5 Creative Ways to Add MORE Vegetables to Your Plate

5 Ways to Add More Veggies

Vegetables are one of my favorite food groups. Not only do they offer up a variety of essential nutrients, but they also happen to be one of my favorite ways to add texture, flavor, visual appeal and variety to any meal.

5 Ways to Add More Veggies

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a woman who just wanted to know one thing – how on earth do you make vegetables worth eating? Perhaps this is a question you too have asked. If so, I can assure you aren’t alone. And for as often as I get asked this question, I never get tired of helping people discover their own solution to this unique dilemma.

Vegetables are what I like to call my “hard to love” food group. Although I’ve loved vegetables for as long as I can remember, I also realize that not everyone was destined to be a dietitian like myself.

No, sadly, not everyone is a veggie fanatic. So if you find yourself pondering deeply over how vegetables should fit into your life, I’ve got a few suggestions specifically for you.

Plan meals around vegetables. Even though approximately half your plate should consist of fruits and vegetables at each meal, they aren’t always the first thing we think of. With so much real estate dedicated to these two food groups though, it can be helpful to prioritize them in the planning process.

When I plan meals, I often like to combine protein-rich foods with some sort of whole grain and a vegetable. Typically, foods from other food groups work their way in too, but I know that when these three foods are present, I’ve got a good base to build from.

Prepare ahead of time. Once you have a plan in place to utilize your vegetables, it may be beneficial to prepare them ahead of time. I typically don’t prep all my vegetables at once, but I do like to prepare extra vegetables at each meal time. This way, I can easily incorporate these into dishes throughout the week. For example, if a meal I’m making only requires half an onion, I’ll prepare the entire onion, reserving the half I don’t use as an easy add in to a meal I might make later in the week.

Related: My Meal Planning Routine

Try a new cooking technique. Do you ever feel like you’ve got the same two meals on repeat at home? Even I struggle with this. As a creature of habit, it can be difficult to get out of routine. So instead of trying to completely reinvent breakfast, lunch and dinner, consider smaller changes that can make an old meal feel new.

One great change? Trying a new-to-you cook method. Because vegetables are often underutilized, they are an easy focal point for trying new techniques. If you haven’t tried roasting, sautéing or grilling vegetables, I would highly recommend doing so.

Pro tip: Try identifying what qualities of foods you enjoy. If you prefer crunchy foods, you may enjoy lightly sautéed vegetables. If you prefer smoother, softer textures roasted vegetables may be more your style.

Related: How to Roast Vegetables

Pair with foods you love. Although it may be difficult to incorporate vegetables into your day consistently, there are probably foods you love that are much easier to add. When you begin to identify these foods, consider whether vegetables could be incorporated along with them.

For example, if you love spaghetti, it would be rather easy to incorporate vegetables into the sauce. Think Bell peppers, onion, or mushrooms!

Eat by the season. It may seem like there aren’t that many vegetables to choose from, but in reality there are lots of different vegetables available to us throughout the year. By becoming familiar with what is in season and when, you can add versatility to your vegetable round up and make your vegetable intake a lot more fun.

No matter how you look to incorporate vegetables, a good goal to shoot for is approximately 2 1/2 cups per day. If you aren’t quite sure what that looks like, the ChooseMyPlate.gov website is a great resource.

Need more suggestions for incorporating vegetables into your day? Here are some great suggestions from Cooking Light magazine.


5 In-Season Foods to Add to Your Basic Food List this September

With the change of season comes the opportunity to freshen up your basic food list. This fall, enjoy the taste of the season with a few foods at their peak this time of year.


Apples. It was only a few years ago that I realized apple orchards and cider mills aren’t common place in all states like they are Michigan. Every fall, my family goes to a cider mill and its become a quintessential mark of fall.
Best Ways to Prepare: Wash, slice and eat. Pair with your favorite nut butter or dip in yogurt.
Benefits: Apples up fiber and vitamin C in each crunchy bite. Plus, if you are a grown up, you only need to eat one medium sized apple to get half your days worth of fruit!

Apple Peanut Butter Waffles

Recipe: 5 Minute Apple Peanut Butter Waffles

Pumpkin. Have you joined in on the pumpkin craze yet? Although a pumpkin spice latte from your favorite coffee store may not be exactly what I’m talking about here, but pumpkins can be a great addition to your meal plan.
Best Ways to Prepare:
2 Methods for Cooking Pumpkins
Pumpkins aren’t just for decoration. Providing healthy doses of nutrients like vitamin A, fiber and folate, it’s a great addition to a variety of dishes. Even desserts can benefit from pumpkin! Consider using pumpkin puree to replace or offset fats often you may more regularly use in baking.

