How To Add More Vegetables To Your Diet

Eric Bakker N.D.July 8, 2022

If you really eat 6 or 7 servings a day along with some animal, vegetable, and grain, nut or seed proteins you will desire little else and your digestion will function very well. And you'll feel ridiculously healthy.

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Eric Bakker Naturopath » Recipes » How To Add More Vegetables To Your Diet

How Can You Eat MORE Vegetables?

It is a fact that most people I used to see in my clinic just didn’t eat the recommended daily amount of vegetable and fruit servings. If you really eat 6 or 7 servings a day along with some animal, vegetable, and grain, nut or seed proteins you will desire little else and your digestion will function very well. You will feel full and satisfied most of the time, your appetite and weight will be controlled as well. And, you’ll probably healthy, “ridiculously” healthy by today’s standards.

But how do you achieve eating so much fruit and vegetable matter? It’s not as difficult as it seems, all you need to do is increase your portion size of vegetables on your plate (eat less meat and more vegetables), snack on carrots, cucumber, bell peppers, apples, kiwi fruit, celery, etc. Let’s take a look at a few different ways you can incorporate more vegetables and fruits into your diet.

Eating More Vegetables (And Fruits) In 4 Simple Steps

I have helped many patients over the years overcome their issues of eating more vegetables and fruits and have some tips that I think might help you. Try and get away from the idea of just eating meat and three vegetables on your plate and do experiment with your vegetable intake. You may like to begin by eating a combination of cooked and semi-cooked or raw vegetables. This is why I like Asian ways of eating, especially wok cooking. This way of cooking involves high temperatures for only a very short period of time, and the vegetables are eaten partially in their raw state. Very tasty and very healthy, is it any wonder so many people love Asian food?


Step 1 – Mind over Matter

First it is a good idea to tell yourself all the reasons why you should eat fruit and vegetables in increasing amounts in your diet, there are too many reasons why you should eat more of these health foods and less of the processed and refined foods, this will help you stay motivated and make you think twice about buying that bar of chocolate or packet of your favourite snack food like chips, whatever this treat may be.

Watch how your digestion and bowel health will improve over time, you’ll certainly notice this. Tell yourself you will be more than halving your risk of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Visualise how great you will look and feel, especially as you get older.


Step 2 – Plan Ahead!

Write a list of all the fruits and vegetables that you enjoy eating and like the taste of and would be able to eat on a regular basis. If you put a bit of thought into this, you’ll be surprised to find the list longer than you thought. This will help you realise that you’ve many options to pick & choose from, and not just “boring rabbit food” like lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes.


Step 3 – Experiment With Different Vegetables

Go to your fresh produce store or Farmer’s Market and buy your favourite vegetables & fruit. Start by adding one new vegetable each week, after a month you will have added four vegetables you wouldn’t normally have eaten, like spinach, broccoli, etc. Try and aim for seven to nine different vegetables that you will eat on a regular daily basis. Include two or three leafy green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, bok choy, lettuce, etc.) Two or three colourful vegetables (bell pepper, egg plant, zucchini, asparagus, corn, etc.) and two or three starchy or root vegetables (sweet potato, pumpkin, potato, parsnip, onions, squash, etc.).

Sometimes I would limit the amount of starchy vegetables (and sweet fruits) initially for the first few weeks if a patient had a significant digestive problem, like SIBO or Candida. These foods would be then almost always be added back into the diet as the person’s digestion improved.


Step 4 – Making Eating Vegetables A Daily Habit

Understand that what you do for a period of several weeks can become a habit. If you begin to incorporate more vegetables into your diet on a daily basis for several weeks, then (like me) you’ll most likely find that vegetables become a large part of what you normally consume at mealtimes. When you eat out be sure to order a meal rich in vegetables, like a Thai dish or a Japanese meal. It’s not hard to do and once a habit is formed it will become part of your normal daily routine.


Many Ways To Add Vegetables To Your Meals

There are many ways that you can increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits, depending on how you like to prepare your foods. You can eat vegetables and fruits raw, steamed, boiled, stewed, baked, or stir-fried or deep-fried. When you eat vegetables and fruits in their raw state, you are ensuring that your digestive system has access to the valuable nutrients contained within.

Eating vegetables and fruits in a semi-raw state is good too, and in many cases it will be a more pleasant experience. Stir-frying is personally my favourite method of cooking vegetables, but so is a partial steaming of vegetables. Remember, the more and prolonged heat you apply, the more chance you will be destroying those all-important enzymes. Casseroles, soups and stews are a favourite method for many people, particularly in the colder months. These methods are good, and even though you reduce the enzyme content, you lock in many minerals that would be otherwise discarded by cooking methods such as boiling or steaming.

Why not make up your own kebabs or hamburgers at home? Choose a thin piece of flat bread and add a substantial topping of your choice, begin with a meat, bean, tempeh (fermented tofu) or whatever high protein choice you like.

Then, simply add shredded lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber, grated carrot, finely sliced olive, etc. The choice is yours and if you use the freshest of ingredients it will taste just great.  Try substituting meat for beans when you make a burger, you will be eating more fiber and the taste is great.

