Let’s talk about eating the color of the rainbow (no…not Skittles!). We all know they’re incredibly important, but most of us aren’t eating enough.
Plant foods provide our bodies with a comprehensive array of macronutrients (complex carbohydrates, proteins, fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and thousands of other compounds, collectively known as phytonutrients. Simply put, phytonutrients are active compounds in plants that have been shown to provide benefits to humans when consumed1.
The challenge for most people isn’t believing that plants are an important part of our diet, rather, they struggle with incorporating them daily. Here are five fun and useful ways to get your family to eat more vegetables!
Grow your own. This is probably the most cost-effective and healthiest way of incorporating more vegetables in your life. You can start small with an herb garden and eventually grow in succession planting throughout the summer and fall. If gardening is new to you, pick out two or three of your favorite vegetables and grow them in a pot or container. If you already love gardening, maybe expand your variety of crops and incorporate new vegetables you normally wouldn’t grow or buy. This could be an incredibly rich experience for children to learn where their food comes from and will be much more delicious and nutritious than any store-bought veggie. For an awesome gardening resource check out The Farmers Almanac (www.almanac.com/gardening)!
Join a CSA or go to a farm. If starting a garden isn’t the right choice for you, then benefit from someone else's green thumb! Finding a local organic farm will give you the opportunity to purchase a crop share or simply shop in their market. Through community supported agriculture (CSA) each week you will have the privilege of eating vibrant, just-harvested produce while simultaneously giving back to your local farmer. If you decide to shop in their market, bringing your entire family could be exceptionally fun if they offer pick-your-own produce!
Make it a family challenge. Because who doesn’t love a challenge? Create a chart with each family member's name and earn a point for each vegetable you eat in a day. Offer bonus points for including a variety of vegetables that encompasses each color of the rainbow! Decide what the ultimate prize will be and make it good! For example, maybe the winner won’t have to do dishes for a week? I know that would get me to eat more veggies without question!
Incorporate into a smoothie. Smoothies are a really easy way of getting your greens in without having to cook and eat them separately. Most kids won’t even bat an eye when they drink a smoothie, especially if it’s a fun color like purple or green! The rule of thumb for a healthy smoothie that isn’t packed full of sugar is three greens/veggies to one fruit. For example, you can choose spinach, kale, cucumber, and an apple or beet greens, beets, celery, and an orange.
Bake a sweet treat. Yes, you can incorporate your vegetables into your baking! Vegetables like squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini, and beets are the perfect addition to many baked goods. The goal is to find a recipe that includes other whole-food ingredients like this zucchini bread recipe from Ambitious Kitchen!
Following one, two or all five of these suggestions will help you incorporate more vegetables into your day while also staying healthy. Sounds like a win-win to me!
1 What Is the Special Nutritional Power Found in Fruits and Vegetables?, www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=4.