Welcome to a new series of blogs, Food For Thought, these will be food-focused articles where we look at the food on our plate and how it impacts our health. To kick off this series let’s talk about what should take up about half of our plate, veggies.
When it comes to a balanced meal about ½ of the plate should be non-starchy plants such as fruits, leafy greens, and veggies. This excludes the starchy plant foods like pasta, grains, and potatoes that will make up another ¼ of our plates. This is probably something most people on some level will already know that they “should” be doing, but what gets in the way of doing this consistently is “how” to do this at each meal. Here are four of my favourite ways to increase the veggies on your plate.
- Eat courses at meals.
Courses aren’t limited to fine dining restaurant experiences. Many cultures regularly include a salad or soup course before the main course. Starting a meal with a salad or vegetable soup can be a great way to ensure that you are eating your veggies. If you struggle to visualize what it would look like, picture a Japanese bento box. These often include a small salad, miso soup, protein source, rice, and side dishes like pickled vegetables. If this feels daunting, aim to eat the veggies on your plate first before moving on to the starching veggies or protein.
- Eat the Rainbow
I believe that we eat first with our eyes, if our food is visually appealing we are excited to eat and enjoy the meal. Although plating can make things more visually appealing, so can adding a variety of colours into your meal. We can get stuck in a food rut where we only eat greens, browns, and maybe whites. Yet, there’s a wide variety of purple, red, yellow, orange, pink, tie-dye (candy cane beets), blues, and of course greens. There are also edible flowers, fruits, and citrus to meals to add more texture, brightness, and flavour. Salads can go from boring to colourful, flavourful, and nutritious by adding 2 or 3 other colours to the base of greens.
- Learn how to cook veggies properly
How do you normally cook your veggies? Do you boil them in water and eat them without any added spices, herbs, or fats? This seems to be the case from talking to my clients, friends, and family. Boiling is probably the worst way to eat your veggies! You lose lots of the nutrients (especially the water-soluble vitamins) and it’s easy to overcook them and they have probably the worst texture. I much prefer roasting with oil which can increase the bioavailability of fat-soluble nutrients while retaining the water-soluble vitamins and getting amazing taste and texture. Tomatoes are a great example where the phytonutrient Lipopne increases in bioavailability when roasted in the oven with oil. Steaming is also a great option where you can get a softer texture but retains more of the water-soluble vitamins than boiling since the veggies are not directly cooked in water.
- Play with spices and herbs
Now that we are better at cooking our veggies, maybe it’s now the taste that you might struggle with. This is where you can have fun playing with different spices, herbs, and flavourings. For example, peas, which are one of my freezer staples, are not everyone’s favourite yet they are commonly found in curries where there are a wide variety of spices added. These flavourings can even have their own health benefits like turmeric, ginger, and garlic.
Regarding eating habits, I encourage you to have fun and play with different food cultures, flavour combinations, and cooking techniques. Comment below your favourite vegetable and how you like to cook it.