A Few Ways To Boost Vegetable Intake

  • Why not make your own vegetable sauces? Just cut up bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and zucchini, sauté’ in olive oil, add plenty of freshly chopped garlic.
  • Add vegetables to meat dishes to add plenty of texture, fiber and flavours. Shredded vegetables like carrot and zucchini, a simple process when you use a large hand grater or food processor. Shredded vegetables are so easy to hide in many different meat dishes such as lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs.
  • Have you tried to marinate squash or eggplant in olive oil, salt and garlic and then bake or grill these delicious vegetables?
  • Vegetables are easy to add to many different kinds of dips as well, and you can do this simply and cheaply with a good food processor. Try blending up beans, onions and garlic with a little sour cream and add some fresh herbs like basil and serve with veggie chips, pita bread or just dip raw veggies in the dip and enjoy.
  • Vegetables make great side dishes; try blanched fresh green beans or asparagus for example. One of my favourites is a combination of red, green, yellow and orange bell peppers along with Portobello mushrooms, zucchini and red onions sautéed in olive oil, soy sauce (or chilli sauce), and plenty of fresh garlic. Add some freshly ground salt and pepper and enjoy this side with any number of dishes you prepare.
  • Roasted bell peppers taste amazing. Just split a bell pepper into four, clean out the seeds and brush liberally or spray with olive oil and then grill until the skins just start to blister. You can also roast zucchini this way, but remember – don’t roast for too long or you will kill off a lot of the goodness these vegetables have to offer.

Casseroles, Stews & Soups

One of the best ways to cook vegetables is by way of a crock-pot or slow cooker, and this is one of the easiest and laziest ways to prepare soups, stews and casseroles. You can make a delicious soup with just about any vegetables and legumes and some of the best things to throw into the soup or stew pot are carrots, onions, be sure to use red or purple ones.

You will find that the more coloured the fruits and veggies are the more likely they are to contain higher levels of anti-oxidants. Other good choices are celery, yams or sweet potatoes, chopped spinach or other greens like broccoli, chopped cabbage, and whatever else you like.

This gives you the opportunity to throw into the pot any foods you would not necessarily cook by using other methods such as steaming or stir frying because the produce is a little older or sad looking. OK, so it might be down on nutritional value a little like this, but why waste money and toss out all that good food? The minerals are most always maintained as your produce ages, but the vitamin content goes down rather quickly so it is always best whenever possible to consume your fruits and vegetables as soon as you buy them. Better still, you could have a vegetable garden like I have and grow your own.


Add Beans To Vegetable Meals

Did you know that beans are packed full of protein, are full of healthy dietary fiber, low in fat, and are a very healthy way to add protein and fiber to your daily meals? I have long been a fan of beans cooked in Mexican dishes and lentils cooked in Indian dishes. Have you ever tried cooking beans or lentils in a slow cooker with onions and tomatoes, adding some spices and garlic? Have you ever tried to make your own baked bean dishes? They taste so much better than the canned variety and you save plenty of money too. Some practitioners who treat patients like I do with yeast infections have told me that it is best to recommend the avoidance of beans like starchy carbohydrate vegetables for the first few weeks from the diet. I find that if they are introduced too rapidly into the diet that they can be the cause of a tremendous amount of gas and bloating, so go slow at first. In my experience, hold off with beans and lentils for a few weeks, or just go really easy. Here are some good tips on beans in your diet:

  • Avoid beans and lentils for the 2 – 3 weeks, especially if you have bloating.
  • Introduce as soon as your digestion begins to improve.
  • Go real easy to begin with, start with ¼ cup a day and work up slowly.
  • If you do develop gas and bloating, reduce the amount & take a probiotic.
  • Soak beans and slow cook seems to reduce the amount of aggravation.
  • Chew your foods very well, this will greatly aid in digestion, slow down!
  • At first, try to avoid mixing your bean or lentil dishes with too many starchy vegetables, especially if your digestive system is sensitive.

Hummus, Guacamole And Salsa With Vegetables

Have you made hummus yet? This is a simple bean dip made from garbanzo beans (chickpeas) and is delicious when served with strips of carrot and celery, broccoli and cauliflower.  Guacamole and salsa are also easy to make and taste delicious as well. These dishes are minimally processed and are eaten in conjunction with fresh vegetables. Guacamole is made with avocado, but you can also make it with a base of red onions, coriander (cilantro), lime and tomatoes.

Adding vegetables to meat fajitas is so easy and tasty, and for the vegetarians you can make vegetarian bean fajitas. Vegetables are also great in quesadillas, especially spinach and burritos. Have you tried Mexican foods? Burritos are great; you simply roll up flat corn bread which contains either a meat or bean filling which is topped with freshly cut tomato, lettuce, onion, grated carrot, zucchini, red bell peppers, mushrooms or even lightly steamed sweet potatoes. It is easy to make a Mexican salad that is topped with guacamole and some salsa. Add a few sliced olives, sun dried tomatoes and sliced avocado and what a feast.


