Dinner is typically the largest meal of the day, and it’s also your last chance to strike a healthful balance of foods for the day. If you didn’t eat many or any fruits and vegetables at lunch, now’s your chance; why not load up on fruits and vegetables to meet your produce quota? Dinner is the time to make up for any lack of nutrients earlier in the day. Plus, piling on the produce means there’s less room in your dinner for unhealthful options. Try these tips from Harvard Medical School to work more produce into dinner.
Roast vegetables along with whatever entrée is in the oven. Roasting is a great way to let the deep, rich flavors of vegetables shine through because their starches start to convert to sugar at around 375° F, releasing a deep, nutty sweetness. To roast, just bake cut-up vegetables at 375° F for 20 to 25 minutes or until they’re lightly browned. Any vegetable is a roasting candidate—from mushrooms, onions, eggplant, and zucchini to tomatoes, broccoli, and carrots—so don’t limit yourself.
Poach veggies in low-sodium chicken broth and white wine. Add garlic, basil, or tarragon for a flavor bonus. To poach, boil enough liquid to cover the vegetables. When it boils, add the vegetables. Turn down the heat to just below boiling and cook the vegetables for about five to seven minutes, until they’re brightly colored and tender-crisp.
Smuggle fresh cut vegetables into main dishes. Try adding mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, onions, or carrots into pasta sauce, casseroles, soup, stews, scrambled eggs, and chili. And pureed cooked vegetables can easily be used as sauces, soups, spreads, and toppings.
Make it your goal to have a salad with dinner most days. Stock your salad with dark green leafy lettuce and toss in petite peas, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, and peppers. Bonus: in addition to the nutrient bonanza you’ll get, studies show that starting meals with a low-calorie salad can help you consume fewer calories at the meal, as long as the salad is no more than 100 calories.
Choose fruit—fresh or frozen, stewed or baked—for dessert. It all counts toward your daily produce quota. Dried fruits are healthy but high in calories, so eat them sparingly.