No matter how exciting Top Chef manages to make kitchen work look, no one wants to spend each night in the kitchen playing sous chef, peeling and chopping veggies and managing the clean-up afterwards. Despite my love of cooking, I don’t cook daily, simply because I HATE the clean-up. (It’s all odd and a little bit ironic, since Evan has noted that I tend to busy myself with cleaning and organizing if I’ve had a bad day.)
I see a lot of so-called health and fitness or diet bloggers who chronicle their elaborate food and workout plans but note very few veggies in their diets. And I understand why. On their own, vegetables can be boring. Veggie food prep is also more complex than picking a grain and tossing it in some boiling water, stirring occassionally until it’s done. But, there are too many perks to veggies to live this way:
- They’re a healthy source of vitamins, minerals and fiber
- They’re filling and satisfying
- Dress ’em up and they’re actually quite tasty–surprisingly so.
- They are sooooooo low in calories
- They have heart-healthy characteristics
- They fight cancer
- They reduce your risk of stroke and diabetes
- They can easily replace higher calorie foods (like pasta!)
- Cholesterol free!
Here are some tips and tricks I use to increase my veggie consumption easily and without spending hours in the kitchen:
- I plan my meals on the weekend and do my shopping and food prep on Sundays. This allows me to dirty one cutting board, one knife, the food processor and the kitchen just once or twice a week instead of every day.
- If I had a competition with Martha Stewart for the most food storage containers, I’d probably win. I particularly like the square and rectangular Lock N Locks, as they keep food fresher thanks to the way the covers make an airtight seal and they fit nicely together whether they’re stacked in a cabinet or in the fridge. They’re also great for freezing! This keeps foods fresher and creates less waste than using food storage bags.
- When prepping veggies, make extras (small dice or chop) of your favorites to toss into eggs for a breakfast omelet. I like broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, onions, scallion, tomato and spinach.
- Use the food processor. Most can grate, slice or chop all sorts of veggies. For those with limited knife skills and a fear of shaving their knuckles off, this is quick and easy!
- Buy produce from your local farm or farmer’s market instead of the grocery store. Because food hasn’t spent so much time in transit, it will last longer.
- Double check your fridge settings and store food properly. This will also keep your food fresher longer. I can’t tell you how many times I froze a bag of salad mix because I shoved it in the back of a very full fridge. What a waste!
- Sneak them in! Are you cooking for picky eaters? Are YOU the picky eater? You can puree veggies to sneak into spaghetti sauce or even mac and cheese. You can mash baby carrots with plain white potatoes and add a little dill. Shredded zucchini goes great with chocolate cake and shredded carrot can easily hide in a meatloaf. I add pumpkin to breakfast smoothies and oatmeal. Check out these and these cookbooks for other ways to sneak ’em in.
- Roast ’em. Roasting concentrates the flavor and is a great hands-off cooking technique.
- Toss ’em in soups like I did here.
- Buy already prepared veggies. I often purchase bagged baby spinach, bagged salad green mixes and pre-cut, peeled and washed butternut squash simply because I hate peeling and cutting hard squash and I don’t have enough patience to properly wash, rinse and dry most greens.
What other tips do you have for easily including veggies in your diet?