It’s no secret eating more vegetables helps with weight loss. They’re packed with powerhouse phytonutrients, vitamins and fiber. Still, even those who want to eat more veggies often struggle to meet the recommended five-a-day rule. Plus, some people simply don’t enjoy eating vegetables, but still need to eat them in order to remain healthy (or improve their health).
That’s where nutrition experts have to get creative in helping their clients increase their daily veggie allotment. Here, nine of their go-to strategies:
It can be easy to add a veggie side at lunch and dinner, but breakfast can be a bigger challenge. One workaround is to eat last night’s dinner leftovers for breakfast (a bonus time-saver). Or simply select breakfast dishes that highlight vegetables. “Try to include veggie-rich dishes, such as a vegetable omelet (with zucchini, mushrooms or bell peppers) or shakshuka (an Israeli egg dish cooked in tomatoes),” suggests Sheila Varshney, RD, founder of Square Plate Solutions.
But that’s not your only option: “If time is short, opt for some carrot or celery sticks; there’s no rule that says you can’t nosh on these in the morning,” she says.
“Any dish with ground beef, turkey or chicken can easily accommodate ground mushrooms, as the texture and flavor blend seamlessly into the dish,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RD, author of “The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.” For example, try adding ground mushrooms to meatloaf, meatballs, tacos and more. As a bonus, “the meat spreads further with additional servings, so you’ll save money,” notes Harris-Pincus.
Adding vegetables to your smoothie is one of the oldest tricks in the book, but choosing the right ones to mix in can make a huge difference in terms of taste. “I add neutral and slightly sweet veggies like baby spinach, carrots and beets to smoothies,” says Edwina Clark, RD, head of Nutrition at made for_. “They provide an extra dose of fiber, vitamin A and vitamin C without tainting the creamy, delicious flavor of a good smoothie,” she says. You can also experiment with herbs such as mint and basil, “which are also loaded with nutrients and add flavor and brightness to a blended breakfast.”
Pasta sauces provide plenty of opportunities for adding veggies to the mix. “Instead of the typical dairy-based roux, try this alternative,” suggests Renata Trebing, food blogger and recipe developer. “Blend steamed cauliflower and carrots with garlic, nutritional yeast, salt and pepper to create a savory and delicious vegan alfredo sauce. The sauce is also packed with micronutrients, and the cheesy flavor of the nutritional yeast, combined with the garlic, helps mask the cauliflower flavor.”
“When cooking ground meat in burger form, it can sometimes be tricky to keep the meat from becoming too dry, particularly if you’re using a meat with a low-fat percentage, like ground turkey,” explains Ashley Hennings, a personal chef. “Adding one shredded zucchini helps keep the burger texture juicy while providing an extra dose of veggies that you can’t even taste. Plus, it’s budget-friendly and helps a pound of meat go further.”
Oatmeal is a heart-healthy breakfast staple, but it doesn’t traditionally include any veggies. “Rather than adding extra sugar with toppings like brown sugar and honey, try a more savory option by adding roasted mushrooms, zucchini and sweet potatoes for a balanced and veggie-filled breakfast,” suggests Liz Wyosnick, RD. “The oats act as a perfect binder for these ingredients, and starting your day with more fiber is beneficial for balancing blood sugar.”
Make your favorite hummus healthier by adding more veggies. “I’ll add everything from roasted red peppers to green peas to cooked beets when making a hummus,” says Hennings. “It’s an easy way to leverage seasonal veggies and add a fun pop of color.”
Just because you’re not in the mood for salad doesn’t mean you can’t eat plenty of leafy greens. “If your dinner desire calls for a pasta or noodle dish, add some greens like spinach or arugula just before digging in,” says Wyosnick. “The cooked noodles will wilt the greens to add some color, fiber and more vegetable power.”
Sure, you can load a pizza with vegetable toppings, but if veggies aren’t your thing, you’ll need to be a little more sneaky. “When making a pizza, first spread on a different pureed vegetable like spinach, and then your typical tomato-based pizza sauce,” recommends Dan Nguyen, RD. “It’ll stay even further incognito under the cheese.” Of course, if you do like vegetable toppings, you can add those, too.