We all know the importance of good nutrition, but many of us wonder how to eat more vegetables when we don’t like them. Trying to get your 3 to 5 servings a day can seem overwhelming, even when we know a veggie-heavy menu is diet-friendly and during the summer it’s budget-friendly, too.
Here are 10 ways to work fresh vegetables into your meals without causing a dinner time revolt:
Make salsa Technically, ‘salsa’ is any kind of sauce, but let’s not get caught up on technical details. Instead, think of vegetable salsa as a chance to eat chips! Making a salsa is simple: dice up some zucchini, seeded tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, and red onion if you like. Add a minced, seeded jalapeno, some olive oil and a splash of red vinegar. Stir in some minced fresh cilantro or parsley if you like, then season with salt and pepper and chill for an hour to let the flavors meld. Yum!
Breakfast for dinner (or breakfast) Saute mushrooms, onions and kale or spinach then stuff them into a cheese omelet. Or mound them in your skillet and make a few dents in the top with the back of a wooden spoon. Crack an egg into each dent, turn down the heat and cover the skillet until the egg whites are set. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and tell your family you’re serving Eggs in the Grass.
Smoothies Blend some canned pumpkin, a banana, some pumpkin pie seasoning and milk to make a delicious smoothie that tastes like a dessert. Feeling more adventurous? Blend 4 cups raw baby spinach, a banana, a small container of vanilla yogurt and some water. No, really: it shocked me how delicious this tasted, and so was my son who doesn’t believe there’s spinach in it despite the incredibly bright green color!
A Salad Bar In Your Fridge Wrap washed and torn lettuce in paper towels and store it in an air-tight container in your fridge. Chop your favorite salad veggies (remove seeds from tomatoes and cucumbers), and stash them in separate containers, too. Serve your “salad bar” before dinner, letting everyone put together their favorite combination. Top with your favorite homemade salad dressing.
Serve ’em As Snacks Instead of telling your kids not to eat before dinner for fear they’ll ruin their appetite, why not surprise them by setting out a nice crudite spread? Just mound a platter with celery sticks, baby carrots, sliced radishes, chopped bell peppers, grape tomatoes, and even fresh green beans. Serve with small cups of low-fat dip, appetizer-sized plates and napkins. They’ll feel like they’re at a fancy party, and you’ll feel good letting them munch away.
Do Double Duty With Dips Ramp up the veggies by dipping them in more veggies made into a dip. Try making your own guacamole by mashing avocado with lemon or lime juice and stirring in chopped red onion, seeded tomato and cumin. Or make Mushroom Pate: saute sliced mushrooms, onions and garlic together, then mix it in a food processor with fresh parsley, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. (Chill before serving.)
Homemade Veggie Chips There are recipes all over the internet for homemade kale chips, and I’ve yet to find one I didn’t like. You can make homemade baked chips out of most root vegetables, too. Just slice thinly, toss with a small amount of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 375F for around 20 minutes, turning halfway through.
Serve Up Soup Summer is a great time for cold soups like gazpacho, chilled beet soup, and even Vichyssoise (cold potato soup). If you prefer your soup hot, try my super-frugal Grandmother’s trick. She’d take everyone’s plates after dinner and scrape their uneaten veggies into a bowl she kept in the fridge. She did the same thing with unfinished meats, rice and pastas, keeping them in separate bowls. One day, I saw her take the bowls out and rinse the contents under water before adding them to a pot of stock she’d made from the vegetable peels. (This, incidentally, is where I learned to save kitchen scraps to make soup with.) Sure enough, she’d serve up a fantastic, vegetable-filled soup that no doubt stretched her grocery bill!
Put ’em On Pizza Whether you want to go the mini-pizza route by topping whole wheat English muffins with pizza sauce, chopped vegetables and cheese, or make your own pizza dough, it’s a great way to get more vegetables into your family’s diet. (We love Mark Bittman’s pizza dough recipe because it’s so easy.) After all, who doesn’t like pizza?
Do you have ideas how to eat more vegetables? Share in the comments below!
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