To answer the question of what are the best vegetables to eat daily, it’s important to consider what your actual purpose is for eating vegetables.
Depending on what outcome you are hoping to achieve, your ideal veggies may vary.
There are many good reasons for incorporating a plethora of vegetables into your diet. Below we will take a look at three common purposes for eating vegetables and what the optimal vegetable intake is for each.
If you’re not a big fan of eating vegetables but want to stay motivated in eating them, it helps to have a clear understanding of why you’re eating them and what your end goal is.
Keeping your eye on a goal you’re hoping to achieve can help give you that extra little push to stay on track.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at three common purposes for incorporating vegetables into your diet, and how to choose the best vegetables for each.
Purpose One: Best Vegetables to Eat Daily for Better Health
One of the most common purposes for eating a good amount of vegetables is to simply achieve and maintain better overall health.
A vegetable-rich diet has been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some forms of cancer, lower risk of digestive problems, lower risk of eye problems, and have a positive effect on blood sugar levels — which can help keep you from being hungry when you don’t need to eat.
Ease into it
When starting a daily vegetable habit, don’t change your diet quickly. Too abrupt a change freaks out your body. However, the body will go along with minor changes, so you can successfully ease into it over time.
This is similar in concept to getting a spoiled child to eat their veggies. Mixing veggies with processed food for them is a way to start successfully easing them into it.
Much like you can persuade even a spoiled child to eat right, you can entice your body to enjoy healthy eating. It can be a tricky proposition to get your body transitioned into liking vegetables. This is because your body craves dopamine and is wily and devious in its methods of getting it.
Throw your mind into the mix and the transition gets even more challenging. Your mind doesn’t want your body to suffer — one of its jobs is to prevent that. In an attempt to protect the body from changes that cause it discomfort, your mind can cleverly coerce you into abandoning your decisions to eat more vegetables.
This coercion becomes more straightforward if significant changes to your diet throw the body into withdrawal. Severe withdrawal may trigger a “body temper tantrum,” resulting in an eating binge.
So, when introducing more vegetables into your diet, go slow — real slow.
And be certain you can keep cooking a wide variety of vegetables to your liking. The best vegetables to eat daily are the ones you enjoy and will continue eating.
You’ll find a way to eat them every day if you appreciate their value and cook them in a way that makes them appetizing.
Plan before you shop
Buying fruits and vegetables as a habit is good — but only if you eat them.
The odds of eating them go up if you plan your menu before you shop. There are apps, like Plan to Eat, to help you organize all this. It may take some time, but you can find a way to make meal planning a habit.
This type of organizational problem is what your mind is made for. Utilize the power of your mind to plan a menu that appeals to you and that you can stick with. Set it up with only yummy vegetable dishes you like.
You may want to start by just handling and eating a few fruits and vegetables daily. This is much easier using recipes including grains like rice, pasta, etc. Breading and frying is fine at this stage and can make vegetables tastier.
Eat more and more of your favorite vegetables, ramping up to a cup of vegetables each day. Then get up to 2 cups, and eventually 2 cups for lunch and 2 more cups for dinner. Having a piece of fruit for dessert after each meal can help you achieve these milestones.
Take plenty of time ramping up your vegetable intake so your gut bacteria can gradually adjust to the extra fiber you are eating. It’s a game of “cinch by the inch.”
The key is to first get your daily fiber tolerance up any way you can, even if you continue eating other less healthy food at the same time. Worry about the carbs and fat later. The primary goal is to get your better habits started — the shopping, the food prep, and the making of simple vegetable recipes.
Become your own chef
Don’t be shy about obtaining new kitchen gizmos you feel you need for preparing vegetables in a way that makes them palatable to you. Having the right tools and equipment can make all the difference.
And keep in mind there’s plenty of online help — cooking tutorials, recipes, inspiration, etc. Take advantage of these resources.
You will soon discover what your go-to choices are for your preferred ways to eat your veggies. Do you want roasted veggies? A stir fry? A salad? A soup? A stew?
