Veggies: How to Get More of a Good Thing
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Published on June 10, 2016

fruit and veggie smoothies

Veggies: How to Get More of a Good Thing

Admit it, you’ve vowed more than once to eat better.

Then you’re faced with a dilemma at some event or family dinner: enchiladas or taco salad? How many times have you chosen salad?

Hy-Vee Dietitian Annie Ailts, MS, RD, LN, said sometimes the best approach to eating more vegetables is to widen your scope of how to serve them.

“I usually tell people to incorporate vegetables into their meal instead just having it as a side,” Ailts said. “You should fill half your plate with vegetables and that can be intimidating if it’s one big side of broccoli.”

But if you incorporate it in other ways — stuffed red peppers as your main dish — you’re already well on your way to meeting the half-plate goal, Ailts said.

Stay Fit and Trim

Vegetables are a nutrient dense, low-carbohydrate and low-calorie option, making them a great way to stay fit and trim at any age. As obesity rises in the United States, more than one-third of Americans are overweight, diet is becoming increasingly important. Obesity is linked to a number of conditions ranging from diabetes to heart disease and an increased risk of some cancers, said David Basel, MD, Avera Medical Group Vice President of Clinical Quality.

But for weight loss to last, it has to be a lifestyle change. “Commit to a lifestyle change of healthier eating habits, increasing fruits and vegetables and decreasing carbohydrates, along with exercise,” Basel said.

It’s recommended to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, but Ailts said six to eight vegetable servings would be ideal. To do that, it’s important to incorporate vegetables into every meal. Ailts has a few tips on how to do that.

  • Eat vegetables of varying colors to get a variety of vitamins and nutrients. When talking greens, the darker leaf the more nutrients, but that doesn’t hold true for all light-colored vegetables such as cauliflower and potatoes, which are also beneficial.
  • Think veggies in the morning, for example, smoothies or egg dishes that incorporate vegetables.
  • Salads are a great option for lunch and dinner, but be careful of fatty, calorie-loaded dressings.
  • Incorporate vegetables into your main dish (stuffed peppers, cabbage roll casserole and zucchini lasagna). Insider tip: Add a can of pumpkin puree (not pie filling) into your favorite chili recipe for added nutrients.
  • Replace grains with vegetables (replace cauliflower for pizza crust, mashed potatoes or rice; portobello mushrooms for pizza crusts or open-faced burger buns; lettuce for wraps and taco shells; zucchini noodles – zoodles – or spaghetti squash for pasta).
  • Replace dips with vegetable-based dips and use veggies instead of chips or crackers. Guacamole and Greek yogurt spinach dip are great options, especially for kids.

Fruit and Veggie Smoothie

Source: Annie Ailts, MS, RD, LN


  • 1 cup veggie (greens, carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, zucchini, pumpkin, etc.)
  • ½ banana
  • ½ cup fruit
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp. coconut oil


Mix in blender and serve.

Portobello Mushroom or Eggplant Pizzas

Source: Annie Ailts, MS, RD, LN

Serves: 6


  • 6 large portobello mushrooms, stems removed, or 6 slices of eggplant (1-inch thick)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef or chicken
  • 1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1 medium bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place eggplant slices or mushrooms, stem side down, on a greased baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until tender, turning once.
  2. Meanwhile, cook meat over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add onions and cook until translucent. Stir in the tomato sauce, pepper and garlic. Divide among mushrooms or eggplant slices, and top with cheese.
  3. Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese is melted. Sprinkle with basil if desired.

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