Everybody agrees that we should be eating more vegetables. This is a point over which no one argues, including Paleo eaters, low-carbers, vegans, vegetarians and low-fat diet advocates.The only controversy about vegetables is whether potatoes and corn should be considered vegetables. According to the food pyramid, potatoes and corn are categorized as vegetables. The truth is that even these foods are commonly eaten as vegetables, potato is a tuber (starchy vegetable) and corn is a cereal grain. Potato (peeled to remove most of its antinutrients) can be a suitable option in your Pale diet if you are at a healthy weight and are physically active, but most people should stay away from all grains, including corn. Please refer to the appropriate section for more information about these foods.In the context of the Paleo diet, vegetables mostly refer to non-starchy vegetables, such as onion, garlic, tomato, mushroom, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, asparagus, avocado, celery, cucumber, collard greens, green beans, eggplant, beets, turnips, bell pepper, lettuce, spinach, kale, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, pumpkin…. and the list goes on!
Experiment with new vegetables to add variety to your Paleo diet!
Be creative! Here are 10 easy ways to add more vegetables to your diet.
Highest Nutrient Density!
- Add green onions, spinach, cherry tomatoes and mushroom to your scrambled eggs or omelet. This makes a perfect breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner…. eat it whenever you want!
- Use lettuce leaves to prepare tasty grain-free wraps! Add meat, seasonings, bacon and homemade mayo if desired.
- Use portobello mushroom caps to make a gourmet grain-free bison or grass-fed beef burger. Top it with lettuce, tomatoes and bacon and accompany it with a salad or sweet potato fries!
- Use grilled eggplant slices or portobello mushroom caps as the base of your grain-free, dairy-free pizza. Top with onions, mushrooms, bell peppers and meat. Drizzle with oil and fresh herbs before serving. If you tolerate dairy, you can sprinkle your pizza with cheese made from the milk of pastured, grass-fed cows.
- Serve mashed cauliflower (cooked, mashed, seasoned and mixed with coconut oil, butter or ghee) or try cauli-rice (grated raw cauliflower, sautéed in coconut oil) as a side dish.
- Use spaghetti squash or sliced zucchini to serve your spaghetti sauce over for a vegetable-rich grain-free pasta dish. Make sure you add plenty of onions, garlic, carrot, celery, mushroom and other veggies to your sauce.
- Make yourself a BIG salad! You can go the conventional route by using leafy greens, cucumber, avocado, green onions and tomatoes or prepare a salad with other raw or cooked vegetables, such as broccoli, bell peppers, cabbage or green beans! Drizzle with a homemade vinaigrette (simply mix about equal amounts of extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar).
- Fill up your slow-cooker with a big chunk of meat and a variety of vegetables to have an all-in-one meal. Your slow-cooker will become your best friend and will help you follow your Paleo diet. Onions, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and butternut squash compliment slow-cooked meats very well, but be creative and experiment with other options.
- Snack on raw or cooked vegetables. Dip your celery, carrot and cucumber stick in a guacamole or enjoy cooked broccoli or green beans drizzled with ghee, coconut oil, butter or extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic dressing.★ See more Paleo diet-friendly recipes here ★
- Accompany your grass-fed bison burger, free-range wild boar steak or wild-caught sardines with a generous helping of roasted, naturally sweet tasting vegetables. Put Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, onions, asparagus or butternut squash in a large baking dish, drizzle with ghee or coconut oil and sprinkle with crystal salt. Bake at 400-425°F (200-220°C), stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until cooked and slightly golden. For a quicker option, sauté your veggies in plenty of lard, bacon fat, ghee or coconut oil, season and serve with your meal.
Of all food groups, non-starchy vegetables have the highest nutrient density, which means that they contain the most nutrients per calorie. Every bite of food you consume on your Paleo diet provides a generous dose of nutrients.
Most vegetables are a good source of many B-vitamins, especially folate (the natural form of folic acid), vitamin C, beta-carotene, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium, zinc and iron, in addition to containing dozens of different antioxidant compounds. (1)
The vitamin, mineral and antioxidant content found in vegetables can help you optimize your health and keep age-related diseases away.
On top of that, they are low in carbohydrates and constitute an excellent source of fiber.
Organic and local is best!
Food quality is of the upmost importance on the Paleo diet. Visit your farmer market or join a CSA (community supported agriculture) program to get fresh, tasty, local, nutrient-rich and organic produce.
Organic vegetables have less pesticide, which are meant to be toxic and kill any creatures that want to eat the plant before you do. Pesticide residues on produce may cause brain and nervous system problems, cancer, hormone disruption (including infertility and PCOS) as well as irritation of your skin, eyes and lungs. Learn about the most and least contaminated produce here.
Buying local will help you get the freshest and most nutritious vegetables. Many of the exotic produce found at the grocery store has to travel kilometers and miles to get to your plate, leaving them plenty of time to lose their nutritional value, in addition of using fossil fuels and damaging the environment as a result.
On a budget? Refer to the Paleo guide to choosing organic produce to make the most out of every buck you spend on your food.★ Learn more about other heatlhy food you should include in your Paleo diet ★
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References: (1) Cordain L, et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005; 81: 341-54. (2) Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2011 Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce. Food News section of the Environmental Working Group website. 2011.