Do you want them simple with just garlic and onion powder, salt, and pepper? Or perhaps with a rich sauce? Hot with giardiniera? Do you want Italian or Mediterranean seasonings — heavy on the basil? Asian with sesame oil? Korean with kimchi? Indian? Spanish? Mexican?
There are abundant choices and variations to experiment with.
Your job as a chef is to please your body with nutritious vegetables made delicious with protein, herbs, and spices. Your job as the adult in the picture is deciding the caloric budget the chef gets as he learns to use veggies. You also choose how much time and money the chef spends on all this.
It’s probably best to write it all down and think long-term — plan into the future for weeks and months.
Benefits to you
The habit of eating veggies daily, along with protein and multivitamins with minerals, does several key things for you.
First, you meet your nutritional needs. Nutritional cravings should become rare.
Second, the fiber that is consistently in your gut when you’re regularly eating vegetables stabilizes your microbiome. A stable microbiome with fiber decreases inflammation and improves mood.
Third, feeding your body plenty of food three or more times a day lets your body and mind relax about the subject of food. You may find yourself becoming a little harder to stress. And you may also find it’s easier to exercise and sleep better.
Purpose Two: Best Vegetables to Eat Daily to Ease Carbohydrate Withdrawal
If you are trying to reduce the amount of carbs you are consuming from processed foods and grains, comforting starchy vegetables and fruits make suitable substitutes — even if they are red-listed on our traffic light grading system.
Favorites like mashed potatoes, sweet corn, and butternut squashes may lessen or stop carb cravings. Sauces with butter or sour cream add fat that makes you feel more satisfied and can help take the edge off. Fruits are tasty and sweet while providing needed fiber.
The best vegetables to eat daily for this purpose are ones that adequately satisfy your craving for carbohydrates — so even sweet, starchy vegetables are acceptable. You’re essentially substituting an unhealthy carbohydrate with a healthier one.
Using starchy vegetables and fruits to wean yourself off carbs such as pasta, bread, rice, biscuits, cereal, etc. is a workable strategy.
It’s a learning process
You will learn a lot about yourself and your body as you eat less and less flour and sugar and replace it with starchy vegetables, fruits, and fats to curb those troublesome carb cravings.
So, that’s the plan. You can eventually learn to satisfy yourself through the process of continuously observing and noting which flavors you seek as you remove processed foods from your diet.
The game is to add healthier substitute foods that satisfy the flavors and textures you are seeking.
If you’re constantly craving sweetness, you will have to decide for yourself if using artificial sweeteners is something you want to do. Certain groups such as Food Addicts Anonymous suggest not using artificial sweeteners. Do your research and decide for yourself what is best for you.
Develop a lifelong mindset
Even when you succeed at reducing your overall carb and processed food intake, you may still always have some level of carb addiction and consumption.
It is hard not to because we tend to use carbs to celebrate. Things like cake, ice cream, potato chips, fruit punch, and alcoholic drinks are carb-rich foods commonly used to reward ourselves for things we’ve achieved or to celebrate milestones in life.
There is only one real way to discover what your own personal addiction level is — by observing your own behavior and level of control when it comes to consuming or avoiding carbs.
You are encouraged to investigate professional groups like Food Addicts Anonymous or your doctor if you find you can’t control your eating behavior to your liking.
Regardless, do your best to get your intake of processed foods and grains (like rice) reduced as best you can — or completely eliminated. This, along with exercise and whatever you’ve determined for yourself to be the best vegetables to eat daily, will go a long way in getting you to your target healthy body weight.
Purpose Three: Best Vegetables to Eat Daily to Burn Fat
By adjusting your diet to include only leafy greens, non-starchy vegetables and some protein sources, you can sufficiently reduce your consumption of carbs to get your body into a state called nutritional ketosis — in which it essentially burns fat rather than carbs for energy.
This is a natural condition, but it’s important to pay close attention to how you are feeling and take the necessary steps to reach your goal safely.
Everyone’s body is different and you have to decide how strict to be on yourself based on how your body is doing.
The best vegetables to eat daily for maintaining ketosis are leafy greens (lettuce, etc.) and non-starchy vegetables. Take a look at our chart of acceptable vegetables.
