Who is keen for healthy meal ideas?
Listen up people, we’re facing a crisis at the moment. Forget the “toxic” sugars or the evil gluten in our diets – there’s a more pressing matter! We, as a nation, are guilty of NOT EATING ENOUGH VEGETABLES!!
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has recently stated that only 4 out of every 100 Aussie adults consume their recommended 5 serves of vegetables a day. Even more worryingly, less than 1 in every 100 Aussie kids actually eat the recommended servings of vegetables a day. This means lots of us are missing out on the protective benefits and health promoting goodness of adequate vegetable consumption, leading to a higher risk of us developing chronic disease and increasing the burden on healthcare.
So, how are we going to fix this national problem??
Is the answer really just going into full “rabbit mode”? You know… salads for lunch. Salads for dinner. Carrot and celery sticks for snacks.
Rather than completely changing the way you eat; why not consider veggie-fying some of the meals you’re already currently having? And yes, I completely made up that word! Veggie-fying a meal does not need to be complicated. You can just simply add extra non-starchy vegetables into the main dish itself; and if the flavours absolutely don’t work you could always cook the vegetables separately as a side dish – think stir-fried, grilled, steamed, boiled and (ironically) salads.
Let’s take a look at these 6 popular Aussie meals that are in desperate need of a vegetable boost. I’ve offered some ideas on how to veggie-fy them the next time you’re feeding yourself or your family!
Homemade or takeaway, curries are often eaten with just rice or breads (or both!) and very little vegetables.
Add at least equal amounts of vegetables as the amount of meat being used. Check out our recipe for Thai Green Curry – we’ve almost doubled the amount of vegetables compared to the meat; without compromising on flavor.
Milder flavoured vegetables (e.g. bok choy, green beans, snow peas, bean sprouts, zucchini, eggplant, carrot) will be less overpowering and will go really well with milder curries such as a korma or yellow Thai curry. If you’re cooking a stronger spiced curry; you could try using vegetables with stronger flavors (e.g. capsicum, cauliflower, cabbage or broccoli). The combinations are endless, so use what you prefer.
If you’re getting takeaway, try ordering a vegetable side dish or alternatively try microwaving some frozen vegetables.
Tip: Try to coat your vegetables in the curry sauce when serving up – this will add some flavours particularly if you’ve chosen a plainer way of cooking (microwave/steam/boil).
Stroganoff is often served with pasta or potato, and usually without any extra vegetables – likely because there is already some mushrooms and onions in the sauce. This usually isn’t enough vegetables to fill up on, consequently too much pasta or potato ends up being consumed.
Use equal amounts of mushrooms as your meat (e.g. if you’ve bought 500g of beef, buy 500g of mushrooms). This will boost the vegetable content and make the meat sauce stretch for a few more meals. Saving money whilst getting healthy – win!
Green beans go really well with beef stroganoff, so give them a quick flash in boiling water (to keep them nice and crunchy!) and aim to have nearly half your plate filled with them. Microwaving frozen green beans can be a great time saver as well.
Tip: Use the green beans to mop up the stroganoff sauce!
Burgers are well-loved by both kids and adults, but they often contain very little vegetables: one slice of tomato, and one lettuce leaf. Maybe some pickles if you’re lucky. Not quite enough to get us across the “5 serves a day” line.
If you’re making home-made burgers, try our delicious recipe for burgers with a rainbow slaw. The rainbow slaw is amaaaazing and delicious enough the be eaten on the side if you can’t stuff it all into your bread roll. Heck, make the rainbow slaw even if you’re making burgers from store-bought patties. It’s that good!
Alternatively, you could swap the burger patty for a vegetable option every now and then. Try our recipe for mushroom burgers – the combination of cheese, mushrooms and capsicum is divine!
Tip: Make these parsnip chips to go with your burgers! You’ll be veggie-fying like a champ!
Pasta meals (Pasta Bake, Spag Bol, Lasagna)
Similar to beef stroganoff, most pasta meals are served without any extra vegetables. To a degree, there are some vegetables hidden in the sauces. But again this often not quite enough vegetables to meet our recommended daily intake, and we end up eating larger portions of pasta instead. And if you’re like me on my lazy days where I reach for the ready-made ravioli and a tub of Latina Fresh sauce, there almost always isn’t any extra vegetables – because at that stage really, who can be bothered to chop and cook?
Try roasting a tray of vegetables if you’re making a pasta bake or lasagna, seeing as the oven is already in use. Roughly chop a mix of your favourite vegetables – try red onion, zucchini, capsicum, pumpkin and tomato. Scatter them on a lined roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil, some mixed herbs and 1 clove of minced garlic. Give it a quick mix, and bake for 30 minutes or until tender. You might want to put the veggies in first if your lasagna or pasta bake takes a much shorter time in the oven to cook. Aim to have a good 1 to 1.5 cups of these tasty veggies on your plate.
If you’re cooking something on the stove like Spag Bol, you can always try spiralizing some zucchinis and and use these long strands as additional “pasta”. Check out our tasty recipe for this – in addition to the zucchini “zoodles”, we’ve made sure our bolognaise sauce is chockers full of veggies.
If you’re doing the ready-made filled pasta and sauce combo, throw in one or two frozen steampaks in the microwave to cook whilst waiting for your pasta to be ready. Save some pasta sauce to toss your veggies in for extra flavour.
Tip: try our Low GI Spaghetti Bolognese recipe with 2-3 serves of vegetables per serve!
Mexican meals are quick and tasty, and the convenience of meal kits make them a popular choice for getting dinner sorted in a flash. These meals are often heavier on the meat and tortilla wraps or taco shells; due to the fact that they often don’t have enough vegetables! I find that the recommended 1 to 2 cups of vegetables tend to make tortilla wraps explode, and there simply isn’t enough space on taco shells.
Add 1 tin of kidney beans or black beans (drained and rinsed) to the mince mix when you’re cooking. If you’re doing that already, then here’s a new challenge for you – add equal amounts of vegetables as your mince. If you’re using 500g of mince, you’re looking at adding 1 large capsicum and 1 cup of corn kernels. Because of this additional vegetable volume it is essential that you add another packet of taco seasoning; so take note if you’re buying meal kits. This will make nearly double the usual amount of mince mix, so expect to freeze some leftovers. Serve up on your wrap or taco shells, and don’t forget the usual topping of lettuce and tomato.
Keen to up your veggie game further? After you’ve had your second wrap, you could try using iceberg lettuce leaves as a “wrap” and envelope your veggie-rich mince mix like you would normally do with a tortilla wrap.
Tip: Try this delicious recipe for a Mexican bowl.
Meat pies, sausage rolls, or fast food
These foods are often a common meal choice for the time-poor Aussie adult or busy families who are looking for a quick feed with minimal effort. However, they are almost always served with minimal to no vegetables apart from hot chips.
Try having a side serve of salad or microwaved frozen vegetables if you’re having one meat pie or sausage roll. If you have extra time, you could try cooking up this recipe for Chicken Pie – don’t forget to freeze the extra portions for the next time when you’re busy… no need for commercial meat pies anymore!
If you’re getting fast food, most major chains will have a salad option, such as KFC’s Salad Shaker or McDonald’s Garden Salad – try ordering these to go with your meal of choice and ask for a smaller serve of hot chips.
If you want to know more about how to make healthy changes to your diet and need more practical meal ideas, come and have a chat to Melissa or one of our other qualified dietitians today.