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Have a very veggie life

For all our talk about eating more fruits and vegetables, Americans are still eating a dismal percentage of their diets from the produce aisle. In fact, even though we’re told to get nine servings of fruit and vegetables daily to meet the minimum RDA, most of us have a hard time getting in five. Nine servings translates to roughly two cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables.

There are some great online resources that give ideas for getting more vegetables into our diets, including visuals like this that show what a day in the life of nine servings actually looks like (photo courtesy of Huh! Not so bad when we look at it this way!

The Centers for Disease Control even offer a fruit and vegetable calculator that will help you figure out what your recommended daily allowance is, since it’s different based on age, gender and activity level.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never found it very hard to get my two cups of fruit in daily. I love fruit, and what’s not to love?!? It’s sweet and colorful. I love fruit in salads, in smoothies and just plain. But what about vegetables?

Many of us grew up with a “meat-centric” approach to meal planning. That is, you started with the meat course, then moved on to rice or potatoes, then plugged in a vegetable, almost as a culinary afterthought. But what if we turned that idea on its head and started with the vegetable(s)? That’s not to say that protein isn’t important, or that you have to go vegan to be healthy. Absolutely not! There are plenty of unhealthy vegetarian and even vegan foods, so there’s no moral high ground there as far as I can tell. (Potato chips are vegan, after all.) But what if we started our planning with the vegetables first?

My favorite new cookbooks are all about ‘dem veggies!

unnamed-10 Plenty and Plenty More are filled with recipes that elevate vegetables to an entirely new level. Not only are the recipes fabulous, but also the book is visually stunning. A beautiful photo accompanies each recipe, and the recipes are “meaty” enough to be considered main dishes.

So I issue a challenge: let’s start approaching our plates in an entirely new way for 2015. Let’s start building our meals around vegetables rather than assigning them “also ran” status.

Cookbooks are a great source of information and ideas, but I also love the spontaneity and inspiration I get from my weekly fresh produce delivery. I recently signed up for front door delivery by a local, organic farm, and it’s turned out to be a wealth of riches in the healthy eating department. Last week I was pleasantly surprised with beets so I turned them into a delicious salad (“Roasted Beet Ribbons with Goat Cheese and Pecans”) with my spiralizer.

In my post-weight loss life, my meal planning now looks like this: vegetables first, then lean protein, followed by healthy fat. If I’m still hungry I’ll opt for a fruit. Last priority is grain or starchy vegetables. It’s a system that works pretty well for me, even when I’m on the run or at a restaurant.

What strategies have you tried recently to up your veggie intake? Green smoothies? Baked kale chips instead of potato chips? There are no wrong answers, so let me know what you’ve had success with so we can pass on the veggie love!


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