of us have already heard that we should add more vegetables to our diets. “Eat your vegetables” has been the health promotion plea of parents and healthcare providers for at least a century (and possibly longer). Most of us have had classes in school about eating healthy and anyone with a TV or newspaper subscription has, at some point, encountered stories about how everyone should eat more veggies! However, just knowing that vegetables are good for us doesn’t help us eat them. We must incorporate them into a nutritional habit.
Adopt: Why You Should Add 1 Vegetable to Your Diet Each Day
First, you need to know that vegetables are from plants and include leaves (e.g. lettuce), stems (e.g. celery), roots (e.g. carrots), and tubers (e.g. potatoes). Some people include fungi (e.g. mushrooms) into the category, but fungi are not plants and are the topic of an entirely different discussion.
Increasing your consumption of vegetables may help you reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and digestion problems (Liu, 2013; Slavin & Lloyd, 2012). These health benefits do not seem to happen when supplements or highly processed products are consumed instead of eating whole vegetables. You can’t just take some pills or powders to get healthier. You need whole, fresh vegetables.
When consumed as a whole food, most edible vegetables have a variety of nutrients and beneficial chemicals that are necessary for optimal health (Liu, 2013; Slavin & Lloyd, 2012). Some have more health benefits than others, and there are often lists of the “most nutritious vegetables” that seem to get published every week. However, memorizing such lists isn’t necessary to get started on improving your health by eating more vegetables. Since most vegetables have some benefits, eating a variety of vegetables will ensure that you are getting some of what you need for better health.
If you are a highly visual person who loves scientific research and data, I highly recommend visiting NutritionFacts.org where you will find tons of information about how adding vegetables (and fruit) to your diet can help you live longer, feel better, and reduce disease (NutritionFacts.org, 2017). (Many thanks to Dr. Gregor and his team!)
Adapt: Add Vegetables that Work for You
If you absolutely hate one vegetable or another, the don’t eat it. Find somethings else to add to your diet instead.
I highly recommend doing a taste test. You may say, “I hate lettuce”, but you may have only tried low quality iceberg lettuce. By testing a variety of different kinds of lettuce, you may find that you absolutely love butter lettuce or red leaf lettuce, which both taste far better than iceberg lettuce. Try visiting grocery stores and farmers’ markets that offer tastings and samples or buy a variety to take home. You can even grow a variety of different vegetables in your window or in your backyard.
Attach: Include Vegetables with a Meal You Already Eat Regularly
If you usually don’t eat dinner (and some people don’t), then don’t make a commitment to having a vegetable for dinner. Instead, add a vegetable to lunch or breakfast or even a snack. If you eat out, get a vegetable soup, salad, or side dish (just try to avoid the deep-fried stuff or anything covered with cream or lard). If you eat at home, keep a bunch of fresh and/or frozen vegetables on hand, chopped up, and read to eat for a quick grab-and-add to your usual meals.
Remember: Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
Liu, R. H. (2013). Health-promoting components of fruits and vegetables in the diet. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal, 4(3), 384S–392S. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.003517
NutritionFacts.org. (2017). NutritionFacts.org. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.nutritionfacts.org/
Slavin, J. L., & Lloyd, B. (2012). Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Advances in Nutrition, 3(4), 506–516. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.002154