If you’re a human being, chances are you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle that minimises the chance you become ill, so you can live a full, healthy life. But adding kids, work and all the life admin into the mix makes things that much more complicated. And while it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you need to add more vegetables to your diet (it offsets inflammation in the body and keeps everything working in tip-top condition), saying and doing are two very different things.
Having said that, we’ve come up with a few ways to add more vegetables to your diet while keeping in mind how busy everything else is.
Buy pre-cut veggies
This is arguably your best friend when trying to eat healthy on a time-crunch. Grocery stores offer loads in terms of pre-cut and frozen veg that won’t wilt after a few days. Maximise on this, says Chait. “You can buy mixed, sliced vegetables for stir-fries, peeled and chopped butternut and pumpkin, broccoli and cauliflower florets, and mixed chopped salads,” says Chait.
“This saves time and effort but is a bit more costly, so weigh up the pros and cons for you and your lifestyle,” advises Meltzer.
Choose fast-cooking veg
If you’re short on time but long on nutritional needs, try whipping up meals with veg that don’t take long to cook. “Not all vegetables take long to cook. Broccoli and cauliflower pieces steam quickly. Use an electric or stove-top steamer, or simply fill a pot with a small amount of water, place the vegetables inside, cover, and boil for a few minutes until the water has evaporated,” suggests Chait. Brilliant!
Not a fan of steaming? Blanch your veg. “Blanching takes a short amount of time. Blanch kale, spinach and bok choy pieces in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes until bright green. Make quick stir-fries with sliced green and red cabbage, carrots, peas and string beans,” says Chait.
Think ahead of time
Planning will save you loads of time. It’ll stop you from reaching out to a delivery app for a saturated-fat meal and will save you in the long run. “Thinking about this ahead of time makes it easier to plan for more balanced, nutritious meals instead of just throwing something together last minute,” says Meltzer.
Batch cook your meals
There is no need to cook every single day if you’re busy. Preparing large curries, veggie bakes and stews ahead of time will save you when you’re starving and in need of a boost. “Cooked foods will last safely in the fridge for 3-4 days in an airtight container. Or, freeze extra batches into single servings for other meals and defrost the night before in the fridge before using them again. Or if you make a salad as a side for dinner, make enough to add to lunch the next day too,” advises Meltzer.
Turn to veggies for snacks
Efforts to stay healthy quickly wane when you open the snack cupboard or run into the petrol station for a packet of chips. Keep it healthy by prepping fast veg to snack on. “Dip chopped carrots, celery and cucumber into hummus, avocado or other dips for a snack. Other delicious vegetable crudites include string beans, snap peas and baby corn,” says Chait.
Think about adding colour
Each colour in vegetables presents its own set of vitamins and minerals. We know carrots help with eyesight and inflammation but adding pops of red, green or purple can boost your immunity too. “This doesn’t have to be perfect, but taking this into consideration each time you eat is really helpful in adding more opportunities for colourful foods over the day/week,” says Meltzer. For example, if you’re making a sandwich with ham and cheese, try adding tomato, peppers and cucumbers to punch up the nutritional value, says Meltzer.
Try veggie juice
These don’t replace your meals but can be a quick and easy way to add more nutrients to your diet when you’re pressed for time. “Although juices are highly concentrated and contain less fibre than whole foods, they are an alternate way to get vitamins and minerals from vegetables on occasion,” says Chait.
Bulk up carby meals
Feeling for a fast and cheesy pasta? Don’t skimp on adding peas, carrots or spinach to the dish. “Adding more colour not only enhances nutritional value but also increases satisfaction,” says Meltzer. “For example, stirring some fresh baby tomatoes/rocket/baby spinach to a simple pesto pasta, or cooking a pasta/rice bake with some chopped veggies added to it, or trying out a one-tray bake with a protein and ready chopped mixed roast veggies, or trying out a stirfry which has loads of different colours!”
Eating for good gut health doesn’t have to be limited to veggies. Pickled and fermented food goes a long way. “Eat sauerkraut and other pickled vegetables. Although high in sodium, fermented foods contain probiotics which are good for your digestive system,” says Chait.