You're Not Eating Enough Veggies
This week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report which highlights, yet again, the abysmal state of fruit and vegetable intake among US adults.
Based on 2019 data from a national nutrition monitoring database, called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (which, in case you're wondering, asks a random sample of adults the number of times per day, week, or month they consumed whole fruit, 100% fruit juice, salads, fried potatoes, other potatoes, and other vegetables during the past 30 days), the latest CDC report revealed that just 12.3% of adults aged 18 and older met recommendations for fruit and only 10.0% of surveyed adults met recommendations for vegetables.
Meeting vegetable intake recommendations was highest among adults aged ≥51 years (12.5%) and lowest among adults with low income (6.8%).
Why Eat More Veggies?
Why do we care about these numbers? Meeting recommendations for fruit and vegetable intake is associated with a long list of health benefits, including reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, inflammation, development of diabetes, and weight gain. It's associated with an increased likelihood of weight maintenance and weight loss.
Given the pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation, and job loss faced over the last two years I suspect that these numbers have not improved. Especially among those who are most at risk.
When do YOU eat Vegetables?
When I read this report I took a moment to reflect on my own vegetable consumption habits. For years I studied patterns of eating - like this - and I am very aware of what the recommendations are and how few people actually meet them. I swore that when my own kids were born we would set them up to have a healthier relationship with food (in the hopes that they would be more likely to meet these recommendations).
But when I really thought about it, I realized that I rarely eat vegetables outside of dinner. If I take the time to actually make myself lunch, veggies will sometimes make their way in there too, but it's not a guarantee. And they are all but absent from breakfast.
So, finding ways to add vegetables at each meal is one easy way you can boost your intake without need to think about it too much. Although it felt out of reach, I actually found 6 easy ways that vegetables can be added to my breakfast routine. While I've already used some, I'm excited to try the others.
6 Ways to Add Vegetables ... at Breakfast
1. Add them to Eggs: Eggs make an endlessly versatile palette for adding vegetables. Top scrambled eggs with raw sliced veggies (my favorite are snow peas, cucumbers, and radishes), or add roasted or sautéed vegetables to omelets, frittatas, or a baked strata.
2. Blend into a Smoothie: if you're the type to think "I don't like the idea of vegetables at breakfast" smoothies might be the perfect way for you to start experimenting because they can hide the vegetable taste. adding greens, celery, or cucumbers to your fruit laden smoothie can mask those earthy undertones. Or, you could go full veg (think a green smoothie packed with leafy greens, cucumber, avocado, wheat grass, and matcha) and just embrace the taste :)
3. Add to Pancakes: For the same reason you love pumpkin muffins, you can enjoy veggies addd to your pancakes. Adding roasted squash, carrots, or even beets (yes, beets!) to pancakes not only bumps up their nutritional content, but also add a complex flavor that is unlikely to disappoint.
4. Make a Bowl: Instead of trying to make vegetables fit into your traditional breakfast foods, just eat dinner for breakfast. Combine cooked grains with sautéed or roasted vegetables, toss in a protein, drizzle with your favorite umami topping and Voila. Breakfast.
5. Wrap it in a Burrito: Like with eggs or breakfast bowls, burritos allow for endless versatility and you can create one that suits every member of your family. In our house, eggs, beans, peppers, corn and tomatoes (or salsa) are a wining combination.
6. Turn Your Yogurt Savory: I was highly skeptical that I would like it, but the savory granola and yogurt bowl popularized (at least for me) by Alison Roman has caused me to turn a corner. Most granola is loaded with sugar (some of it hidden in plain sight), which, while tasty, doesn't always set you up for the best morning. Combining a less sugary version of granola, in a bowl of plain greek yogurt, and topped with cucumbers, a drizzle of olive oil, and topped with finishing salt is a welcome deviation from the usual sugar bomb that yogurt can be.
You Probably Have Better Ideas Than Me
Let's face it: I'm one person. I have three children, a husband who also works full time, and a small business to help keep afloat. I do not have all the answers. Frankly, YOU probably have better ideas for how to increase fruit and vegetable intake than I do. In fact, I'm pretty confident that most of you have more creative ways than I've even considered. So ... please help a mama out!