Hands up if you’re frequently too busy or too tired to prepare fruit and vegetables at home? Even when a quick meal is already planned, it too can seem too long.
As you open the fridge looking for inspiration, you’re greeted with a limited number of ingredients, few or no vegetables. This further adds to the potential dinner effort and the desire to cook reduces even more.
If this is a common occurrence or even a random occasion, here are some top tips to ensure preparing vegetables and fruit become easy. Remember, the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends five serves of vegetables each day. One serve is either ½ cup (75g) of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad.
List all your families staple ‘go to’ meals:
Once you learn which ingredients suit your tastes, preparing fresh fruit and vegetables will become much quicker and easier than you thought.
A good place to start is to think about the types of meals that you and your family really enjoy. Most families have a small set of meals and recipes that they rely on, which are prepared regularly across a week or fortnight. For example, it might be lamb chops on Monday, Spaghetti Bolognaise midweek and a take away roast chicken on Sunday.
Match your favourites with a set of colourful veggies:
Alongside your list of meals, make a list of the fruits and vegetables you like. Now think about how you could add these to the family recipes identified. For example, add diced mushrooms, celery, carrot or silver beet to your Spaghetti Bolognaise.
At this point it’s a good idea to write up the families modified recipes and put them somewhere obvious so whoever is cooking that night, knows the plan.
When making a roast, prepare an extra-large tray of pumpkin, potato, carrot, parsnip, onion, and even beetroot and use these in salads, pasta or risotto over the next few days. In my household we use roasted pumpkin as a spread in sandwiches for school. It’s a real hit!
Look at each meal as an opportunity to get added veg:
Increasing the amount of vegetables in you and your families diet is a great way to improve health. If you leave the dinner meal as the only opportunity to eat vegetables, there is no way you are going to each the 5 serves per day. And even so, your meal is likely to just be veggies and not balanced with whole grains and lean proteins. The best way to get added veggies in is to look at breakfast, lunch and dinner as an opportunity increase your veg intake. Try a vegetarian omelette or baked tomatoes for a savory breakfast.
In the evening and after dinner:
Try substituting chocolate at the end of an evening meal with low fat yoghurt and fruit. The extra serve of fruit will increase your fibre intake and the protein in the yoghurt will fill you up so you’re not tempted to snack more.
Stock up on frozen veg:
When fresh food is difficult to obtain, canned or frozen has almost the same nutrition as fresh. It’s a good idea to keep some frozen veggies in the freezer for an easy meal that just needs a little meat added, a sauce and some heat applied. Canned tomatoes are a great pantry staple.
Choose different colours:
If children are fussy about certain flavours you can easily sweeten a meal with vegetables such as carrot, cherry tomatoes or jap pumpkin. Remember we eat with our eyes, so including different coloured vegetables makes a meal visually more appealing, as well as adding a variety of nutrients.
Armed with these simple ideas and your family’s updated recipes, you’ll not only be adding more fruit and vegetables to your diets but you’ll be improving the health of your family as well. Enjoy!
For more information go to www.eatforhealth.com.au.