SMART PLANTS CHALLENGE // DAY FOUR
Even if eating the rainbow doesn’t come naturally to you, you may be excited to learn there’s a whole world of culinary tricks to preparing and even hiding vegetables in recipes to ensure they become an easy part of your diet routine. For even more plant-packed ideas, see pages 128-263 in Smart Plants for 65 mouthwatering recipes, like Rotini with Broccoli Pesto or decadant Chocolate-Beet Brownies.
How to Eat More Vegetables: 10 Do’s & Don’ts to Boosting Your Meals With Plants
Tip #1: DON’T Make Them A Side
Limiting vegetables to a side dish may be well-intentioned, but can make eating them feel like the punishment on your plate, and not a part of the good stuff. Instead, look for ways that you can incorporate those same vegetables into your meal. Making a casserole? Instead of serving broccoli on the side, use it as one of the layers in your baking dish. Creating a pasta? Stir in a couple handfuls of spinach into your marinara – they’ll shrink down in the heat and become a surprisingly succulent addition. Invite vegetables into more of your main recipes and you may be surprised at how much more enjoyable they are.
Tip #2: DO Make Veggie-Boosted Smoothies
Smoothies are a great place to add in a handful of vegetables without even tasting them! Great fresh varieties include dark leafy greens like kale or spinach. You can also add steamed and cooled sweet vegetables such as beets, carrots, or even cauliflower. Even many mild frozen vegetables can be added just like frozen fruit! Make sure you have other delicious flavors you’ve incorporated in your smoothie too, like berries, vanilla, chocolate, or citrus to ensure that the vegetables don’t become too overpowering in taste.
Tip #3: DO Bake Them (Shhh)
Some vegetables can be successfully incorporated into delicious baked treats, and they’ll add a delectably moist element to your goodies without adding much flavor. Pureed sweet potatoes are a great substitute for oil in recipes like brownies, and you can also add foods like shredded zucchini, carrots and beets to all kinds of muffins and breads. Talk about being sneaky!
Tip #4: DO Use Powders
Speaking of sneaky, a great way to add an extra serving of vegetables is through using powdered varieties. You can find all kinds of vegetable powders at the market these days, like kale powder, beet powder, as well as many vegetable blends, all of which are packed with nutrition. These powders can be stirred into just about any kind of uncooked recipe for an instant and often undetectable vegetable upgrade. You won’t want all of your vegetable servings to come from powdered sources, but they can certainly help you to up your daily quota.
Tip #5: DO Stack Your Sandwiches
Making a sandwich, a burger or a wrap? Add a few extra layers of vegetables. Things like leafy greens, sprouts, and bell peppers can go a long way to not only giving your body more of the vegetables it needs, but can even make your dish even more delicious by introducing a variety of texture. And, if you’re bold, you can even use lettuce leaves as a wrap in place of bread, a bun, or a tortilla – it’s a swap that’s funky, fun, and full of vitamins (and will even save you a couple hundred calories!).
Tip #6: DON’T Boil Vegetables.
Very few vegetables (minus a few exceptions like artichokes and corn), are well served by a long boil. Boiling over-softens vegetable texture, compromises flavor, and worst of all, reduces the nutrition yield (unless you’re planning on using the cooking water that the vegetables boil in).
Tip #7: DO Make More Soups
You can chop up virtually any variety of vegetable and cook it into a delicious soup that tastes great, feels totally satisfying, and is packed with vegetable action. If you need more healthy soup ideas, check out our Immunity Boosting Soups cooking course, or pick up a copy of the Superfood Soups cookbook for 100 amazing vegetable-based recipes.
Tip #8: DO Upgrade Your Pasta
Using a little machine known as a spiralizer, you can transform vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and butternut squash into spaghetti-like strands that can be cooked up and used just like pasta. For picky eaters, sauté the vegetable “pasta” strands in olive oil with a bit of salt for a couple minutes to tenderize them, or even mix them into regular spaghetti where they simply add to the dish rather than make it too out of the ordinary. Either way, you’ll be filling up your nutrient piggy bank with bonus vegetables.
Tip #9: DO Make Your Salads Epic
Salads can be pretty fabulous, despite their boring reputation. So while you’ll want to put a big bed of tender greens and healthy chopped vegetables like cucumbers and radishes in there, you should also look to pile in some of your favorite accoutrements too! Ingredients like avocados, chives, almonds, garbanzo beans, olives, or even cooked vegetables like baked yams or organic corn are all fair game. Make your salad a feast of favorite foods, and earn major points in your vegetable game.
Tip #10: DO Roast ‘Em
Even vegetable haters have a hard time saying no to roasted vegetables. That’s because a little time in the oven can transform even the blandest varieties into flavor-condensed bites of goodness, with a little bit of natural caramelization thrown in for good measure. Adding a bit of your favorite spices can be the proverbial icing on the cake making every bite irresistible. Vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, are just a few example of the many fantastic candidates for some roasting action. Try it for yourself and be amazed at how quickly you reach your vegetable quota.
For more inspiration, learn how you can cook along with us via our plant-based cooking courses.