I have good news and bad news…
Let’s get the bad news over with: Most of us aren’t eating enough veggies. In fact, the stats are pretty abysmal, showing that only 1 in 10 Americans are getting the suggested amount of veggies. Because veggies are so packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, ChooseMyPlate.gov recommends that fruits and vegetables make up half of each meal and that adults eat 2 to 3 cups of veggies a day (depending on your age and gender).
Now for the good news: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help keep us healthy, reducing our risk for chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity and even certain cancers. And the other bit of good news — you can make them taste great once you figure out which ones you like most and the best way to prepare them.
Take Veggies from Required to Desired
While some are born loving veggies, the rest of us may need to do some experimentation to find the right varieties and recipes to make our taste buds happy. If there’s a vegetable you’ve only tried once and didn’t like, consider giving it a second chance with a fresh approach. It’s possible you’ve only had a bland, mushy version of the veggie — like someone meeting you on your worst day! Think green beans cooked so long they’re not green anymore, boiled unseasoned cauliflower, or off-season tomatoes.
Speaking of off-season tomatoes, let’s address the quality of your ingredients — it can make or break your dish. If you’re using produce that is out of season, the flavor and texture will likely be sub-par. The difference between a Jersey tomato in July and a tomato from a grocery store shelf in the dead of winter is vast. Learn what’s in season near you and you can plan your recipes accordingly. And better yet, grow your own in the spring and summer!
Once you figure out what you like, it’s a lot easier to get your daily quota of the good stuff. With a little trial and error, you can take veggies from required to desired.
Ways You’ll Love Eating Your Veggies
Turn up the volume on the veggies you eat with new ideas for cooking methods, seasonings, or flavor pairings.
Roasting is my single favorite way to cook veggies because it produces amazing flavor and texture like no other method. It’s practically universal, too, working for most vegetables. Something magical happens when you toss veggies in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper and throw them in a really hot oven. You can keep it simple (which I typically do) or up the flavor ante with herbs, minced garlic, or spices like curry. And if you like to prep your meals on the weekends, you can cook in bulk and have roasted veggies on hand to pair with proteins or grains all week.
Because roasting brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables, it’s a great way to tone down the bitterness of some veggies like those in the cruciferous family (think broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts). If veggies like those aren’t on your current list of favorites, try roasting them before you rule them out altogether.
Think outside the chop
Change the way you see your veggies, and it’ll help you find different ways to flavor and serve them. Sometimes mimicking the shape of American favorites like pasta and rice is all it takes to get a vegetable on the table as a main course.
Spiralized veggies (also known as veggie noodles) are a popular alternative to pasta that you can DIY or buy them ready to cook at the grocery store. Whether you prefer zoodles, coodles, boodles, or swoodles, you can find a veggie noodle recipe that uses your favorite flavors. And if you have kids and they think like mine do, you know that serving anything as a slurp-able noodle will earn you points.
Cauliflower rice is another great way to feature a vegetable as the foundation of a main course. It’s great for making a flavorful fried rice, using in a spicy burrito bowl, or flattening into a pizza crust and topping with cheese. In any of these dishes, the cauliflower takes on the flavors of the sauces and seasonings you use. You can find it pre-riced fresh or frozen at the grocery store.
Add veggies into your favorite foods
It still counts towards your daily quota if you hide veggies in your favorite dishes! And there’s no easier way to make veggies taste great than adding them to a tried and true recipe.
- Making homemade mac and cheese? Try making the cheese sauce with butternut squash or add in chopped broccoli or peas before baking.
- Mixing up meatloaf or meatballs for dinner? Toss some spinach, broccoli, or zucchini (or all three) in a food processor, and then squeeze any excess water out by wrapping the veggie mixture in a paper towel.
- Simmering soup or chili? You can always cut back on the protein in the soup and double the chopped veggies or add in additional veggies that you like.
- Blending a smoothie? Toss in a big handful of spinach for a burst of nutrition that you won’t even taste. You can also experiment with adding other more flavorful veggies to your smoothie, like carrots or beets.
Adding Veggies Is Worth the Effort
In the end, the payoff for eating your veggies — in terms of your health — is pretty fantastic. If you’re willing to put in some initial work to figure out what you and your family like, you’ll soon have a collection of delicious, nutrient-rich recipes in your back pocket.