It is a well-known fact that almost everyone should add more veggies to their meals. In fact, the recommended amount is four to six servings (½ cup each) of vegetables every day and many people fall short of that amount. Veggies are low in fat (and calories) and filled with nutrients – especially vitamins and minerals – plus antioxidants that help protect the human body from oxidant stress, disease and cancer by boosting immunity. All of which helps the human body stay fit and disease free.
If vegetables have never been among your favorite foods (or your family’s favorite foods), eating enough of them can be a problem. One solution is to learn how to incorporate vegetables in attractive and delicious ways into your meals.
Since many people avoid vegetables if at all possible, trying to eat two to three cups of vegetables each day may seem impossible. But . . . it does not have to be!
Below are some ideas that you can use to successfully incorporate more vegetables into your meals and increase the daily nutrients that you and your family are getting from the food you eat.
- Casseroles – Adding diced or chopped veggies to casseroles add color, flavor, and texture to the dish without being obvious. You can start with one or two vegetables in small amounts and gradually increase them over time. For example, adding chopped broccoli, diced onions and tomatoes to a chicken and rice casserole offers a delicious blend of flavors and is usually eaten with great gusto.
- Salads – Salads are the perfect accompaniment to meals such as pizza, lasagna, hot dogs, hamburgers and a variety of other dishes. Make it a fun adventure by allowing each person to create his/her own salad. Serve a big bowl of fresh crisp greens and bowls of extras that can be added: tomatoes, avocados, diced onions, grated cheese, feta cheese, diced bell pepper, sliced bananas, sliced beets, chopped eggs, bacon pieces, etc. Offer a variety of dressings including some “light” dressing for fewer calories. You may want to encourage them to experiment with dressing combinations such as Ranch and Balsamic Vinaigrette.
- Stir fry – This is a great way to serve vegetables and will be enjoyed by almost everyone. Use mostly vegetables that are cut (diced) in small pieces. Some good basics are: onions, garlic and diced chicken, shrimp or lean beef. Serve the stir fry alone or over steamed brown Basmati rice. Add soy sauce or teriyaki for a more authentic Asian flavor.
- Sauces – Spaghetti or lasagna sauce is a perfect place to add vegetables. Either make your own (preferred) or buy a good brand (Newman’s Own™) of plain sauce (with herbs or cheese) and add a mix of finely diced onions, zucchini, tomatoes and even finely sliced or diced carrots. It gives your sauce extra flavor and also increases the vegetable servings.
- Veggie Snacks – Fresh raw vegetables provide excellent nutritional value. For snacks, serve strips of carrot, jicama, zucchini, celery, and bell pepper, plus broccoli and cauliflower florets and chunks of tomatoes with a ranch dip, guacamole, or hummus. Carrots and celery are often a welcome treat when spread with peanut or almond butter
- Kebabs – If you enjoy outdoor grilling, learn to make kebabs, made by alternating chunks of lean meat with vegetables on grilling skewers. They can be cooked on a grill or broiled in your oven. Serve with a dipping sauce and steamed rice for a healthy light meal – perfect for spring and summer evenings.
- Soup – You can hide a world of good food (vegetables) in a pot of soup. The traditional favorite, chicken soup, can be made using your favorite recipe and adding diced veggies to increase the nutrient value. Minestrone is another excellent vegetable disguise that you should make occasionally. Or, make cream of broccoli or squash soup – a creamy puréed soup that is so good, the vegetable factor is a non-issue. NOTE: Regardless of the soup recipe you choose for this purpose, the notorious “bad guys from the world of vegetables” are not recognized as such. There is no one particular flavor that dominates the soup – all the flavors meld into one.
- Wraps – Rolling up your vegetables in wraps is a great way to disguise them. Use flavored or plain whole wheat flour tortillas that allow you to serve your family’s favorite protein such as turkey, ham or beef together with peppers, lettuce, asparagus, tomato, avocado, spinach, onions, etc. These can also be grilled with a little butter on a hot pancake grill or heavy frying pan. The potential combinations are endless. You can also create simple veggie wraps loaded with fresh veggies, finished with olive oil, salad dressing, or mustard. Try flattening, stuffing and rolling chicken breasts, boneless fish fillets or even fillets of beef with veggies and cheese for a surprise dinner. Insert spinach, tomato and/or roasted red peppers and onions combined with a small amount of feta, blue cheese, or mozzarella to enhance flavor.
- Vegetable Buffet – There is a good chance that there are various vegetable preferences (and dislikes) among the members of your family – but everyone can benefit from the nutrients in any or all of them. It can be very effective to serve a vegetable buffet where you prepare three to five vegetables separately – incorporating seasonings such as garlic, rosemary, and thyme along with olive oil or a small amount of salt and pepper to spice them up. It is a good idea to prepare them in different ways – experiment with steaming, grilling, sautéing, and/or roasting – each method offers its own particular flair to the taste. For example . . . Grilled asparagus topped with melted butter seasoned with minced fresh garlic; green beans with sliced almonds tossed in Italian dressing; roasted squash pieces marinated in salad dressing and topped with Parmesan cheese; or sweet potato fries are all great ways to make veggies tasty and interesting. Allow family members to spoon up their personal choices. The buffet makes vegetables more fun and gives each person control over what he/she chooses to eat. These two things together make healthy eating so much more fun and delicious.
These are only a few of the many ways to successfully add vegetables to your meals. Experiment with new and unique seasonal finds, plus try different forms of cooking them, and use a wide variety of seasonings and disguises. Getting your family to eat more vegetables – without a struggle – can be your personal cooking challenge.
Using the suggestions listed in this article is so much better than trying to coerce family members to “eat their vegetables.” It is likely that your family will try the new “forms” of vegetables far more frequently and willingly than they have in the past.
*Stevia comes from a plant that contains natural sweeteners that are used in foods and has a negligible effect on blood glucose.
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