Did you know that only 4% of Australians are eating their recommended 5 serves of vegetables and 2 serves of fruit each day? National Nutrition Week is aimed at changing that statistic by making vegetable consumption a national priority. The challenge is that while most of us know we should be eating five servings of veg each day, we find it difficult to actually get those veggies on the plate. Lite n’ Easy dietitian Ashleigh Jones shares her top tips for boosting your veg intake.
Don’t get us wrong – we love carbs, and they make fantastic fuel! But cauliflower rice is a good way to sneak some extra veg onto the plate. Instead of replacing all your carbs with cauliflower, try using a blend of 50% cooked rice and 50% cauliflower rice. This will give you a veg boost and drop your calories while still giving you plenty of tummy fill, which is a win for anyone trying to lose weight.
Soup is a fabulous way to use up any leftover veggies that are starting to look a bit sad in the crisper. Simply throw it in a pot with some stock, legumes, a few herbs and maybe a grain like rice or pasta, and you’ve got an easy and nutritious meal that minimizes your food waste. For fussy eaters, try blending the soup – that way they can get used to the flavour of veg without being confronted by the texture.
At Lite n’ Easy, we know that a delicious sauce is all you need to take your meal from basic to “wow”, and it’s also the perfect way to sneak in some extra veg. A can of tomatoes is the perfect base for Napoli pasta sauce and a great addition to almost any casserole. You can add pureed cooked pumpkin or cauliflower to a béchamel sauce, which makes a great cheese sauce alternative for mac n’ cheese. Eggplant can be a tricky one if you’ve not grown up eating it. But, you can introduce it to your diet by steaming it, then pureeing it and mixing it through curry sauce. You won’t believe it, but that’s how we sneak eggplant into our Butter Chicken dinner meal! And what about that spinach or rocket you never got around to eating? Throw it in the food processor with some olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan and plenty of basil and you’ve got a delicious, homemade pesto that boasts a veggie boost.
Did you know that beans and other legumes count towards your 5 a day? They’re also packed with fibre and the perfect fuel for your gut microbes. Legumes taste great on their own, but why not throw a handful of red lentils into your bolognese? Another great option is a Mexican chilli, which is perfect for your tacos or nachos, and tastes fantastic when it’s loaded with red kidney and black beans! These are cheap ingredients that mean you don’t need to buy quite as much meat and help the food budget stretch even further.
If you’re struggling to get enough veggies into your lunch and dinner, why not start at breakfast time? A roasted vegetable frittata is a great way to add veg to your breakfast. Baby spinach tastes great when added to scrambled eggs, and sautéed mushrooms are a great addition to your regular weekend fry-up. And don’t forget good old baked beans – paired with multigrain toast and a slice of cheese or an egg, this is a fibre and protein-packed breakfast that will keep you full for hours! Look out for it on the Lite n’ Easy breakfast menu.
If you’re making meatballs or rissoles at home, try grating some zucchini, carrot and onion and mixing through your raw mix. You could even swap to a vegetarian option and make your meatballs out of kidney beans or chickpeas – that’s good for the waistline and the hip pocket!
Steamed cauliflower on its own is not particularly inspiring. But cauliflower covered with melted cheese and crunchy breadcrumbs? Now we’re talking. You would be surprised by how little cheese you actually need to make it taste great! That way you can serve veg that is worth getting excited about! Other ideas for spicing up your veggies include:
Roast veggies with a sprinkle of dukkah or za’atar
Steamed carrots with a small amount of honey and butter
Steamed green beans with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and slivered almonds
Combine equal parts miso paste, lemon juice and water, toss with broccoli and roast in the oven