Back in my teaching days, the school where I began my career adopted the principles of Dr. Stephen Covey.  You may remember him–author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Be proactive, put first things first, think win-win, begin with the end in mind…these are a few of the habits he mentions as being important to adopt if you want to be an effective person, in your work and in your home life. 

In the article, Get the 7 Habits of Effective People in 3 Minutes, Sarah Moriarty summarizes the habit of beginning with the end in mind as 

“Don’t spend your life working aimlessly, tackling whatever job at hand.  Have a vision for the future and align your actions accordingly to make it into a reality.”  

So, your vision for the future probably includes a healthier version of yourself.  I know mine does. And that means eating healthier and including more vegetables in your diet.   Vegetables contain many of the vitamins and minerals our body needs to be the best it can be–the most effective at tackling work, workouts, parenting, spousing (is that even a word?).  You know what I mean–we cannot expect to be the very best version of ourselves if we are not feeding our bodies well. If we want our future selves to be healthier, then aligning our actions accordingly means adding vegetables to our plate.  There is a lot of hype out there in the diet world about limiting carbs and cutting back on sugar, but there may not be enough talk about how adding more veggies to our plate is hugely beneficial.

I like the sound of that anyway.  In a time where we seem to be endlessly reminded about “cutting back,” how about we talk a little about “adding to?”  We need to cut back on our salt intake, our carb count, our caffeine consumption.  

But sometimes by simply adding in a healthy habit, we find ourselves naturally reducing the things we need to cut back on anyway.

Here’s an example.  I LOVE the book Atomic Habits, by James Clear.  In chapter 5, How to Start a New Habit,  Clear talks about habit stacking. This is a great concept.  Take a habit at which you are already proficient, and stack another you want to develop on top.  I know I drink too much coffee, so I am habit stacking in that area. In the morning, I say to myself, “After I drink a cup of coffee, I will drink a glass of water.”  And guess what? Not only has my coffee consumption gone down, but my water intake has gone up. Now that’s a win-win. 🙂  

So, how can we add more vegetables into our eating habits?  And when we do, what are some other habits that may fall by the wayside, as a result of adding in this habit?  Below are four ways you can include more vegetables in your day.

Begin with the Vegetable in Mind.  

If I am being honest, sometimes the veggie is an afterthought for me.  I tend to cook like my mom cooked. Meat, starch, veggies, call it a day.  And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it often has me planning my vegetable last and searching in my bottomless freezer for the least freezer-burned vegetable I can microwave.  Insert monkey covering his eyes emoji. I am not proud of this, but it has certainly spurred me to change my vegetable offerings. When I plan my vegetable first, and plan the rest of the meal around it, I can make sure I am feeding myself and my family well.  And it doesn’t have to be a complicated veggie dish either.  Carrots are loaded with vitamins and can be peeled and cut on the counter while I prep the rest of the meal.  This is often the best way, because then hungry children will snack on the carrots instead of other salty snacks while they wait for dinner to be served.

Put veggies out while you make dinner…speaking of hungry people! 

My people seem to be ravenous right about the time I start banging around in the kitchen and the first place they go is the pantry right to the salty snacks.  Pretzels, goldfish, cheezits, those are their go-tos. And my response is always, “Don’t eat anything! You’ll fill your tummy up and then you won’t eat your dinner!”  But what if instead, I had a big platter of veggies, and maybe even a little something to dip them in like hummus or yogurt dip? I don’t care WHEN they eat their veggies, just that they do.  And by flipping their perspective and telling them that yes, they can have a snack, it just needs to be a vegetable, I’m not telling them no, and they don’t feel deprived.  It works on adults too. 🙂  Snacking on a carrot stick instead of croutons is a far better choice for me as I cook dinner.

Add veggies into foods your kids already enjoy.  

Of course you know this one.  It’s been around since Jessica Seinfeld’s book, Deceptively Delicious made its debut, and even long before, I’m sure.  But I want to offer you a different perspective on this one. Yes, hide them, but no, don’t keep it a secret. By not telling your kids there are veggies in their food, you are reinforcing the idea that veggies don’t taste good.  But, if you offer them meatballs that you’ve made from scratch with carrots and onions, and after the first bite they admit to liking them, you can say, “I am so glad you like them! They have carrots in them and carrots are very good for your eyes.”  For older kids, you may tell them that carrots are rich in beta carotene and antioxidants and that they have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer. They need to know that vegetables can be delicious! Here is a link to our current favorite healthy made-from-scratch meatballs.

Freeze veggies to take the guesswork out of breakfast & snack time.  

I have been making my kids green smoothies for years.  But it wasn’t until recently that I realized I could prepare several days of smoothies in advance so I didn’t even have to think about what goes into their smoothies.  I throw a handful of frozen mango and pineapple into a ziploc bag, add a half of a banana and a heaping handful of spinach and we are good to go! I prep these on the weekend so that on our crazy weekdays I can grab a bag out of the freezer, dump it into my blender cup, add water or juice, and blend away.  Once I learned I could freeze the ingredients for our smoothies, there was no stopping me! I started cutting up and freezing everything–cauliflower (adds great density to a smoothie), raw sweet potatoes (yes, they make a great pumpkin pie smoothie), spinach (freeze in cup servings so you can easily add to a fruit smoothie).  Drinking my veggies is one of my favorite ways of ensuring I am getting my daily allowance, and making smoothie bags ahead of time saves money (no more throwing away veggies I forgot about that have spoiled).  

Try a produce delivery service like Produce Box.

Plan your meals around the in-season fruits and veggies delivered right to your door from local farmers.  Eating what’s in season means you’ll be ingesting fewer pesticides and GMOs.  Seasonal produce can grow without human assistance, and with our current state of concern regarding genetically modified foods, that is music to my ears.  When you buy fruits and veggies that are in season, you challenge yourself to get creative in the kitchen.  No longer are green beans going to be your fall back when it comes to the veggie you serve at dinner. This month, sneak some butternut squash into soup, or puree it and add it to cooked taco meat.  Cauliflower rice is a low-carb option you can easily add to stir-fries.

Try one of these tips today and let me know how it goes!