According to the USDA, vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body. Eating an overall healthy diet rich in vegetables and fruits improves overall health and reduces the risk of some chronic diseases, including heart attack and stroke. Other health benefits include:
*Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruits, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
*Eating vegetables and fruits rich in potassium as a part of an overall healthy diet may lower blood pressure, may reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and help to decrease bone loss.
*Eating vegetables that are lower in calories, instead of some other higher-calorie foods, may be useful in helping lower calorie intake.
Tips to help you eat more greens:
*Buy fresh vegetables in season. They cost less and are likely to be at their peak flavor.
*Stock up on frozen vegetables for quick and easy cooking in the microwave.
*Buy vegetables that are easy to prepare. Pick up pre-washed bags of salad greens and add baby carrots or grape tomatoes for a salad in minutes. Buy packages of veggies such as baby carrots or celery sticks for quick snacks.
*Vary your veggie choices to keep meals interesting.
*Try crunchy vegetables, raw or lightly steamed.
*Sauces or seasonings can add calories, saturated fat and sodium to vegetables. Use the Nutrition Facts label to compare the calories and Percent Daily Value for saturated fat and sodium in plain and seasoned vegetables.
*Buy canned vegetables labeled “reduced sodium,” “low sodium” or “no salt added.” If you want to add a little salt, it will likely be less than the amount in the regular canned product.
*Plan some meals around a vegetable main dish, such as a vegetable stir-fry or soup. Then add other foods to complement it.
*Try a main dish salad for lunch. Go light on the salad dressing or make your own.
*Include chopped vegetables in pasta sauce or lasagna.
*Add color to salads by adding baby carrots, shredded red cabbage or spinach leaves. Include in-season vegetables for variety through the year.
*Keep a bowl of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator. Carrot and celery sticks are traditional, but consider red or green pepper strips, broccoli florets or cucumber slices.