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How to add more veggies to your day

Often, we focus on getting in enough protein. We track our intake of fat. Some closely monitor their sugar intake… but is anyone counting their vegetables?! 5 servings a day is a minimum requirement, but frankly, I rarely see clients who meet this conservative amount. We know that the consumption of fruit and vegetables is linked to a reduced likelihood of chronic disease. Fibre, antioxidants, bioflavonoids, water, vitamins and minerals, and even nutrients like omega 3 and protein, yes protein! are in our beloved vegetables. Therefore, for optimum health and in line with using food as preventative medicine, the amount we strive for should be much, much higher. I believe eight servings a day is a better recommendation, with no end in sight! My advice: Eat as many as you can fit in! The below ideas are ways to creatively include veg into your meals, for you or perhaps for fussy kids, to boost the nutrient content, colours, flavours and even texture, and far exceed 5 servings a day…

Smoothies – 1,2,3 even 4 handfuls of greens! When you blend them, they break down and you won’t even notice, especially spinach or cos lettuce.

Aim for 3+ cups with main meals such as salads and stir-fries – leafy greens, a variety of chopped raw salad veggies, and roast veg. Include a combination of all three.

Soups – you can make soups 100% vegetables, from using veggie stock (loaded with nutrients), to chopping veg in or pureeing it. Sometimes I even puree it e.g. cauliflower soup, and then top it with mushrooms, broccoli or sliced zucchini for texture. A cup of veg soup makes a great afternoon snack or dinner starter.

Snack on carrots, capsicums, cucumber, celery – crunchy foods are often more satisfying, aren’t they? Keeping sliced veg sticks handy are a quick go-to snack to enjoy, whilst upping your veggie intake. Pair with dip such as hummus or nut butter for satiation.

Blend them into a dressing – sometimes I throw in capsicum, zucchini, cucumber, beetroot or carrot in a salad dressing with things like tahini or miso. Makes for a beautiful colour and tasty flavours!

Veggie Juice – juice more veg to fruit for a healthy juice combo that is sure to give you an energy boost! Even better – use things you would usually throw out, like celery or beet leaves, where there is actually a substantial amount of nutrition. Throw in lots of lemon and/or some green apple, and you will mask any bitterness.

Grate carrot or zucchini – in your oats +/bircher, blend tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots, zucchini, broccoli in your dips like hummus, try beetroot muffins… easy, delicious and great for variety!

My Vegan Superfood Staples

Ever since turning 100% plant-based, I have become fascinated with all of natures sources of beautiful and beneficial nutrients. What many of us are unaware of is how every nutrient we need comes from the sun (vitamin D), or the earth (everything else). Therefore, in terms of optimal absorption and utilisation, it makes sense to consume them from the primary source. Here is a list of my vegan staples, all of which are brimming with nutrition and make me feel energised and satisfied, not to mention I feel they have helped my skin, hair and nails become smoother, stronger and healthier overall. I actually manage to incorporate most of these in one single meal – my superfood lunch salads. It might seem like a lot, but they each add so much flavour and texture that you begin to crave them! I hope you find them intriguing, try them out and feel the difference in your own body 🙂

Nutritional yeast – brimming with key vitamins and minerals it is also a complete protein (with 18 amino acids), containing 71% protein by weight! Stress and poor diet deplete B vitamins so we could all do with a little dietary boost. Nutritional yeast is a great source of B’s, which offer us assistance with energy levels, brain health, fat metabolism, sleep quality, and hair growth. Note, unless fortified with B12, nutritional yeast is not a reliable source. As a guide, 3 tbsp of nutritional yeast = 9g protein! I often sprinkle this amount on a big green salad, soup, or in a veggie mash.

