What if living longer isn’t as much about what not to eat and more about what to eat? Well according to some recent research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, eating more fruit and vegetables could actually prevent 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide!!
Eating just 2 ½ servings of fruits and vegetables reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke 13-18% AND reduced risk of early death by 15%. This is good news! BUT, the research found that eating about 10 servings of fruits and veggies had some astounding benefits…
- 24% reduced risk of heart disease
- 33% reduced risk of stroke
- 28% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
- 13% reduced risk of total cancer
- 31% reduction in dying prematurely
The researchers believe that it is not just about the powerful effects of specific nutrients (Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin A, etc.), but instead, the “complex network of nutrients” within varieties of fruits and vegetables. Vitamin supplements just cannot duplicate the synergistic power of real plants!
There is not a single person who wouldn’t benefit from some extra produce in their meals! But it is easy to get stuck in a rut and eat the same ones, the same way, over and over. This only makes them less appealing. Let me show you 3 creative and easy ways to add more veggies into some family favorites that will please everyone at the dinner table!
01. Grilled Broccoli and Cheese Sandwich
Broccoli and cheese soup… broccoli with cheese sauce… Why not add chopped bits of broccoli into your next grilled cheese?! An excellent solution when you have leftover steamed or roasted broccoli in the fridge from a previous dinner. While the traditional grilled cheese is adored by all, broccoli is the perfect addition to an otherwise veggie-less meal. While you may not be able to add a whole cup of broccoli into your sandwich, you can add some great nutrition!
By including ½ cup of chopped, steamed broccoli to a grilled cheese you add
- MORE THAN 100% of your daily needs for Vitamin K
- ~65% of your daily needs for Vitamin C!
- ~20% of your daily needs for folate
And not only that, those sulfur-containing compounds fight cancer, inflammation and MORE!
Here’s how to make it…
Grilled Broccoli and Cheese Sandwich
2 slices whole grain/sprouted grain bread (like Ezekiel)
1-2 slices cheese (your preference)
Oil spray (you can use a Misto) or butter (for bread)
½ cup cooked broccoli, chopped fine
Over medium heat, lay out buttered bread and cheese. Add on broccoli and additional cheese (if desired). Top with slice of bread and grill on both sides until perfectly golden brown and cheese is gooey!
02. Mashed Cauliflower “Potatoes”
Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are hard to resist. Kids and adults alike adore them, and while potatoes do have some nutritional value, the skins are usually removed which holds a significant percentage of iron, potassium, magnesium and some B vitamins. In the same time it requires to boil potatoes, you can steam cauliflower, making this swap a no-brainer.
If you or family members are hesitant to move “cold turkey” to mashed cauliflower, try half potatoes, half cauliflower, and then eventually move towards 100% cauliflower.
This white veggie is actually quite nutrient dense, rich in vitamin C (35% of daily needs) and just like broccoli, contains sulfur compounds that benefit the cardiovascular, detoxification, immune, and digestive systems.
My not-so-fond-of-veggies husband adores this recipe and it really couldn’t be simpler.
Creamy Mashed Cauliflower Potatoes
1 medium/large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons butter (or your preferred margarine spread)
¾ tsp kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Steam cauliflower until very tender. Transfer to food processor (puree’ half of cauliflower first, then add the rest). Add in butter; season with salt and pepper. Puree until it reaches the desired consistency and taste to adjust seasonings. Serve warm!
*Two, 16oz bags frozen cauliflower can be used in place of fresh
**The cauliflower can be mashed with a potato masher but a food processor (OR high power blender OR hand blender) is the best way to get it smooth and creamy like traditional potatoes.
03. Spaghetti Sauce with Spinach
Marinara sauce is a perfect vehicle to serve up more nutrition and flavor into a quintessential family favorite meal. Spaghetti is just…easy and yummy! What mom (or dad!) doesn’t know how to make spaghetti with meat sauce, in her sleep?! But when trying to boost your veggie power, why not consider tossing some spinach into the sauce?!
Spinach wilts down in a matter of seconds and is so easy to add into marinara or meat sauce. But not only is it ridiculously easy, it is loaded with good-for-you nutrients!
Just 1 cup of raw spinach has quite an impressive profile and it certainly exceeds these few nutrition highlights:
- >200% vitamin K
- ~28% vitamin A
- ~18% folate
- 10% iron
Can’t you just see your Popeye muscles bulging with every bite!?
Ridiculously Easy Spaghetti with Spinach Meat Sauce
24oz jar of marinara sauce (watch out for added sugars!!)
½ pound lean ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken)
½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp garlic powder
5oz bag baby spinach
1-2 tsp olive oil
8oz pasta (whole grain, brown rice, lentil, etc)- 2oz portion per person
Bring large pot of water up to a boil. Add in pasta and cook according to package until al dente’. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large non-stick pan. Tear up spinach and stir into oil just until wilted; season with salt and pepper. Remove spinach from pan and set aside. In same large pan brown ground meat; drain any grease. Add in Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Stir in jar of marinara sauce and spinach to combine. Drain pasta and place in bowls. Top with Spinach Meat Sauce and parmesan cheese (optional). Enjoy!!
If your creative juices start flowing, consider all the veggie possibilities to fortify your sauce with nutrition. You can certainly serve up a mouthwatering bowl of spaghetti you will feel good about eating!
These creative culinary ideas will get an A for nutrition and a thumbs up from the family. Go get creative boosting you and your family’s veggie intake…it’s a lot easier than you think!
For more ideas to add veggies into your family meals, check out these articles:
Dagfinn Aune, Edward Giovannucci, Paolo Boffetta, Lars T. Fadnes, NaNa Keum, Teresa Norat, Darren C. Greenwood, Elio Riboli, Lars J. Vatten, Serena Tonstad; Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality–a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Int J Epidemiol 2017 dyw319. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyw319
Imperial College London News, Eating more fruits and vegetables may prevent millions of premature deaths, by Kate Wighton,23 February 2017
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