Why aren’t we eating our vegetables?
EAT YOUR VEGETABLES. The message is not new. You’ve probably been hearing it from your mum ever since you were three. And you must have had your head buried in the sand if you haven’t heard the experts say how good they are for you.
In fact the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat at least 5-6 serves of vegetables a day to ensure good nutrition and health. But the other fact is that only 6% of Australians actually do eat their recommended daily intake of vegetables. That means that 94% of us don’t!
And here’s some more startling statistics. A UK study found that you have 42% less chance of dying from a health related cause like cancer, heart disease or stroke, if you eat seven or more serves of vegetables a day. If that seems like a lot of veggies, one to three serves will reduce your risk by 14%, three to five serves by 29%, five to seven by 36%. Basically, the more vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to get sick and die. Or put it this way, eat your vegetables and increase your chance of living longer. Even if you’re not eating them by the plateful, every vegetable that you do eat is making a difference to your health.
So while we’re obsessed with our gym workouts and yoga classes, really one of the best things we can do for our health is simply eat more vegetables. In fact, we’d all be a whole lot healthier if we did.
Well, what’s the issue then? Why aren’t we eating our vegetables? And more importantly, what do we do about it?
One factor is that they don’t have as long a shelf life as that box of cereal in the pantry… filled with preservatives… that will still be fine to eat in six months. And we’re all guilty of clearing out a vegetable crisper of soggy veggies that started off with good intentions but we just didn’t get around to in time.
Generally, people also don’t find vegetables as tasty as other food full of salt and sugar. Even natural sugar makes fruit more appealing. Usually you need to do some sort of preparation with a vegetable to be able to eat and enjoy it.
That leads us on to the next obstacle. They’re seen as high maintenance. You can’t just grab and go with a veggie. They need to be washed, peeled and cut. It’s much easier to access the pre-packaged stuff like a packet of biscuits.
Our diets are also traditionally focused on carbs. A typical Western diet is based on cereal or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and some meat for dinner (with a couple of veggies on the side). Vegetables are the added extra, the after-thought, not the “hero” of the meal.
And for a lot of kids (and maybe some adults), vegetables are harder to chew. Plus they have stronger flavours than a lot of other food, making them less appealing than a bowl of spaghetti or even a piece of fruit.
Although that’s a lot of obstacles, it’s still a no-brainer that it’s worth the effort to get friendlier with your vegetables if you want a healthier life.
Here’s a few top tips to get you going:
- Start by adding vegetables to every meal, even breakfast. It’s hard to pack five serves of vegetables into dinner so find ways to eat them throughout the day. Do it every day so that it becomes a habit.
- Find vegetables that you enjoy. You don’t have to like Brussels sprouts but find something you do like.
- Experiment with different ways of cooking your vegetables. Try mashed, grated, steamed, roasted or raw. Add them to whatever you can, such as pasta sauces, curries and stir fries.
- Eating habits are strongly influenced by parents and caregivers, so if you’ve got children, start teaching them some healthy eating habits early in life.
- Spend a bit of time each week doing some veggie prep. Chop up carrots, celery, capsicum and cucumber on the weekend, and keep in the fridge for an easy grab during the week. Do your prep work by cutting up extra vegetables as you are making dinner. Or if you are really time poor, buy them already pre-cut.
- Make sure you’ve always got fresh vegetables in the fridge. If you don’t have them handy, you won’t eat them. Remember, BuyFruit offers a vege box delivered straight to your door, that way you know you’ll have fresh vegetables on hand every week.
Check back for more blog posts in the coming weeks with more ideas on how to get your veggie fill.