Meals, snacks and drinks
During ketosis, there should be no skipping of meals. Ideally, you should eat within 2 hours of waking up and 2 hours within going to bed. A good meal schedule, therefore, would be to have breakfast within 2 hours after you wake up, dinner about 2 hours before you go to bed, and lunch somewhere halfway in between.
Also, be sure to keep yourself hydrated adequately or you will feel lousy. You may feel lousy anyway from other factors, so you want to be certain it’s not from dehydration. Getting in the habit of consistently sipping water throughout the day makes it easy to stay hydrated.
You will likely find that you need snacks between meals to get you through the day. That’s okay, but snack strategically. Eat just enough veggies and protein to get you through to the next meal.
Avoid the “keto flu”
While on a ketosis diet, you will probably feel fine most of the time, other than normal hunger cravings for a few days.
However, you may at some point feel what is known as the “keto flu,” which includes headaches, insomnia, muscle cramps, constipation (unlikely), and your own special symptoms. This is not an actual illness, but just your body reacting to the extreme change in diet. It’s common to experience this and typically nothing to worry about.
If it does get too bad, simply resume your normal diet. Note the symptoms, research them, try to fix whatever caused them and try again.
Vitamins and minerals can help
Some research shows that supplementing certain nutrients, including potassium, sodium, and magnesium, may help counteract muscle cramps. Plus, deficiencies in nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D, and certain B vitamins may increase the chances of muscle cramps.
You may also need supplements for general nutritional deficiencies. The veggies you are eating may have fewer nutrients in them because over time farm soils have become depleted in minerals.
Additionally, it’s possible your body does not absorb certain nutrients properly. If you feel you may have a nutritional deficiency but aren’t sure, you may need to see a nutritionist.
Observe yourself closely. Learn all you can. And talk to the pros as needed.
Protein is critical to success
When in doubt, eat protein.
If you’re feeling cravings, it can help to eat your favorite low-calorie protein bars — or some other protein source that you find appetizing.
The base diet for maintaining ketosis consists of eating 3 to 16 ounces of protein. To determine your personal ideal amount, simply try a quantity for several days and observe how you feel. Then add or subtract some and observe further.
Also, be aware that bodies constantly change, so you have to be alert and adjust accordingly whenever needed.
If you eat more protein than you need, the body burns it instead of fat for fuel. When it’s burning protein instead of fat, it takes you longer to reach your target weight. So be sure to get enough protein, but try not to overdo it.
Optimize your fat and vegetable portions
To get the fat your body needs, use about a tablespoon of quality oil per meal. You may be surprised how little it takes to stir-fry a pan of vegetables.
For vegetables, three to six cups of non-starchy vegetables and all the leafy greens you want is an ideal daily amount. You will soon discover the quantities that feel right to you and make you feel good.
As you go through ketosis, it changes your body chemistry. As a result, you’ll probably find yourself eating more vegetables just to feel better.
The key is to make them impactful for you — spicy hot, savory, or whatever else keeps you coming back for more. Your body likes getting sensation from food while in ketosis, so eat vegetables prepared in a way that you find stimulating.
What to expect
Once you get on this base diet, you’ll be eating about 800 to 1100 calories each day.
It will take a few days to burn up your glycogen reserves (the starch your body stores primarily in your muscles and liver).
Do not be fooled by quick weight loss the first few days. Glycogen holds on to 3 to 4 times its own weight in water. You typically have around a pound of glycogen in your body, which contains 3 to 4 pounds of water. When you burn up your glycogen reserves, you will also lose that accompanying water weight.
If you quit ketosis before hitting your ideal weight, don’t worry. Instead, take a look at why your body’s desires won out and how it outsmarted you. If you figure out why it won, you can have a much better chance of succeeding the next time.
Perhaps you may have a nutritional deficiency and need to find a protein, mineral or vitamin supplement to lessen cravings. Simply observe, research, experiment, consult, etc. and see if you can determine what you need to adjust for success.
If you have ever stopped smoking, you will recognize this pattern. You quit, you learn a little, and you cave. Then repeat, learning more and getting closer to success the next time. Quit and keep on quitting, until you finally get there.