Vegetables are a crucial component of a balanced diet, yet most Americans are not eating enough. Adequate intake of vegetables offers numerous health benefits. Specifically a diet with ample vegetable servings may decrease the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. Vegetables are a high fiber food lower in calories, a useful food group to help promote weight loss or maintain a healthy weight. The recommended amount of vegetables you need is dependent on age, sex, and physical activity. In general, adults are suggested to eat two to three cups of vegetables per day, the amount decreasing with age. Using the “My Plate” method offers a more simplified approach to achieving the recommended intake. With this approach, the goal is to fill at least one-fourth of your plate with vegetables (and another one-fourth of the plate with fruits). How to Increase your Vegetable Intake Don’t worry if increasing your vegetable intake to the current recommendations seems overwhelming, start with a slow and simple approach. Planning your meals in advance to include a vegetable will be instrumental in your success. Below are some easy ways to increase your vegetable intake: Stock your refrigerator with raw veggies Keep vegetables in your refrigerator to snack on or have as a back up when time prevents you from preparing vegetables. Raw carrots, broccoli, edamame, and cucumbers are only a few of the possible options. Add some flavor to the veggies by dipping them in hummus or Greek yogurt dips. You can drink your vegetables too. Add vegetables such as spinach, kale, or carrots to your favorite smoothie recipe. Juicing vegetables does offer some health benefits, however, during the juicing process, certain components of thevegetables get removed. Order a veggie pizza Pizzas topped with vegetables like mushrooms, green peppers, onions, or broccoli can be part of a balanced diet. When ordering, you can even ask for extra veggies. Don’t be afraid to pile those veggies high. Make a loaded vegetable omelet Many people don’t start eating their vegetables until later in the day, but including vegetables at breakfast is helpful to consume sufficient amounts. Add vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, mushrooms, or peppers to your next omelet (or scrambled egg recipe). Cook your meals creatively You can include vegetables in most dishes. Some recipes may not list vegetables in the ingredients, but the flavor will not change if a vegetable is added toward the end of the cooking process. For example, add broccoli to spaghetti or mushrooms and cauliflower to a chicken curry.