Cauliflower. My favorite way to enjoy cauliflower? Roasting it of course!
Best Way to Prepare: 10 Healthy Ways to Cook Cauliflower 
Benefits: Not only does roasting your cauliflower maximize flavor, but also preserves its texture. Waterlogged cauliflower? No thank you. And despite its color, cauliflower just happens to be one of the best sources of vitamin C. Antioxidants like vitamin C are particularly important this time of year when cold and flu peak.

Sweet potatoes. These babies are on my list all year long, but if you don’t regularly include them, now is the time.
Best Way to Prepare: How to Cook Sweet Potatoes 
Benefits: Sweet potatoes are low in calorie, rich in antioxidants and considered a complex carbohydrate. You’ll also find vitamin A, manganese, fiber and vitamin C in each sweet and savory bite.

Roasted Veggie Bowls

Recipe: Roasted Veggie Quinoa Bowls

Mushrooms. Mushrooms are another great add on to your fall menu. Mushrooms can be sauted and added to a variety of dishes. Get creative and enjoy the benefits they provide.
Best Way to Prepare: How to Cook Mushrooms on the Stovetop
Benefits: Mushrooms are one of the few foods available that naturally contain vitamin D. Like us, mushrooms produce their own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. During the winter months, it can be difficult for people to get enough sun to make sufficient amounts of vitamin D. Incorporating mushrooms into your meal plan is just one way to help boost levels. Mushrooms also contain other important nutrients like selenium, potassium, riboflavin and niacin.

5 In-Season Foods to Add to Your Basic Food List this August

5 Must Eat Foods To Add to Your Food List

The start of a new month means its time to look over our food list, adding in new foods try and possibly even taking some off the menu for awhile.

5 Must Eat Foods To Add to Your Food List

There are many benefits to frequently changing up your food list. Not only can it add a little excitement to your meal plan, but hopefully it will also provide you with more opportunity to get all the nutrients your body needs. After all, every food is different and offers up it’s own unique blend of nutrients necessary for good health.

If you aren’t quite sure what foods to add to your list this month, here are a few foods in-season here in Michigan that you may enjoy adding into your meal plan. These five in-season foods are favorites of mine and can add fun flavor and variety to your favorite summery meals.

Best ways to prepare:
How to Prepare a Cantaloupe (PopSugar)
The benefits:  Believe it or not, cantaloupe is very diverse in the nutrients it offers. Its an excellent source of beta-carotene and vitamin C, a very good source of potassium, and a good source of many B vitamins, vitamin K, magnesium and fiber. You’ll even find a little omega-3 fatty acids in there and a wealth of phytonutrients to boot!

Cantaloupe and Blackberry Parfait

This powerhouse hasn’t hit the research spotlight quite yet though. Given its great nutrient package, you can be sure its an asset to your diet this time of year.

Related Recipe: Blackberry and Cantaloupe Parfait

Best ways to prepare:
Give roasting it a try – its my favorite way to enjoy this versatile vegetable. Sauteing and steaming are two other great methods that will help retain the nutrients of this veggie too.
The benefits: Cauliflower has a subtler flavor than most veggies, making it an easy favorite at the dinner table. Most people can enjoy this veggie in some shape or form, and when they do, they are loading up on important antioxidantsand phytonutrients necessary to keep the body functioning at peak peformance.

Sweet Corn
Best ways to prepare: 3 Easy Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob (the Kitchn)
The benefits: Believe it or not, corn is a great addition to your diet. Because of it’s more starchy nature, it sometimes gets a bad wrap as a less-than-healthy sort of food, but in reality it has a lot to offer. Not only is corn rich in fiber, but it’s also loaded with nutrients that help promote healthy vision.

Best ways to prepare: How to Prepare a Plum (Jamie Oliver’s You Tube Channel)
The benefits: Plums are another flavorful fruit that can help your meal plan stay fresh and flavorful during the dog days of summer. Because of their rich vitamin C content, they’ll help you better absorb iron. Their soluble fiber can also help regulate blood sugar and help your meal feel more satisfying. Thanks plums!

