As the first blossoms appear on fruit trees and tender vegetable sprouts push forth from the earth, it’s time to celebrate the best of fresh spring produce. Yes, you can now move beyond your winter supply of canned and frozen produce to all things fresh and delicious. Say goodbye to wintertime warming meals, such as soups and stews and say hello to crisp, cool, colorful meals, such as salads and light, veggie-centric entrees.
This switch in seasonal eating patterns is not only delicious, it can also invigorate your health, as eating more vegetables has been linked with a plethora of benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. That’s why adults should aim for 2–3 cups per day of these healthy plant foods, according to the USDA. So, spring into a healthy veggie-rich eating style with my top 5 tips.
Top 5 Tips for Springing Up Your Diet with Veggies
1. Shop and Plan Right.
Try to shop for fresh vegetables at least once a week. When you’re doing your meal planning, use the more perishable vegetables first, such as lettuce, greens, herbs, broccoli, green beans, tomatoes, and peas. Use the more sturdy produce later in the week, such as carrots, eggplant, squash, radishes, and potatoes.
2. Start the Day Right with Vegetables.
Did you know that many cultures, such as in Japan and the Mediterranean, enjoy veggies for breakfast? Try sautéing vegetables to serve with black beans and a corn tortilla, slice radishes over toast (as they do in the Netherlands), or enjoy a breakfast sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce.
Nothing says fresh and healthy like a container of fresh, crisp veggies for snack time. For a quick to-go snack, try these Eat Smart fresh vegetables. If you’ve got more time, pack crisp radishes, red, yellow or orange peppers, asparagus spears and cucumbers for starters.
4. Feast on an Awesome Entrée Salad for Lunch.
I love Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kits as a take-away lunch. And, if you want to amp up the salad kits or change the flavor, use the salad kits as a base and mix in your favorite toppings or dressing! Here are my favorite instructions for creating a plant-powered lunch made in heaven:
• Line a plate (or to go container) with deep green leaves, such as kale, chard, spinach, or romaine. Eat Smart Gourmet Vegetable Salad Kits are great for this purpose, too.
• Top with ½ cup canned, drained beans, such as chickpeas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, or black beans.
• Top with 3–4 of your favorite veggie toppings, such as peas, tomato slices, bell pepper slices, and cucumber slices.
• Sprinkle on 1–2 tablespoons of chopped nuts or seeds for flavor, crunch and health, such as almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or sunflower seeds.
• Add a sweet touch with ¼ cup dried fruit, such as raisins, cranberries, cherries or blueberries.
• Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
• Dig in to this balanced meal of slowly digesting carbs, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that will stick with you all the way until dinner.
For dinner, just go crazy with vegetables! Try grilling (or roasting) vegetables with a touch of olive oil, such as eggplant, squash, or green onions. Create a light, veggie-centric meal, such as ratatouille, pasta with broccoli, Moroccan vegetable tagine, or salad pizza. Serve a cool, veggie-grain salad on the side, such as tabouleh, greens and quinoa salad, or brown rice salad.
Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian,™ is an award-winning food and nutrition expert, journalist, and editor. She is author of The Plant-Powered Diet: The Lifelong Eating Plan for Achieving Health, Beginning Today (The Experiment, 2012) and Plant-Powered for Life: Eat Your Way to Lasting Health with 52 Simple Steps & 125 Delicious Recipes (The Experiment, 2014). Sharon also is editor of Environmental Nutrition, nutrition editor of Today’s Dietitian, blogger for the award-winning The Plant-Powered Blog, and publisher of her monthly The Plant-Powered Newsletter. Living in the chaparral hills overlooking Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, Sharon enjoys visiting her local farmers market, gardening, and cooking for friends and family.