Plants: Why you should eat more, what a serving looks like and how to increase your intake.

I’m sure we’ve all been told to eat our vegetables but how many of us actually consume the recommended 5-5.5 serves of vegetables per day? And this isn’t including the large variety of additional plant foods such as fruits, legumes, pulses, nuts, seeds, grains, and fats. In fact, only less than 10% of the Australian population over 18 years old consumes the recommended daily intake of vegetables – and considering how beneficial they can be, this fact does worry me! So this week I’m going to focus on increasing plant foods, the why, and the how!

Why should I increase whole plant foods in my diet?

  • Lowers risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

  • Increases fiber intake and plant diversity – which can both positively influence gut microbiome.

  • Reduces environmental impact and carbon footprint – you can help fight climate change through your plate.

  • Increases intake of beneficial phytonutrients with many medicinal actions such as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions.

  • Contain many essential nutrients that play important roles in immunity, cardiovascular function, hormone production, brain health and many more.

  • They taste great! There are just so many plants to choose from and so many ways to eat them, the possibilities are endless!

Now that you know how important plants are for you, how do you know what 1 serve may look like - Let's talk specifically in terms of vegetables.

One serve of vegetables is 75g or may look like:

🥦½ cup cooked green or orange vegetables (for example, broccoli, spinach, carrots or pumpkin) 🥦½ cup cooked dried or canned beans, peas or lentils (preferably with no added salt) 🥦1 cup green leafy or raw salad vegetables 🥦½ cup sweet corn 🥦½ medium potato or other starchy vegetables (sweet potato, taro or cassava) 🥦1 medium tomato

And now, how do you include more plants into your diet?

Here are some easy ways:

🥕In every warm cooked meal - LOAD it with veggies. If you don't like big chunks, grate them, puree them, just get them in there. E.g. Spaghetti Bolognese, with added grated carrot, zucchini, capsicum, mushroom, shredded kale and spinach. 🥕Use avocado or frozen zucchini (for creaminess), pumpkin or sweet potato puree (for sweetness), shredded kale or other greens in smoothies. 🥕Use sweet vegetables or fruits as sweeteners in baked goods. E.g. Sweet potato brownies, beetroot chocolate cake, pumpkin bread, banana cake. 🥕Always have some cut-up veggie sticks with a dip (e.g. hummus, peanut butter, tahini) ready in the fridge for a quick snack. 🥕Plan meals ahead of time so you buy all the veggies you need and don't make a quick, veggie-less meal instead when mealtime arrives. 🥕Use veggies as a base for some meals e.g. zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, spaghetti squash (just make sure that protein source is still there – e.g. half mung bean pasta, half zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash with lentil and hemp seed meatballs). 🥕Use pureed vegetables in sauces e.g. pureed potato, carrot and pumpkin with seasoning as a nutritious mac and cheese sauce.

Do you already do any of these, or which are you going to give a try?

Let me know in the comments and be sure to up that plant intake because not only will your body and mind love you for it, the earth and animals will too!

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