Bored With Salads? 7 Genius Ways To Eat More Vegetables Each Day, From RDs
Love them or hate them, vegetables are an absolute must in every healthy diet. However, if you do struggle with a distaste for veggies, it's undoubtedly more difficult to reach your daily recommended intake or even have an awareness of what that should look like.
Focusing on varying the types of vegetables on your plate can certainly make healthy eating more interesting, and using tactics to sneak veggies into your day will make it that much easier to adequately fuel and nourish your body.
So realistically, how many vegetables should you be eating daily, and what can you do to breeze past that goal? We'll give you a hint: It's not all about salads.
How many servings of vegetables do you need each day?
Instead of focusing on a numerical goal when filling up on vegetables, naturopathic doctor and registered dietitian Jaime Schehr, N.D., R.D., recommends thinking about your eating habits in terms of percentages. "I recommend eating 50% vegetables, or at least 50% plant-based foods, of which at least 30% are vegetables," she suggests. "Visually it is a lot easier to think about each meal or snack and estimate how much of it comes from vegetables."
If you are a numbers person, the USDA guidelines recommend you consume between 2 and 4 cups of veggies each day. The exact amount varies by age and gender, and variety is encouraged across several key categories: dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables (plus, loads of examples of what actually constitutes 1 cup based on whether the particular vegetable is fresh, cooked, frozen, chopped, etc.)
Aiming for higher will always be your best bet, but this just goes to show you can't really overdo it on vegetables.
How you can eat more veggies.
There's no denying that eating plenty of vegetables is important for getting fiber and a slew of essential vitamins and minerals, but the question remains: How can you eat more of them? Well, if you like vegetables to begin with, the simplest way to increase your intake is by approaching your meals with more intentionality:
Make half of your plate vegetables.
Looking at your meal in terms of building a plate can help increase the volume of veggies you're consuming, and Schehr suggests aiming to have at least half of your plate made up of vegetables at both lunch and dinner. Whether that's a salad, some air-fried broccoli, carrots, and hummus, or cooked spinach with lemon juice, there are hundreds of ways to build a meal around a staple vegetable.
In fact, swapping pasta for spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles immediately bulks up your plate with bonus health benefits.
Snack on veggies and dip.
Returning to the idea of carrots and hummus, keeping vegetables available to snack on throughout the day will make you more apt to eat them. Remember, accessibility is key when it comes to creating healthy habits. "I cut up a few veggies to eat raw. While I'm making dinner, it's a great time to eat them as I'm cooking," notes Amy Kimberlain, RDN, CDCES, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics media spokesperson. "Not only does it ensure that I'm getting a veggie at dinner, but it's adding in possibly an additional one."
Make a smoothie.
Particularly during the summertime, there's nothing quite like a refreshing smoothie to cool you down and act as a vessel for sneaking more veggies into your daily diet. "Cauliflower rice and leafy greens are the most common vegetables added to smoothies because the taste is milder and they blend nicely," explains Schehr. Green smoothies aren't just trendy—they truly are good for your health so try adding a handful of spinach to your next berry mixture for an added serving of greens with minimal effort.
Try a supplement.
Diversifying your veggie intake is definitely key to a healthy and thriving gut microbiome. If you're looking for an easy way to add variety to your meals, mbg's organic veggies+ is a great option. The formula contains 31 powerhouse ingredients, including organic sea veggies, leafy greens, and root vegetables. Just 1 tablespoon serves up a good source of fiber in your day while also delivering prebiotics, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and more.*
Hide them in your breakfast.
We discussed making vegetables half of your plate for lunch and dinner, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve a valuable spot in your breakfast as well. "Omelets are the easiest and most versatile way to eat veggies at breakfast," notes Schehr. "In addition to cooking the vegetables into the omelet, they can also be used as a base on the plate, with the eggs served on top (such as eggs over spinach leaves)."
Not a fan of eggs for breakfast? Savory oatmeal is another great option that will keep you full and satiated while making the perfect home for some extra veggies. Kimberlain recommends sautéing a handful of mushrooms with either arugula or spinach and pairing that with cooked oats and a soft-boiled egg for a boost of protein. Veering off the beaten path will keep your breakfast fresh and interesting. Bonus: Savory breakfasts can help reduce a blood sugar spike.
Prep them beforehand.
Again, we want our vegetables to be as accessible as possible to help increase our intake. With this, prepping your veggies at the beginning of the week so they're readily available to add to any meal will give you the best chance of actually eating them instead of letting the produce rot in your fridge.
"I roast veggies for the week and add them to different dishes," explains Kimberlain. "Whether I'm making a grain bowl or including the veggies in my tacos or pasta, it's just a great way to 'meal prep' a few to use throughout the week." We're not reinventing the wheel here, people—meal prep works!
Experiment with cooking methods.
If you think you don't like veggies, odds are you simply haven't tried the right preparation method yet. Different seasonings and cooking methods can make a major impact on flavor, so try diversifying the way you cook vegetables to see if you can find a taste and texture you love.
"One of the most common reasons I've heard people say they don't eat their veggies is because of the flavor factor," says Kimberlain. "I challenge people—whether it's that they don't know how to cook a veggie and/or aren't sure what to pair it with—to make that the 'veggie to try' for the week." For example, broccoli can be roasted, boiled, air-fried, added to a cheesy soup, or even formed into "tots"—try out a variety of recipes and figure out what's enjoyable for you.
We know vegetables may not seem like the most exciting food to build the majority of your meals around, but with their versatility, nutritional benefits, and the ease with which they fit into dishes, there's no reason not to be meeting your needs each day.
Making small and actionable changes within your routine can help form lasting habits—so try adding a vegetable to each meal, slowly ramping up your intake in a manageable way. In no time you'll be fueling your body with the fiber and antioxidants you need to feel great (and might even find a new recipe you love!).
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.