Summer is the best time to eat vegetables. Everything is fresh, tastes better and is easier to find in the grocery store or at the local farmer’s market. The majority of Americans eat less than the recommended amount of vegetables and consume exceedingly high levels of sodium daily. Not only are vegetables better for your health, but enjoying vegetables in the summer months can be fun too! Try adding vegetables to your casserole, putting them on the grill or even starting a garden of your own! Here are ten ways to eat more vegetables this summer.
1. Start a Garden
Vegetables taste different straight out of the garden, and that’s a fact. Did you know that most fresh produce in the grocery store was harvested weeks, or even months earlier? Because of how global the food economy is, much of the produce we buy at the supermarket are picked prematurely and distributed to stores thousands of miles from where it was grown. The average apple, for example, is 14 months old by the time it reaches a grocery store shelf.
So start a garden. Even if you can only keep a couple of tomato plants on your apartment patio, or a bit of basil on your kitchen counter. Eating fresh vegetables turns cooking into an experience you may actually enjoy since you get to savor the food you grew yourself.
2. Experiment with Salads
We get it, salads aren’t always the most thrilling food in the world. But there are so many ways to make salads not only packed with nutritious goodness but delicious too! The key to the perfect salad is to add a lot of healthy toppings, including a variety of textures and colors. If you want your salad to be your main meal, be sure to add extra protein, either in the form of chickpeas or another legume or meat, such as chicken. If you’re tired of romaine, experiment with other leafy greens, including kale and arugula.
3. Turn on the Grill
Some vegetables, like broccoli and zucchini, are especially flavorful when cooked on the grill. Grilling is also an easy way to cook a lot of vegetables with little effort since you can simply season them with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and then take them out when they are charred to your taste!
4. Make Veggie Snacks
One of the easiest ways to incorporate more veggies into your diet is to switch out your snacks! With a couple of good sauces or dips on hand, such as hummus or peanut butter, raw veggies become tasty treats. Root vegetables, like sweet potatoes or jicama, can also be made into a crunchy, healthy alternative to potato chips. Even kale can be roasted for a bit of a crunch! You may be surprised how filling veggie snacks can be, without all the unnecessary calories.
5. Join a CSA
CSA stands for community-supported agriculture, and joining one is a great way to not only eat more seasonal vegetables but support local farmers too! CSA shares can be weekly or monthly and can include an assortment of fresh veggies or allow you to pick exactly what you want. If you are feeling adventurous, consider signing up for a CSA that comes with pre-packaged produce, that way you can try some new vegetables, like kohlrabi, that you may have avoided previously in the grocery store.
6. Bake a Casserole
If you’re food prepping for a family, cooking fresh vegetables can seem too time-intensive for your busy schedule. Baking a casserole is a great way to save time and still eat your veggies. Make a vegetable lasagna, or broccoli and rice casserole or even add some kale to your favorite mac and cheese. Not only will the casserole last for multiple meals, but it’s a great way to sneak in some extra vegetables for picky kiddos!
7. Make a Smoothie
Smoothies are quick, healthy meal alternatives for a busy morning or a hectic afternoon. Add some spinach to your protein powder after a workout, or add some celery and cucumber to your morning juice before heading to the office. The best thing about smoothies is that with a bit of lemon, honey or cinnamon you can make a super healthy meal without too much sugar. Spinach is especially tasty when paired with mango or pineapple, and carrots go great with lemons.
8. Eat Less Meat
Switching out traditionally meat-focused meals for some lighter alternatives is a simple way to cook with vegetables, while still making your favorite comfort foods. Instead of a cheeseburger, try making a veggie burger using quinoa and lentils, or make a vegan meatloaf with chickpeas. They may not taste exactly like the original recipe, but they are a fun way to try new flavors while still incorporating food types you are most familiar with.
9. Make Veggie Noodles
Veggie noodles, like zoodles made with zucchini, can make your pasta dish even more delicious. Almost any vegetable can be spiralized, including sweet potatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots – you name it! Veggie noodles are quick to prepare, and some, like cucumber, can be served raw. Simply sautee your veggie noodles until cooked and add traditional pasta sauces and other toppings. Your favorite pasta dish is now loaded with vegetables, and it’s delicious.
10. Eat Seasonally
With the nearly constant availability of nearly every type of vegetable imaginable, most of us forget that food is seasonal. Vegetables are grown and harvested in the summer, some in the early months of May, like sweet peas, and some in the early fall, like butternut squash. Each season has it’s own flavor, but we often forget what that means. Eating seasonally can encourage you to eat more vegetables by trying out new local varieties, and incorporating fresh veggies, like sweet corn, into every meal you can before the summer ends. Most veggies and prepared meals are also eligible for the freezer so that you can enjoy snap peas and zucchini noodles in the middle of winter, too.