MILWAUKEE -- Whether you're trying to lose weight or just maintain a healthy lifestyle, it's important to include a variety of vegetables in meal planning. The health benefits of eating vegetables are many and include reducing the risk of stroke, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and certain cancers, such as mouth, stomach, and colon cancer.
It can be a challenge to include a sufficient amount of this tasty and beneficial food group to menus. These tips from TOPS Club, Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the nonprofit weight-loss support organization, offer some creative ways to eat more vegetables:
1. Make a "pasta" dish with spaghetti squash instead of noodles.
2. Puree cooked vegetables and add them to stews, gravies, and soups.
3. Add raw spinach leaves and an extra-ripe banana to a fruit smoothie. It may sound strange, but the sweetness of the banana masks the taste of the spinach.
4. Baking? Add shredded carrots to muffins or bread.
5. Instead of cheese and meat, pile your morning omelet with onions, mushrooms, and red and green peppers. Chop vegetables the night before to save time in the morning.
6. Add chopped spinach to meat when preparing meatballs or hamburgers.
7. Try mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes. Experiment with different flavorings such as garlic, a dab of butter, and Parmesan cheese.
8. Add salsa to a breakfast burrito, pile it on a veggie burger, or use it in place of high-fat, creamy vegetable dips.
9. Puree pasta sauce with vegetables such as winter squash or chopped broccoli.
10. Add chopped carrots to casseroles or meat loaf.
TOPS Club Inc. (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), the original, nonprofit weight-loss support and wellness education organization, was established more than 63 years ago to champion weight-loss support and success. Founded and headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information, and support from others at weekly chapter meetings. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.
Visitors are welcome to attend their first TOPS meeting free of charge. To find a local chapter, visit (tops.org) or call 1-800-932-8677.