Pita Bread With Vegetables

Pita breads are fantastic, and it is so easy to create an excellent snack or meal with these breads. Be sure to lightly toast or grill your pita bread just before you use it, this is the trick. You can stuff a pita bread with anyone of a hundred different fillings such as shredded lettuce, tomato and carrot or what about lightly sautéing some vegetables, sweet potato and beans. Add a splash of Italian dressing (do read labels, watch the sugar content) and top with a tiny bit of grated Parmesan cheese and you have a winner.


Grilled Vegetables

The trick to tasty and tender vegetables that have been grilled is a good marinade. Just like meat, if you marinate vegetables beforehand they will be more tender and tasty. I just use olive oil, finely cut fresh garlic, a little lemon (or lime) juice and salt & pepper. You can also add teriyaki, Worcestershire or a few drops of Tabasco sauce. My personal favourite is lightly grilled Portobello mushrooms, and these taste just like meat! Be sure to marinate overnight in the olive oil/garlic and lemon juice mix. Have you ever tried grilled avocado or grilled fresh asparagus? You will love it. Try marinating the shrooms overnight with olive oil and freshly chopped garlic and presto, your mushrooms will have been transformed into amazing food!


Steamed Vegetables

Vegetables are delicious when steamed, but the trick is to not overcook, but rather undercook. Always turn the heat off before they are steamed, take off the heat and by the time you serve up they will have sat an extra minute or two which is enough to have them still crunchy. If your fork passes very easily through steamed vegetables then they are overcooked, simple as that. Partially steam leeks and red onions before adding them to some fresh fish fillets which you grill, and you have a very tasty dish.

My favourite vegetables steamed when picked straight from my vegetable garden would have to be broccoli or fresh string beans but any vegetable lightly steamed with some butter added is simply delicious. A meal for me would be one steamed head of freshly picked broccoli, and a portion of fresh white fish fillet grilled or steamed.


Marinating Vegetables With Meat

Try marinating vegetables and meats with some olive oil, garlic, sea salt and a generous amount of fresh oregano, thyme or rosemary. These herbs in particular are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and can help considerably in reducing the yeast population in your digestive tract. The best herb is oregano in my opinion, just grab a handful of fresh oregano, be sure to harvest the fresh herb in the middle of the day, preferably when the sun is at it’s meridian at noon as this will ensure a good level of the essential oils are present.

Place the oregano in a mortal and pestle and crush well, failing this you can tear the herb with your fingers until it is well bruised and you can really smell those oils. Now, place the crushed oregano in a jar and add enough extra virgin olive oil to cover. Add several fresh cloves of freshly minced garlic to the jar, place the lid on and shake well. Leave this mixture in a dark cupboard for a few days until you can taste the oregano oil in the olive oil, only then is it ready to use. Now you can marinate your chicken pieces, pork or beef overnight in this oregano and garlic infused oil. Both delicious and anti-fungal, the best of both worlds.


Vegetable Curries

Have you ever tried a vegetable korma? It is a vegetable curry, just buy some korma sauce, make sure there is no sugar in this product, or make your own and add a few cups of diced vegetables, leave to cook with the lid on until the vegetables are just tender and serve with some steamed brown rice or cooked quinoa. You can make up a vegetable fried rice or a vegetable chow mein as well.


Potatoes, Yams And Sweet Potatoes

The humble potato is such a versatile vegetable.  Potatoes contain lots of fiber and vitamin C, they are healthy and there is so much you can do with them. They taste great when mashed, baked, roasted and are great when served cold in potato salads. They also taste good when boiled and served with a leafy green vegetable, or served with herbs, butter and olive oil.

Sweet potatoes and yams contain large amounts of potassium and are a good alkalizing vegetable. They are a better choice for those with gut problems over other starchy vegetables. These root vegetables are delicious when roasted with other vegetables and are great in soups, stir fry dishes, curries and casseroles.


Asian Stir-Fry Dishes

Have you ever tried to make Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese or other Asian style dishes at home? These are my personal favourites because Asian style cooking incorporates some of the best techniques that ensure you eat your vegetables in the freshest yet tastiest of ways. I highly recommend that you take a good look online and view some recipe websites to get good ideas Be sure to visit either your local library or bookstore and get a good cookbook on Thai and Chinese style cooking.

There are countless Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese dishes that include so many partially cooked all vegetables in combination with different meats that are often marinated. Trust me, the real key to succulent, juicy and tender meat is to marinate!

Stir-frying considered one of the healthiest of cooking methods because vegetables are cooked literally without water, I add a few teaspoons to help steam the vegetables a little and use a small amount of oil and only a few minutes on high heat. Vegetables and meats should be sliced thin in order to heat and cook them fast. Because it’s fast, stir-frying sears the outside of what’s being cooked, locking nutrients inside.

Stir-fry dishes are just so easy to make, and the steel wok is cleaned in less than a minute. Just start with a little olive oil, some garlic, onion and fresh ginger and then add some meat of choice. Good stir-fry vegetables include broccoli, carrots, bok choy, onions, red bell peppers, baby corn, asparagus, green beans, onions, and snow pea pods. Serve with steamed jasmine rice or brown rice. Please use fresh vegetables, and avoid the temptation of using frozen stuff, it only takes a few minutes to cut up and prepare fresh vegetables.


 

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