You don’t need a dietitian to tell you that vegetables are good for you - but despite knowing better, most of us aren’t getting enough. I get it, we aren’t naturally programmed to love vegetables. They’re low calorie, bitter, and sometimes even inedible if you don’t cook them right.
If you think about it, nothing about vegetables scream survival, so it’s no wonder that they’re so easy to forget about at mealtime. Back in the ‘hunting and gathering’ days, vegetables weren’t a priority over higher calorie foods, like meat and fruit. But things have changed - we have an abundance of high calorie, sweet, salty, fatty foods available to us that appeal to our every taste bud. Comparatively, those veggies don’t stand a chance.
But this change in food system means a change in our health priorities. We're faced with heart disease, diabetes, cancer, the list goes on. Bottom line: survival means something different now, and since veggies don’t call our name from the kitchen like a bag of chips, we need to make a conscious effort to be sure we're getting enough each day. In doing so, we set ourselves up to ensure we get enough fibre, are eating balanced meals, and increasing the antioxidant, vitamin, and mineral content of our diets. These are all things that help reduce the risk of chronic disease and will help to keep us healthy.
Maybe the memories of your mothers boiled Brussels sprouts makes you cringe, but just as our food system has changed, so have our food prep methods. There are ways to prep, season, cook, and even ‘hide’ vegetables that we just didn’t do before.
I've asked my Dietitian colleagues to share their best tips to help you eat more veggies and actually enjoy them! Keep reading for eleven ways to eat more vegetables - even if you’re not a vegetable person.
1. Hide them in smoothies
Boost your intake of leafy veggies by blending them in your smoothies. "Greens hide well and if you use a magic bullet, you also have built in portion control. Win-win.” - Michelle Archer, Registered Dietitian. Not a fan of green smoothies? Use blueberries to hide the green colour.
2. Try them roasted or grilled
Registered Dietitian, Bonnie Huang suggests baking your veggies at a really high temperature, around 450F. “Depending on the vegetable, longer for root veggies and shorter for greens like kale. The idea is to get them nice and crisp without burning them.” Here’s why it works: roasting or grilling your vegetables brings out a sweet flavour and crispy texture that you might enjoy, even if you don’t like that same vegetable when steamed or boiled. Simply drizzle with oil and toss with your favourite herbs and spices - you can’t go wrong!
3. Make veggie popsicles
Veggie popsicles are perfect during the summer months. “Use peeled and grated carrots or beets (microwave for a minute to soften) or spinach blended with fruit and poured into a popsicle mould.” - says Yasmin Pitts, RD. Her favourite combos? “Carrot, orange, and pineapple; beet, cherry, and raspberry; or spinach, kiwi, and mango”.
4. Experiment with herbs for different flavours
Adding spices and herbs can completely change the flavour profile of the vegetable dish, and you just might find a flavour combination that you really enjoy. Need some inspo? Registered Dietitian, Tamie Shaw shares some of her favourite combos, “Add rosemary to sweet potatoes, or try adding curry or turmeric with garlic to cauliflower”. Tamie also suggests adding fruit, such as strawberries, sliced apple, orange segments, or dried fruit, into salads to make them more interesting.
5. Pair them with something you know you love
Registered Dietitian, Dawn Santacroce suggests combining your vegetables with something very familiar, like pasta or potatoes to help increase acceptance.
6. Load up your sandwiches with veggies
It turns out, you don’t have to eat a salad to get your veggies in. Registered Dietitian, Lynette Street McGarrell suggests loading up your sandwiches with different leafy greens, microgreens, cucumber and peppers for a crunch, or shredded carrot.
7. Purée veggies into sauces
When you want your veggies to be completely hidden, purée them using an emersion blender and add them to your sauce. This will provide the nutrition of the veggies, without the chunks. “Cook an eggplant in the oven or microwave, then peel it and purée the eggplant with pasta sauce. This works well with any cooked vegetables, and you won't even taste the veggies in the sauce!”- suggests Ayesha Sarathy, RD.
8. Change up how you slice them
Slicing vegetables into smaller or thinner pieces completely changes the texture. “I find veggies are better accepted when they are sliced very small/thin with a mandolin” - says Whitney Harms, RD. Or “spiralize your veggies in salads! Beets taste delicious this way. Cucumber and carrot taste better this way too. Or use zucchini noodles with pasta sauce” - suggests Registered Dietitian, Lana Danielis.
9. Take your time
Like anything, vegetables can be an acquired taste. Registered Dietitian Bailey Green suggests adding them slowly into your diet, “if you don’t like them, jumping into a whole plate of Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and asparagus will make you resent them!” Pearle Nerenberg, Registered Dietitian suggests strutting that trial period into a 21 day challenge, “have a small taste each day to overcome taste and texture aversion and move towards acceptance.” After enough times, you’ll likely start to enjoy them.
10. Vegetable soup
Don’t forget about veggie soup! Registered Dietitian, Melissa Wall suggests to include salad as a main meal, or side dish to up your veggie intake.
11. Cook them with meat
Registered Dietitian Dianne Oickle suggests roasting veggies with turkey, beef, or ham, “then purée the veggies and use this as a gravy”. Or for a stove top option, “if you cook steak in a pan, add onions, mushrooms, and carrots for amazing flavour” suggests Kevin Schwanz, RD.
What's your favourite way to prepare veggies? Comment below!
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