Eat More Vegetables: How To Introduce More Vegetables Into Your Diet
By: Julie Mancuso, owner of JM Nutrition, nutritional counselling service by registered dietitians and nutritionists, Ahsan Zaman, Public Health Consultant (updated January 2022)
How to eat more vegetables?
This is certainly question that our registered dietitians and nutritionists have been asked countless times and by clients of all ages, backgrounds and walks of life. So let’s take a look at the problem.
Okay, so you’re a person who doesn’t like the taste of vegetables, and everyone from your mother to nutrition experts are telling you to eat more.
We cannot gloss over the fact that most of us should eat more vegetables. Regular consumption of vegetables brings with it a number of health benefits. This is indisputable.
We understand that the taste of some vegetables on their own, without sauces, dressings and condiments, can leave a good deal to be desired in the taste department.
But there are ways in which you can incorporate more vegetables into your diet, without having to bite into a bland-tasting cauliflower piece on the one hand, and drenching it with some processed and fattening sauce on the other. A happy medium exists. We assure you.
And no, you certainly don’t have to be a master in the kitchen to do so either.
How to eat more vegetables:
1. Hummus: A Must
Hummus to the rescue. The Middle-Eastern dip made from chickpeas, sesame paste, garlic and olive oil can be spread on bread, eaten with chips (well, healthy versions, of course) or simply eaten with a variety of vegetables to improve their taste.
And that’s the goal, isn’t it?
For those who discriminate against eating vegetables on their own, or those who feel like most vegetables are just missing something, hummus is a healthy way to add some flavour.
It’s healthy and tasty—both good reasons on their own. Being high in protein, it helps you feel full for longer as protein takes longer to digest. Amongst its many benefits, you will find that hummus contains manganese, iron, fibre and Vitamin C.
Discover more about the nutritional benefits of hummus.
Don’t overdo it
Beware to not overindulge in this healthy and delicious dip as it is rather high in carbohydrates and fat. So use it sparingly if you’re watching your carb intake or when trying to lose a few pounds.
Just because it teems with health benefits, don’t double-dip every broccoli piece in it or use the carrot stick as a hummus shovel.
It’s important to remember that even healthy foods may have some drawbacks. One thing is certain though: hummus improves the taste of just about everything. And because it does, you’re likely to eat more vegetables.
2. Steamed vegetables
Many people already steam vegetables, so the next step should be seamless. While eating steamed vegetables on their own is always a good idea, largely because steaming cooks the vegetables while retaining much of the nutrient content, some people just find them plain-tasting. And, at times, they can be.
Here’s what you can do to improve their taste.
Improve the taste
Instead of having these steamed vegetables as a side, add them to rice or *quinoa dishes, along with a nice teriyaki sauce as the icing on the proverbial cake.
Doing so can serve a dual function.
i) You will likely eat more of those bland vegetables if their taste is enhanced by teriyaki sauce.
ii) Chances are, you will eat less of the carbohydrate-heavy rice. When you add vegetables to the dish, you will effectively make the portion appear larger. In other words, there is no visual deprivation or the feeling that you’re eating less food, which can be challenging for some. Applying this strategy can help those who tend to consume portions of carbohydrates that are too large.
*Quinoa, itself, is brimming with health benefits. It’s great for those with allergies, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, high in protein, while having a low glycemic index.
3. Add More Layers To Salads
Next on ‘let’s-introduce-more-vegetables-to-your-diet’ menu is a remedy for those who just don’t like salads, at least without salad dressing.
Here’s a simple steps to jump the leafy greens hump.
a) Start with leafy greens as your base.
b) Then, add a freshly-cooked, sliced chicken breast.
c) Toss in some sliced sweet potatoes to the mix.
d) Use a bowl of generous size and proportion these right. For example, 50% of the bowl comprises greens, 20% sweet potatoes and the rest, that’s 30%, chicken.
e) As dressing, add a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and apple-cider or balsamic vinegar.
Why add these ingredients?
If you don’t like the taste of greens such as lettuce, spinach or kale, you are more likely to eat them if mixed with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the meaty texture of the chicken. The potatoes and the chicken will boost the flavour. This is especially important for people who tend to skip salads.
Chicken is a healthy, high and lean protein source, which forms an integral part of a nutritionally balanced diet.
Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, have a lower glycemic index than many other carbs. They are also packed with fibre, Vitamins A and C, as well as manganese.
4. Basta di Pasta
In our experience, many of our clients who seek nutritional counselling for weight loss tend to consume carbohydrates such as pasta in portions that are often too large. That’s one of the first things we typically notice.
There is, however, a simple and effective way of reducing pasta portions while increasing vegetable intake. Simply cook or steam your favourite vegetables, chop them up into bite-sized pieces and then add them to your pasta.
You can take this a step further and place the cooked or steamed vegetables on the plate first, then add pasta.
If a good part of the plate is filled with vegetables, then it’s likely that less pasta will be added, effectively leading to the consumption of a smaller portion of pasta. The plate will still appear full of food, once again tricking your brain into thinking your portion size has remained unchanged.
Give this method a shot because it often works wonders.
5. Zoodles: Zucchini Noodles
Zoodles are tasty and can also act as a pasta replacement.
How to make Zoodles
To make zoodles, spiralize green and yellow zucchini to mimic pasta.
You can add tomato sauce, olive oil and other vegetables to give the zoodles more flavour.
Twirl with a fork and eat it like regular pasta.
If you’re not ready to completely give up your beloved pasta, mix zoodles with regular pasta. Perhaps try more of the former and less of the latter. If not, do a 50-50. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll be eating more vegetables.
Spaghetti squash or other veggie spirals can work in a similar way.
