Why Aren't You Eating More Veggies?

A Duke Dietitian Breaks Down the Barriers

Updated May 10, 2017
Eat your veggies

Ellen Michal, RD, Duke Raleigh's Lifestyle and Disease Management Center

Most of us know about the benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods. So why aren’t we all eating that way? Ellen Michal, a registered dietitian at Duke Specialty Rehab Services Midtown, says there are two main barriers that keep people from eating their veggies: time constraints and lack of culinary knowledge.

Barrier 1: Time Constraints

Most people believe that cooking from scratch takes more time than they have, Michal says. “To chop and sauté a beautiful pan of vegetables takes about 20 minutes,” she says. That’s as long as it takes to heat up a frozen pizza. Or to grab takeout from the barbecue joint down the road. Michal offers these time-saving tips for more veggies in less time:

  • Buy vegetables from the salad bar. They are already cut and washed.
  • Add bagged fresh vegetables to stir-fry, soups, and omelets.
  • Fresh, pre-sliced mushrooms can add texture to ground beef with less fat and more flavor. Replace one-third of the meat with mushrooms—no one will ever know.
  • Grab leftover veggies from the fridge and scramble them with eggs, roll them in a wrap with low-fat cream cheese, mix them into soup, or blend them into in your favorite smoothie.
  • Kale chips are quick and easy to make in the oven. Eat them instead of potato chips.
  • Use salsa instead of salad dressing. Just like that, you’ve got more vitamins and fewer calories.

Barrier 2: Lack of Culinary Knowledge

Without basic cooking know-how, which describes many of us, the process of making meals that are healthful as well as satisfying can be daunting. A cooking class could be fun. Or use these tips from Michal:

  • There is a kitchen gadget to solve almost any problem. Shop around and see what you find to help you save time.
  • Pressure cookers speed up cooking time (a lot!), and slow cookers slow it way down. Both can be super-convenient and useful depending on the situation. There are even slow cooker/pressure cooker combos on the market.
  • Turn the coffee grinder into a spice chopper and use your own fresh herbs.

Set your mind to it

“Many of us have good intentions to improve our health,” Michal says, “but we get bogged down by having a goal and not knowing how to get there.” She says that working with a dietitian or a health coach can help you break down your goals into manageable steps.

Perhaps most important, she says, is inclination. “Motivation is a mindset,” she says. “We help the people we work with see that motivation goes hand in hand with healthy action.”