Eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables is SO important when trying to maintain a healthy diet, achieve blood sugar control and reduce excess weight.
In fact, according the plate method, a simple guide to planning meals, HALF of your plate should be filled with non-starchy veggies because they are low in calories and carbohydrates and high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Examples of non-starchy vegetables include carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini and salad greens to name a few. In contrast, starchy vegetables (which are foods like corn, peas and potatoes) need to be more strictly portion controlled. They should to make up a quarter of your plate and lean proteins, such as chicken and fish, should be the remaining quarter.
Are you having trouble getting yourself to eat enough non-starchy vegetables on a regular basis? Here are some ways to be smart, savvy and creative in serving up veggies by combining them with foods and dishes you already love!
- Toss in shredded carrots with spaghetti or stir canned pumpkin into pasta sauce, or bake a veggie lasagna. You can even blend veggies into your marinara or pizza sauce.
- Blanket veggies like zucchini, broccoli and mushroom into quesadillas or
- scramble them into an omelet.
- Construct a festive burrito or tostada bowl with black beans, brown rice, low fat cheese, avocado, chopped bell peppers and tomato salsa on chopped spinach or dark green lettuce.
- Bake shredded zucchini and carrot into quick breads and muffins.
- Simmer generous portions of carrots and celery in chicken noodle or rice soup, or try pureed soups such as carrot or broccoli. Make a stew with meat and veggies.
- Top thin crust pizza with plenty of veggies- like mushrooms, onions and peppers.
- Blend Veggies like carrots (even spinach!) into a fruit smoothie.
- Use cauliflower steamed and mashed/pureed as faux mashed potatoes or chopped/grated very fine and cooked as a rice substitute.
- Craving pasta? Use finely shredded zucchini in place of noodles topped with your favorite sauce.
- Add diced veggies like carrots, peppers, mushrooms into your meatloaf, burgers or meatballs (use lean ground turkey to start with to trim the saturated fat).
- For packed lunches, tuck hefty portions of darker green lettuce and tomato into sandwiches or roll them up in a wrap. Serve cut up raw veggies with a dip that encourages munching like hummus or low fat ranch.
- Spruce up your salad by adding leftover cooked veggies atop salad greens to double the veggie power. Sprinkle with nuts or sunflower seeds for crunch and add a lean protein like grilled chicken, fish or low fat cheese to make it a meal.
- Is your family needing to up their intake of veggies too? Be a veggie cheerleader!! (I know, it sounds corny) but showing a positive attitude via modeling (eating veggies yourself at family meals) and explaining the benefits of veggies towards health, in ways kids understand, may help. Take them veggie shopping with you to the store, a farmer’s market or even grow some in your own garden! Read books about veggies/healthy eating to your child and involve them in their activities- like puzzles, play kitchen or actually helping with age appropriate tasks in your kitchen!
- On a budget? Shop for veggies in season as these will likely be on sale and taste the best. Great canned veggies are beets, tomatoes and artichokes (rinsed). Buying fresh frozen veggies is a great way to get them year-round, low cost and they don’t have any added sodium or sugar.
Hopefully these tips will help you get those veggies in your daily diet in ways that you and your family can enjoy!
By: Marie Feldman RD, CDE
Cecelia Health Certified Diabetes Educator