No matter if you consider your eating pattern low-carb, paleo, flexitarian, or Mediterranean-style, there is one thing we can all agree on – we need to eat more vegetables. Vegetables are loaded with nutrients that help to prevent disease. When you eat more vegetables you also replace other foods that may not be as healthy.
A benefit for people with diabetes is that most vegetables are low in carbohydrates. Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, corn, and peas can still be healthy choices, but they contain more carbohydrates than other vegetables. People with diabetes should aim for 50% of your plate or bowl as nonstarchy vegetables. Eating more vegetables increases fiber intake which helps with glycemic control, digestion, weight management, and feeds the good bacteria in your gut. So, you know what you need to do and now it’s time to plan. Follow these steps to get started eating more vegetables.
- Meal Plan
Take some time each week to plan meals and snacks. Look for recipes online, in cookbooks, or magazines that include vegetables. Think about planning meals around the vegetable. Instead of thinking dinner tonight is chicken, pasta, and broccoli, think dinner tonight is broccoli with some chicken and pasta. Plan to eat vegetables with both lunch and dinner and yes breakfast if you can. Try to include different colors of vegetables to increase nutrient intake. Once you have a meal plan, make a grocery list. A list will save you time and money at the store or make it easier and do grocery delivery.
- Prep Vegetables
Now you have more vegetables in your house, take some time to prep and have the vegetables ready to eat. Think about washing and cutting carrots, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery to have ready to eat or cook. If you don’t have time to prep, consider purchasing already prepared vegetables such as ready-to-eat salads or greens and washed and chopped raw vegetables. The variety of prepared fresh vegetables has increased in grocery stores, so if you can’t find what you are looking for try shopping around.
- Keep Vegetables in Sight
Just seeing vegetables is a reminder to eat them. When you open your refrigerator or freezer, try to store vegetables in front where you can see them. You don’t need to hide all the vegetables in your produce drawer. Think about using glass bowls to store prepped vegetables. Have some frozen vegetables on hand as a quick addition to a meal. Frozen vegetables are picked at their peak ripeness, often cheaper than fresh vegetables, and last much longer. In the freezer, frozen vegetables can be kept for several months. Consider other options for purchasing vegetables such as community supported agriculture (CSA) or a produce delivery service.
- Batch Cook
Plan on cooking large amounts of vegetables to have leftovers. If you are roasting, fill that sheet pan. While vegetables may have different cooking times, it’s possible to remove the vegetables that are tender and keep cooking other vegetables. Most vegetables can be roasted in about 20 minutes. Roasting is a great way to batch cook, but a pressure cooker or slow cooker also gets the job done.
- Get Creative
Vegetables should be the main part of your meal, but they don’t have to just be the side. Vegetables can be mixed with other foods. Think about adding vegetables to omelets, smoothies, soups, casseroles, sauces, ground meat or poultry, and dips or spreads. Try spiralized or riced vegetables, collard greens or lettuce as a wrap, and puree vegetables into sauces and soups. Look for new recipes and find ways to enjoy vegetables. When searching for recipes, start your search with the vegetable.
Get your whole family on board with eating more vegetables. Enlist help from others in your house with meal planning, prep, and cooking. If you are looking for some new recipes check out the Diabetes Food Hub.
by Christine McKinney, RD LDN CDE