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Summer Challenge: Add 1 More Vegetable to Each Meal!

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My breakfast: an egg over kale, zucchini, and a slice of ham

Without being specific, it's safe to say that eating more vegetables is a good thing. And yet, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report, vegetable consumption in America is down by 27 pounds per person per year. That's A LOT of vegetables! So even with the rise of the foodie culture, farmer's markets, and TV cooking shows, many people are eating fewer vegetables than ever.

Why? Well, sometimes it's hard. Sometimes it's expensive. Sometimes it's a cultural change as much as it is a lifestyle change. Even I notice that it's sometimes just easier to skip the veg. Bread is not a veg. Tomato sauce is not a veg (tomatoes are actually a fruit, anyway). And neither mustard nor mayo counts as a vegetable.

But if ever there were a time to add more vegetables to your diet, it would be now--bounteous summertime, when everything's fresh from the farm or garden! Why bother? Well, eating more vegetables will improve your health, your skin, your mood (yes, they can make you happier), your body, your energy, your sex life, and the environment. Guaranteed.

So here's your summer challenge: Add one extra vegetable to each meal. And here are some easy (and delicious) tips for getting more vegetables into your diet.

  • Breakfast: Add some sautéed kale to your eggs. Shred some zucchini and cook it lightly in butter. Make an omelet with whatever is fresh and in season. Eat a little salad on the side. Take whatever you normally eat for breakfast and add just one veggie to it.
  • Lunch: Enjoy some celery and carrots slices with your sandwich. Add some vegetables to your salad and/or burrito bowl. Order soup with vegetables in it. Or make soup and put vegetables in it (this summer vegetable soup is yummy). Eat pickles!
  • Dinner: Put vegetables in or on top of your pasta. Order an extra vegetable if you're eating out or add a veg side to whatever you're making at home. Cut up raw vegetables to add to your salad greens. Don't be afraid to cook up some frozen vegetables--they're flash-frozen within hours of being harvested! A little bit of butter melted on top is fine!
  • Snacks: Eat some raw vegetables plain or with hummus. Cut up a red or green pepper and eat it raw (so refreshing!). Slice a cucumber and drizzle lemon over it or sprinkle it with a little salt. Slice a head of fennel (or anise) and top it with olive oil and salt and pepper.
It really doesn't matter how you eat them. What matters is that you eat more of them. This is my challenge to myself going forward. How about you all join me?!

Just add one more vegetable to each meal!

For more from Maria Rodale, visit www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com