Black Bean and Feta Cheese Quesadillas with a Peach Plum and Avocado Salsa

Related Recipe: Black Bean and Feta Quesadillas with Peach Plum and Avocado Salsa

Best ways to prepare:
How to Cook Tomatoes (Better Homes and Gardens)
The benefits: When you think tomato, you really should be thinking health. Tomatoes are rich in nutrition – from traditional vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and potassium, to a vast array of phytonutrients, tomatoes are a wellness powerhouse. Studies have shown that when you eat tomatoes, good things happen – promoting heart health, bone health, and reducing cancer risk, incorporating tomatoes into your day is, for most people, a really good idea.

This August, consider rotating in at least one or two of these foods into your regular rotation of foods. Not only will it help keep your meals interesting, but it will ensure you continue to get a good mix of nutrients your body needs.



How to Create a Basic Food List

Let’s stop planning meals and start building them instead. To do so, you need foods that work well in a variety of ways. Do you know what foods you need to build successful meals? If not, you may benefit from creating your own basic food list.

Creating Your Healthy Food List

The essentials.  What are your go-to meals? We all have them – those meals that consistently greet us no matter how busy our schedule gets. Whether its spaghetti and meatballs (which just happens to be one of mine) or Filet mignon (not one of mine!), we all have meals we turn to time and time again.

This means we have go-to foods as well, but we often fail to think about our meals in that way. These go-to foods are the essential elements necessary to create meals you enjoy. By breaking down our meals into their food components, we can create a list of foods we need to stock our kitchen with. We may even be able to identify ways to modify or enhance our regularly occurring meals by incorporating new foods to the mix.

When we break it down, our food list is where potential lies, where real meal magic happens. Because without our go-to foods, we don’t really have meals to speak of.

The Basics. As you are creating your food list, I’m hoping that some of the basics will pop up on your list more than once. Okay, what I’m really hoping for is that they pop up A LOT. 

Not quite sure what the basics are? The “basics” are foods that fit within the five basic food groups – fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and lean proteins. These are the true essentials – the foods providing your body with lots of nutrients, flavor, and variety. They should be showing up pretty frequently in your meal plan – like 80% of the time. They don’t necessarily have to be the only foods you eat, BUT they should provide the structure of your plan.

My Essential Foods. Instead of having several go-to meals in my regular rotation, I like to have between three to five different foods from each food group to start from.

My basics (1)

This ensures I always have the ingredients I need to keep meals nourishing and simple. Of course, this list doesn’t always stay the same, but it is a nice starting point to ensure more of my meals are eaten at home.

How to Build Your Own Food List. Ready to build your own food list? You can use my starter list as a launching point, but in order for your meals to be successful, use the following guidelines to help create a food list that works specifically for you.

  • Keep Seasonality in Mind. One of the reasons my food list doesn’t always stay the same is because I try to eat with the seasons. This can be a great way to add variety to your plate, save money, and experiment with new foods. Building your food list with seasonality in mind can also increase the likelihood that you’ll find the foods you need in the grocery store or at your local farmer’s market.
  • Be True to your Palate. Not every food that’s good for you will be an automatic hit for you or your family. And guess what? That’s okay. Be sure to build your food list with your preferences in  mind. But please make sure you are always leaving a little bit of room to give new foods or foods you haven’t eaten in a while a chance. You’d be surprised how many foods you disliked as child are actually appealing to your taste buds as an adult. Or how much a different cooking method, preparation technique, or the addition of  a certain spice or seasoning can change the way you approach a food. Always keep an open mind – pretty pretty please!
  • Remember why you’re eating in the first place. This may seem silly, but sometimes when we’re so focused on creating a list of foods we “should” eat, we forget that we should also be enjoying our foods in the first place. It’s important to work in foods that you love in addition to the foods you know are good for you. I like to think of this as balance. Balancing out your plate so that you have a good mix of foods that make your meal worth eating. This is also why starting your list with a few of your current meals in mind can be a great place to start.
  • Consult your physician or registered dietitian. Building a food list may also require consulting with your physician or registered dietitian, especially if you have special dietary needs or a medical condition that might require you to eat a certain way. Meeting up with a registered dietitian, like myself, may also help you identify new ways to enjoy nutrient-rich foods or approach food in a positive way.

Want more inspiration? I love this ultimate grocery-list-for-one registered dietitian Dana Angelo White put together over on Greatist. Be sure to check out! And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter – you’ll get my pantry starter kit download for FREE when you do!

