If you dream of boundless energy, mental clarity and increased immunity, the first and most important dietary change you need to make is to eat more green vegetables. Go green with my five simple steps…
ONE: Prep ahead.
Set aside some time on a Sunday, or whenever you can spare 10 minutes, to wash, chop and bag all your produce. Then, when you come home exhausted, all you have to do is throw your prepped vegetables and greens into a bowl for a salad, into a sauté pan for a stir-fry, or into a roasting tin for roasted veggies.
Here are some great recipes you can prep ahead – try these when you next get a spare few minutes:
Almond Chia Seed Pudding (keep stored in fridge)
Asparagus Bean Salad with Miso Mayo (keep stored in fridge)
Beetroot Soup (freeze in batches)
Cacao Chia Pudding with Poached Plums (keep stored in fridge – plums are best poached nearer the time)
Cashew Celeriac Soup (freeze in batches)
Green Herb Quinoa Salad with Feta (keep stored in fridge)
Hearty Vegetable and Tomato Sauce (freeze in batches)
Low-Sugar Granola (keep in sealed jar on side)
Sicilian Aubergine (Eggplant) Caponata (freeze in batches)
Vegan Lasagne with Tofu and Zucchini (freeze in batches)
Also, don’t leave the house without throwing a few cut-up mixed veggies – carrots, celery, cucumber and peppers into ziplock bags – to snack on later when hunger strikes. Be adventurous and don’t just chop up the obvious veg – try fennel, cauliflower, courgette, etc, too. You can also pop some dip or hummus into a small Tupperware pot. These make great after-school kids’ snacks as well.
Anything that makes life easier is a blessing, and even better if it means you’ll be eating more vegetables as a result. It’s just a case of getting everything ready ahead of time. Keeping healthy snacks in your car, desk and purse means you’ll always be prepared and won’t start eating sugary foods for that instant ‘hit’. Nuts are great to have on hand, and you can make these extra tasty by adding seasoning. My spiced pecans are a huge favourite in our house.
TWO: Join a weekly vegetable delivery scheme.
A weekly vegetable delivery scheme guarantees you the best-quality seasonal, organic produce and means one less trip to the grocery store. You’ll be motivated to try the new varieties that show up in your box and within months, your veggie repertoire will have doubled.
Look for schemes that are running in your local area; this can help you support local producers, eat seasonally, and also ensure you’re not clocking up any mileage with your veggies (win-win for the environment).
If you’re not sure whether it’s the right choice for your lifestyle, why not ask if you can try a sample box? Many producers will be happy to oblige and it’ll mean you can trial the service but without being locked into any commitment. It’s also worth asking the delivery scheme what types of vegetables they’ll have throughout the year to ensure you’re getting a good variety, and so you can get a rough idea of how the next few months will look.
Some of the new initiatives are to include ‘ugly’ vegetables and end-of-line foods in these boxes to avoid potential food waste. These are really great options, and often cheaper too. Don’t discriminate. Once chopped and eaten, vegetables all taste the same – and you can have some fun looking at the crazy kinds you’ll receive as a result.
THREE: Don’t waste any precious vegetables.
Any fresh vegetables that you haven’t had the chance to use, you should freeze in small individual freezer bags so that you always have portions of organic produce ready to add to smoothies, soups or stews (depending on whether they can be eaten raw or require cooking). You can also freeze pesto and stock in ice cube trays, which are always handy to have.
There are absolutely loads of vegetables that you can freeze to avoid throwing them away when they’re about to go out of date. It’s always helpful to have them to hand, especially if they’re not always in season. It’s also great to have them ready-prepped in smaller chopped portions ready to just throw into a pan. Most frozen vegetables will keep well for six months (just check their odour and appearance once de-frosted and before eating).
Veggies you can freeze include:
Asparagus; beetroot; broccoli; carrots; cauliflower; courgettes; green beans; leafy greens (blanched); mushrooms; okra; onions (raw); peas; peppers and chillies (raw); mushrooms (raw); spinach and other hardy greens; squashes and pumpkin; sweetcorn.
Vegetables that you can’t freeze (often those with high water content, as they’ll go mushy) include:
Bean sprouts; Brussels sprouts; cabbage; celery; cress; cucumber; lettuce and other salad leaves; potatoes; radishes
When freezing your vegetables, make sure you have some way of knowing what date you put them in the freezer. It’s best to steam or blanch them lightly before freezing. This helps to stop the food’s enzyme action (which is slowed, but not stopped, with freezing) and can help to reduce the risk of food poisoning.
If any vegetables have gone beyond the point of recovery, don’t forget you can also use them as an organic compost in your garden. Waste not, want not.
FOUR: Eat a greener breakfast.
Breakfast is just as important as lunch and dinner. It’s about ‘breaking the fast’ that your body has been enduring overnight. For some reason, it has become a time of excess sugar – in our drinks, on our cereal, in the foods that we eat… but there’s absolutely no reason for us to be filling our tummy with empty calories like toast and jam, pastries, or sugary granola. We should be using it as a time to add more plants into our day.
It can be a savoury meal, trust me. Start with a nutritional bang by drinking a big glass of green juice (this floods your body with antioxidants and vitamins), a nourishing dense green smoothie (to which you can also add fruit, supplements and protein powder), or, if you’re in the mood for something more hearty, add shredded spinach to an omelette, or serve chopped kale alongside half an avocado and a poached egg.
FIVE: Add more plants.
Even if you’re not making a vegetable-based dinner, it’s simpler than you might think to increase your leafy intake – add a huge handful of rocket or Tenderstem broccoli to a pizza, stir kale and asparagus into a risotto, or top your pasta with broccoli and chard.
Whenever there’s the choice, reach for the green: try kale chips instead of potato chips (make your own or they’re now widely available in supermarkets and health food stores), eat chopped vegetables with dip instead of tortilla chips or pretzels, and always ask for the side salad… Dressing on the side, of course.
When you’re making a smoothie, always add as many greens as you can. This is a great way to whizz in lots of goodness without it feeling like a chore.
Some other ideas include:
- Add a handful of spinach to your burritos
- Whizz some kale or spinach into a delicious green dip
- Add some coriander leaves or finely chopped kale on top of your chilli dish
- Mix a handful of chopped kale or spinach leaves, and some grated cauliflower, into your egg scrambles or frittata
- Add some wilted spinach and steamed asparagus on top of your stuffed sweet potatoes
- Pop some herb pesto on top of your mushrooms, spread on rye bread or add alongside some poached eggs.
- Lightly steam some zucchini noodles and serve with bolognese or chilli instead of pasta
- Add chard to your homemade stir fry
- Tuck some kale in-between the layers of pasta in your lasagne
- Add chopped greens to your potato fritters
- Mix a handful of spinach into just about any pasta dish you’re cooking
- Add kale, herbs and raw veggies to your rice paper rolls
- When making vegetarian chickpea or cannellini bean burgers, add some chopped parsley to the mix – and serve with a rich pesto and wilted spinach
- Instead of using tacos, make your wrap using a baby gem lettuce leaf – you can fill with roasted veggies, lentils or beans, and top with guacamole
- Instead of having potato fries, slice your veggies – zucchini, carrot, green beans, avocado, etc – then lightly bread them with polenta, and bake until they’re crispy.