“Veg-Out” the Healthy Way!

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

July 19th, 2013

When it comes to changing your lifestyle for healthier living, it can seem a bit overwhelming at first. Common concerns include: How will I start? How much time will be needed? How much will it cost? How hard is it going to be? What are the benefits? And ultimately, will it be worth my effort? Whether you are just thinking about making some changes for better health, if you are a seasoned pro, or somewhere in between, there is one simple habit you can begin practicing today that will give you the most “bang for your buck” in terms of overall health both now and down the road.

By committing to adding more vegetables and fruit to your daily diet, you will be on your way to some wonderful health benefits. Effects are immediate, thanks to the natural phytochemicals, antioxidants, and fiber packed up in nature’s version of “fast” food. Blood pressure goes down, the immune system kicks it up a notch, and pesky cell-damaging free-radicals are neutralized. The more it becomes a part of your daily routine, the more you will experience the long-term benefits, including a decreased likelihood of developing obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Adopting this habit can kick hemorrhoids, hunger, and overeating to the curb too!

Best of all, it is not difficult or costly, and you can do it at your own pace. In general, men should aim for 2½ to 3 cups of vegetables and 2 to 2½ cups of fruit per day and women should aim for 2 to 2½ cups of vegetables and 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day. Start small. Add one vegetable and one fruit to your current intake. Pick ones you like, and keep in mind that all forms count – fresh, canned, or frozen. Getting more of these health gems in your diet doesn’t mean you have to eat salad every day – although feel free if that works for you. Adding vegetables such as roasted red peppers (buy them in the jar to save time) and spinach to sandwiches, pizza, and omelets is easy, and provides flavor, texture, and color. Greens such as Swiss chard, mustard greens, or kale are easy additions to soups, casseroles, and pasta dishes. Just chop and toss them in toward the end of cooking.

Roasting a variety of vegetables at one time and keeping them on hand for the week makes dinner planning easier on those “too tired to fuss” nights. Simply slice zucchini, onions, eggplant, mushrooms, cauliflower, or any vegetable you like, spritz with cooking spray, season with lemon pepper, Mrs. Dash, garlic powder, and/or paprika then pop in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes or until tender. After they are cooled, scoop into a bowl, cover and place in the fridge, and you are set for the week. Use them to top plain pizza, pair with a healthy frozen dinner, or mix in with a quick-cooking whole grain pasta or rice paired with a baked chicken breast. Also, if time permits, make vegetable lasagna with low-fat ricotta cheese and a jarred marina sauce. (I like Little Italy or Muir Glen brands for their flavor and lower sugar content.)

Fruits add color, flavor, and sweetness to smoothies when paired with low-fat soy milk, and Greek yogurt. Add apple, orange slices, or kiwi to salads and raisins, banana, or berries to your favorite hot or cold breakfast cereals.

Once you’ve mastered adding a vegetable and fruit to your daily diet, you can try adding one more. As time goes on, you may find yourself feeling more satisfied, less stuffed, and full for a longer time after meals, all of which makes for a healthier, more energetic, lighter, and more productive you!

To assist you in your new habit formation, take advantage of apps and websites that offer daily reminders. These can be tailored to best meet your needs and are great for keeping the habit fresh in your mind. Before you know it, “vegging out” will take on a whole new meaning in your life.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here.

Request an Appointment

Request an appointment with a specialist at University Hospitals.
1-866-UH4-CARE 1-866-844-2273 or use our Online Request Form

Upcoming Sessions of UH OptiWeight

There are no UH OptiWeight sessions at this time.

Need to Refer a Patient?

Click here for Patient Referrals

Browse Services A-Z

Maps and Directions

Click here for directions