At least half of your plate should be made up of fruits and veggies in order to reach daily recommendations. For those eating a 2000 calorie diet, that's at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. You should aim for a variety from the different vegetable subgroups – like orange/red veggies, leafy greens, etc.
Maybe you feel like vegetables aren’t as satisfying as other foods or perhaps you don’t like the taste of them. In fact, did you know that some individuals are actually “bitter sensitive” which makes them perceive vegetables as more bitter tasting?
Well, not to worry! Sometimes your taste buds can adjust to certain foods, so keep trying vegetables – experiment with raw vs. cooked, new ways of cooking (roasting, grilling, etc), and different seasonings. And today, I'm going to focus on a few ways to "sneak" extra vegetables into your daily meals. By sneaking them in - either through blending them in a dish, adding grated vegetables, or using the vegetable in a unique way - you benefit from having other tastes/textures present, which can make those veggies more palatable.
One thing to remember though - if you’re sneaking vegetables into your family’s meals, be sure to also include regular veggies in their natural state at meals too. It can take kids up to 13 times of seeing something before they feel comfortable trying it, so keep presenting them. However, there’s no harm in sneaking some extra veggies at the same time.
Here are a few ideas for ways to "sneak" in some extra vegetables:
- Blend leafy greens into your favorite smoothies. Add spinach, kale, or even herbs like mint. (Use blueberries if the green color weirds you or your kids out - the blue will mask the green).
- You can also add vegetables like carrots or beets to your smoothie recipes. Check out out mango, beet, banana smoothie recipe.
- Puree cooked butternut squash and substitute that for 1/4 to 1/2 of the cheese in a macaroni and cheese recipe. You can also try this with sweet potato or cauliflower.
- Jazz up your normal marinara pasta sauce. Even if you’re using jarred sauce, you can still boost the flavor and nutritional value! Consider chopping bell peppers and a yellow onion and sauté them for a few minutes, add the pasta sauce, and simmer for 10 minutes. Or puree cooked zucchini using a food processor (or blender) and add it to the pasta sauce. The sauce will be thicker but you probably won’t even notice any difference in flavor. Or use the food processor to blend some carrots and spinach into the sauce.
- Love alfredo sauce on pasta or pizza? Enjoy a much healthier take on alfredo with this veggie-packed creamy cauliflower sauce (seriously, this stuff is so good!).
- Making meatballs or meatloaf? Grate some carrots and add it to the mixture - you won’t even notice them in there! Or consider chopping some mushrooms and adding those in, since they have more of a meaty flavor.
- If you’re making baked goods, use it as a way to add extra veggies. Grate zucchini or carrots in quick bread recipes, puree spinach and add to brownie mix, or add pureed black beans to brownies (here's one from-scratch black bean brownie recipe I found). Or add canned pumpkin to your favorite pancake, waffle, muffin, or quick bread recipe.
- Try making a pizza crust out of cauliflower!
- Make mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, using milk rather than cream to blend them. If you want the fluffier potato taste, consider using half potatoes and half cauliflower. Or consider blending pureed butternut squash with mashed potatoes. Another suggestion would be making mashed turnips or mashed parsnips!
- Try pureed soups that contain a variety of vegetables. I love to make one with potatoes, butternut squash, onions, and carrots. I’ll roast the vegetables in the oven and then add them to a pot with chicken stock, and blend with an immersion blender. Yum!
- Use vegetable noodles in place of pasta in a lasagna dish. Use a mandolin slicer to create zucchini or eggplant "noodles."
- Try other kinds of vegetables as chips besides potatoes. Try making your own homemade kale chips or beet chips. (Beet chips are amazing. I forced my mom - who said she "hates" beets to try these when I was visiting a few months ago. She couldn't wait to eat more.)
Share with us - do you have any creative ways that you "sneak" more vegetables into your meals?