(BPT) - With the new year upon us, people are thinking about changing their eating habits for the healthier. For many, that means vowing to eat more vegetables; the majority of Americans say they've been trying to eat more fruits and vegetables over the past year, according to a poll by the International Food Information Council Foundation. And, with good reason; eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can help ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and prevent some types of cancer, according to Harvard School of Public Health.
How many servings of vegetables do we need to eat? The USDA recommends between two to three cups for most adults (more if you exercise more than 30 minutes per day) and between one to two and a half cups for kids. It may seem overwhelming to try to pack that many veggies into everyone's daily meals, but there are actually a lot of fun, easy and delicious ways for the whole family to eat more vegetables.
Let's start with breakfast. Veggies may not be top of mind at this time of day, but it's easy to sneak some into your first meal and get lots of nutrients to kick start your day. If you are a warm breakfast type of person, try adding spinach, peppers and tomatoes to your eggs in the morning, or make it easy and flavorful by adding salsa into a serving of scrambled eggs or on top of an omelet. If you're a breakfast on the go type, throw some kale, spinach, celery or cucumber, along with fruits like berries and bananas, into a smoothie and take it with you.
For snacks, cut carrots and celery into sticks ahead of time and store them in the fridge for easy munching. Then, when you get hungry pour a few tablespoons of a delicious ranch dressing, like OPA by Litehouse Greek-style yogurt dressing, which is light on the calories and fat, has zero sugar, and is gluten-free, into a small bowl and dip the carrot and celery sticks, or even tomatoes on toothpicks. You can also try baking kale or sliced beets mixed with olive oil and spices on cooking sheets until they are crispy for a tasty and healthy take on traditional chips.
For lunch or dinner, beat the cold by pureeing butternut squash, cauliflower or broccoli for a warm soup. Or, make a mason jar salad that tastes as good as it looks, with this recipe:
Mason Jar Salad
Layer each ingredient in a mason jar in this order:
Bottom layer: 2 tablespoons OPA by Litehouse Greek-style yogurt dressing in Feta Dill
Layer 2: Mix of any of the following - beans, diced cucumber, shredded carrots, diced bell peppers, sliced radishes, edemame, chickpeas, green beans
Layer 3: Mix of any of the following - diced tomatoes, diced red onion, corn, peas, sliced mushrooms, diced broccoli, quinoa, walnuts
Layer 4: Greens such as spinach, mixed greens, kale, arugula
* Always make sure the dressing is on the bottom and the greens are on top, so they stay fresh and crisp
* Use a variety of colorful vegetables and make it fun for the kids to help
* Make several for the week and label the top. Everyone can grab their own for lunch on the go.
For more salad ideas, visit www.litehousefoods.com.
With a little preparation and experimentation, it's easy to find delicious ways to incorporate more vegetables into your family's diet every day.