6 Reasons Why I Love Gatheredtable

Gatheredtable in the Grocery Store

Everyone has to eat, but knowing what to eat isn’t always easy. That’s why I love Gatheredtable. It makes eating well easy to do no matter your schedule.

credit: Gatheredtable.com
credit: Gatheredtable.com

Healthy, homemade meals are my favorite. As a dietitian and mom, I love the challenge of discovering new recipes that not only provide my family with the nutrients and energy they need for successful days, but ones they actually want to eat again and again.

It sounds easy – like I have it all figured out – but believe me, I don’t. Even as a dietitian, my kids are kids, making decisions based on their limited life experiences and preferences. Like every other kid, my boys tend to like simple and sweet offerings more than complex or bold ideas.

My foster kids – well, they really like the sweet stuff. In fact, when I asked what their favorite foods were on the day they arrived, the oldest told me very decidedly that her top three foods of choice were “honey, sugar, and candy.” No, she’s not Buddy the Elf, but she does come from a different home with different rules and different foods.

Sometimes, I need fresh inspiration. Foods I like aren’t always what those around my table like and with even more diverse taste preferences surrounding me these days, its incredibly helpful to have a variety of simple meal ideas at the ready. That’s where Gatheredtable comes in.

GatheredTable in the Kitchen
credit: Gatheredtable.com

Although there are many different meal planning resources online, Gatheredtable has quickly become one of my favorites. Curious why? Here are my top 6 reasons for loving this meal planning site:

Recipes are real-life ready. This is a big deal. Real-life ready recipes? Are you kidding me? Anyone else have a hard time finding recipes online that they would actually make? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found beautiful food photos only to be accompanied by unrealistic and super long ingredient lists. I love that Gatheredtable keeps their recipes simple and to the point. This means I will actually make the food I see, and for a meal planning service, that’s a pretty important feature.

Ingredients are easy to recognize BUT may push your food boundaries just a bit. Recipes on Gatheredtable aren’t just easy to follow; they also rely on familiar ingredients. This means I can rest easy knowing that I can find the necessary foods each recipe requires in my grocery store. In some areas, you might be able to even order your foods directly from Gatheredtable thanks to their grocery list feature.  

The work is done for you… sort of. Half the battle of getting dinner out on the table is planning (or lack thereof). Gatheredtable allows you to easily identify recipes for the week, add them to your meal plan, and create a grocery list. The only thing you have to do is buy the ingredients and make them.

Gatheredtable in the Grocery Store
credit: Gatheredtable.com

With their handy mobile app, you’ll even be able to take everything with you to the store and into the kitchen. This means you always step into your kitchen with a plan and will hopefully have more time to spend enjoying the meal versus fretting about what you’re going to make in the first place.

Meals will become more enjoyable. With much of the pre-dinner work done, you’ll hopefully be able to relax and enjoy the meal a bit more. I know this is the case for me. There is a HUGE and noticeable difference in my attitude on nights where I have a plan versus those I don’t. Just ask my family. They’ll keep it real.

You’ll be less likely to eat meals out, and eat more meals at home. Another reason to love the art of meal planning – you’ll get to eat more meals at home. This not only saves you money but allows you to eat better too. Meals out are often higher in sodium, sugar, and fat; ingredients that can slow you down versus fuel you up.

Gatheredtable on the Plate
credit: Gatheredtable.com

You’ll actually make these recipes… wowing your friends and family. I’ve had the opportunity to review a few different meal planning sites and for the most part, they often have many of the same benefits in common. Why? Well, because they give you tools to plan out dinner and that’s pretty useful for the majority of us.

Related: Kati’s Meal Planning Routine

But what really stands out for me when it comes to Gatheredtable is the simplicity of their recipes. I love the inspiration that more complicated recipes provide, but when I’m planning out real-life meals for everyday of my week, I just want simple, no-fuss ideas. I call these “real-life” ready recipes and Gatheredtable is my go-to source for those. Like me, I think you’ll actually make these recipes, not just pin them for later.

Gatheredtable’s meal planning services aren’t free (sadly) but they are affordable. Plus, if you stick to it, odds are good you’ll end up saving money by eating out less and eating in more.

Related: How Gatheredtable Pays for Itself

Want to try Gatheredtable out? Try it free for seven days! And if possible, I’d love to hear all about your experience! 

Disclaimer/disclosure: Affiliate links to Gatheredtable’s website are included in this post. Photos were made available to me by the Gatheredteam; however, I was not financially compensated for this review or asked to share my opinions. These opinions are uniquely mine and based on my own user experience with Gatheredtable.