Eating more vegetables and fruit is one of the most effective, most agreed upon practices associated with better cardiac outcomes, but people continue to struggle with it. I’m not naming names, but let’s just say I’ve seen some painfully dull looking salads at Canadian restaurant chains. Don’t martyr yourself in the name of healthy eating!
Make them taste good
There are lots of ways to boost flavour:
- Hummus (dip for raw carrots or spread for veggie wraps)
- Vinaigrette or other dressing (on salad or cooked vegetables)
- Soy sauce (choose reduced-sodium variety, use sparingly)
- Garlic, ginger (cook in them)
- Chopped nuts or seeds
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Small amounts of flavourful cheese
And don’t overcook them! Asparagus boiled to within an inch of its life might have been popular in the 1950’s, when many people learned to hate vegetables, but if you try boiling (or better yet, roasting) until it is just barely tender but still crisp and bright green, it’s an altogether different experience.
Another idea: Roast or grill them to bring out the natural sweetness. Think cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, bell peppers, and so much more:
- Toss in a little oil
- Add a bit of salt and pepper if desired. Or get fancier if you like
- Don’t crowd them
- Do big batches, and use the extras for snacks or for boosting the veggie content of meals
- Flip after about 10 minutes, then watch so they don’t burn.And
Don’t settle for boring salads!
- Try different greens
- Get outside the lettuce + vegetables box – Try beans, chickpeas, cooked grains, fruit, cheese, nuts, seeds, meat, fish, chicken… what would satisfy?
- Don’t be afraid to use regular (vs low-fat) dressing: 1/3 cup oil + 2 tbsp acid (lemon juice or vinegar) + flavours you like (chopped garlic, herbs, dry mustard)
And if piles of vegetables aren’t for you, slip them into food you already enjoy: pasta, pizza, eggs, burritos, and more.
Swap out some starch
Some people ban carbohydrate-rich foods and substitute these instead. I prefer to think of them as creative ways to boost your vegetable intake, and depending on the dish, I’ll even mix them with pasta, rice, or potatoes. You might quite like them!
- Spiralized zucchini or other vegetable noodles – pan-fry in a bit of olive oil or butter.
- Mash/puree non-starchy veggies like you would potatoes. Add a little salt or cheese if you like. Especially good with cooked carrots and cauliflower.
- Cauliflower rice. Some love it, some not so much. This is one of my favourite ways to prepare it, creamy, like risotto, with brown rice and parmesan cheese.
- Lettuce wraps. This turkey hoisin & lentil wrap is delicious.
- Spaghetti squash. No one will mistake it for spaghetti, but with a rich tomato sauce and perhaps some pan-fried ground turkey, a delicious meal.
Habits that can help you eat more vegetables
- Pre-wash and cut right away.
- Store at eye level, clear containers.
- Buy large packages.
- Build the veggies into your weekly meal planning.
- Plan 1-2 veggie catchall meals near the end of the week to use up the extras: Stir-fry, pasta, wraps, pizza, salad…
- Pre-washed spinach and other leafy greens
- Frozen veggies – already washed and chopped, and frozen at their peak
- Save time – use food processor to grate (eg. carrots)
- If you shop only once a week, have veggies delivered mid-week.
- Get enough sleep. (When you’re sleep deprived, you crave carbs more than veggies!)
- Eat every few hours, before you’re ravenous and a salad won’t cut it.
What are your favourite ways to inject life into vegetables?
This is an excerpt from The Sweet Spot Guide to Eating Well After a Heart Attack. Click here for a free copy.