Sea vegetables – dulse and nori are my go-to’s, but I occasionally also enjoy other varieties such as wakame or kelp (particularly high in iodine). Sea vegetables are full of trace minerals that we don’t usually have access to, specifically iodine. Iodine ensures healthy thyroid function, which is important for metabolism, energy levels and hormonal balance. Sea veggies are a great way to replace salt in a meal, as they are naturally salty and arguably, more nutritious. Another hair-loving nutritious source, they also contain vitamins A, E, B6 and B12, iron, zinc, calcium, potassium and magnesium! Powerful stuff!

Saurkraut/kim-chi – fermented veggies are living foods! This means they contain active enzymes which help digest our food, as well as good bacteria called probiotics that ensure healthy gut function, and B vitamins. All this assists immunity and digestive health for optimal wellbeing. I try have about 2-3 tbsp at least once a day.

Chia/flax – just 1 tbsp a day can ensure you meet your omega-3 quota! Omega-3 is important for many things including hormonal balance, brain health and nerve function. These two seeds also provide you with healthy doses of insoluble AND soluble fibre which helps with blood sugar/appetite control, steady energy levels, and healthy colon function. Flax also provides us with lignans, cancer-protective and important for heart health. Try 1 tbsp of either in bircher/porridge, flax on top of a stir-fry, or sip on a few tsp chia in your water throughout the day (you won’t even taste it!).

Hemp seeds – 3 tbsp = 11g easily assimilated protein for long, lean muscles! This is one of natures most concentrated sources of essential fatty acids, particularly GLA. I don’t have this every day, but try to have it on a particularly active day. When I do I sprinkle it on my oats or enjoy it in/on top of a smoothie.

Quinoa/brown rice/oats/millet – I try to rotate the grains I use as much as possible to ensure a broad spectrum of different nutrients, as each grain has a different nutrient profile. One of the best thing that has come out of me going vegan is my new-found appreciation for quality carbohydrates, ridding myself of any trace of “Carbophobia” I definitely once had. The truth is, we are designed to eat carbohydrates as a mainstay in our diet (we produce the digestive enzyme amylase, which break down carbs, whilst some other animals don’t), and thus carbs are required for optimal muscle and brain function. These grains are gluten-free (oats contain trace amounts of gluten in Australia due to crop rotation, but they seem to be fine with most people, and if not, you can source gluten-free oats usually from abroad). Fantastic for amino acids (protein), B vitamins and fibre, these either go in my breakfast (oat or quinoa porridge), in my lunch-time salads, or with a stir-fry/curry for dinner. Complex carbohydrates like these keep me full, energised, non-irritable, and focused.

Parsley – a great vegan source of antioxidants and loads of vitamins and minerals like iron, try my tabbouleh for a healthy hit! You can also throw a bit of parsley into a green smoothie, juice or salad regularly to up your dose. As a powerful natural detoxifier and diuretic that prevents bloating, water retention and cellulite, it’s a goodie.

Miso – think of it it as vegan bone broth! This is a great gut-loving, plant-based alternative, that is soothing and provides enzymes and probiotics to promote healthy digestive function. Note, you must choose unpasturised miso, in order to reap these benefits. Alkalising, anti-viral, immune-boosting, cancer-preventative, antioxidant-rich and great for digestion… perfect as a snack with some sea veg (bonus points!) or used in salad dressings, try to incorporate it regularly.

Sprouts / Microgreens – the most powerful foods for cellular regeneration and health, sprouts are up to 50 x more nutritious than their mature counterparts!! They provide antioxidants, protein, enzymes and minerals that are easy to absorb and utilise.

Non-negotiable Green Drink – this one isn’t so much a food as a meal/snack, but it definitely is part of my everyday routine and something I source an abundant amount of nutrition from. Brimming with greens, I make sure I have one of these each day to slot in a huge amount of dietary fibre (it is usually a smoothie with over 3 servings of greens, but if I am out and about, it might be a juice), antioxidants and vitamins and minerals. A power-packed green drink is really the best energiser, I feel cleansed and incredibly vibrant after mine!

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