6. Air Fry It
Utilizing an air fryer has become quite popular in recent years, and for a well-deserved reason: healthier cooking.
One of the primary reasons why so many people air fry their food is the use of little to no cooking oil. As a result, you consume less fat if you air fry. What’s more, using an air fryer cuts calories by 70-80%, according to WebMD.
So what vegetables can you air fry?
You have a great deal of room to get creative here. We suggest you try air frying your favourite vegetables.
Simply slice them up, set the timer and let the fryer do the work. Easy work for great tasting, healthier food–and an easy way to add more vegetables to your diet.
7. Rice ‘n Easy
A good way to cut the carbs and add vegetables at the same time can be accomplished with simulated rice such as cauliflower rice.
Essentially, all you have to do is grate the florets by hand or use a food processor, and you have your bed of simulated rice.
To add flavour to your cauli-rice, sauté the cauliflower in olive oil with some garlic and onions. The cauliflower rice can also be used in various stir-fry recipes.
8. About Sprouts
To up your intake of vegetables, you can also turn to bean sprouts. According to Healthline, bean sprouts are high in Vitamin K, fibre and choline. They are also low in calories, which is naturally conducive to weight maintenance and weight loss.
Bean sprouts can be added to your stir fry or, as suggested, along with cauliflower rice, act as a bed of rice. You can simply place the cooked chicken and vegetables right over the sprouts for a healthy, low-carbohydrate meal.
Yes, lettuce-sandwich, a.k.a. lettwich.
In essence, this entails wrapping your desired protein source (lean turkey or chicken) and other sandwich contents with a larger lettuce leaf instead of bread.
While adding more vegetables to your daily consumption, you can also reducing your bread intake, if that happens to be your goal.
If you’re not too fond of lettuce, try using a cabbage leaf instead, making it a cabbwich.
Again, if you’re not ready to do away with bread altogether, use a slice of bread as the bottom of the sandwich while adding a lettuce or cabbage leaf to the top. Just beware that cabbage may be difficult to digest, at least for some.
10. Om-let the Vegetables In
Another great way to introduce more vegetables into your meals can be achieved by adding mushrooms, zucchini, spinach or peppers to an omelet.
Not only will doing so add texture and flavour to your eggs, it will provide valuable nutrients and vitamins. It’s quick and easy.
11. Smooth It Out
The beauty of a smoothie rests with its versatility.
It can be downed for breakfast, as a snack or as a pre- or post-workout fuelling drink.
Adding vegetables such as spinach or baby kale to a smoothie is simple without altering the taste of the smoothie itself too much. In order to speed up the process, buy the mentioned greens pre-washed.
Consume these daily and you will eat more vegetables. It’s just that simple.
12. It’s Easy Being Green
A scoop of a green supplement mixed with a glass of water can swiftly add about 5-6 servings of vegetables to your daily consumption.
In addition, many of these greens carry numerous nutrients, vitamins and minerals needed by our bodies.
13. Vegetable Chicken Breast
Although a healthy and lean protein, plain chicken is considered by some to be an unadventurous culinary experience.
There are, however, many ways to change this with spices, rubs and sauces.
Equally effective at improving the taste of the plain old chicken are vegetables.
But we’re not alluding to vegetables as a side. Instead, we propose filling the chicken breast with vegetables.
To do this mix vegetables (lettuce, onions, tomatoes, anything) in a bowl with a sauce or a little melted cheese. Then, prior to baking the chicken breast, make an incision to create a small pocket. Fill those pockets with the vegetable mix and bake your chicken.
A simple and delicious way to eat more vegetables and make the humdrum chicken something special.
14. Vegetable Delight
Perhaps not the most healthy suggestion on the list, but one that can be considered from time to time, if you’re trying to add more vegetables to your diet.
Many people use fruit, when baking treats and desserts such as muffins.
Another option you could take is using vegetables rather than fruit. It does sound odd, but it can work in some cases.
You could mix fruit and vegetables, or even go all in, and use vegetables only.
Carrots, zucchini, squash or golden beets can all work in baked desserts.
As mentioned before, carrots are great for your eyes and contain antioxidants. Squash, on the other hand, is high in fibre and benefits digestion. Meanwhile, beets contain folate and manganese, which are good for heart and bone health, respectively.
You can even use golden beets, since they are known to be the sweeter counterpart, so probably a better option for desserts.
No matter, these are the more creative ways of introducing vegetables to your diet.
15. An Old Standby: Soup
Perhaps not the most creative way you can add vegetables to your diet, it is a highly effective one nonetheless.
Soups are typically nutritious in and of themselves.
You can build on this by increasing the amount of vegetables in your favourite soups. You can even resort to a soup made entirely of vegetables.
If you feel vegetable soups are on the bland side, simply introduce herbs and spices. Because there are so many vegetables out there, you have much room for experimentation.
In addition, each vegetable provides a unique taste and texture, working well in combination with other vegetables.
What’s more, each vegetable brings something to the table in terms of nutritional value. Tomatoes are good for the heart, carrots for the eyes, and leeks for digestion, to name a few examples.
Because most cuisines around the world have soups that are endemic to a particular culture or region, you have endless options before you, so boredom should not be a concern.
16. Porr It In the Oats
Porridge or oatmeal are great choices for a filling breakfast.
Adding in vegetables is a wonderful idea if you’re looking for a more hearty morning meal.
The taste of porridge and oatmeal can be strong, so if you aren’t a huge fan of how vegetables taste but need to get them in, this might just be the perfect way. Many vegetables are a very good source of fibre, so by adding them in, you’ll be full for longer.
Related: Oats and Porridge Vegetable Recipe
17. Grate Idea
For extra flavour, people often grate cheese onto their food.
Instead of cheese, why not garnish your desired meal with grated vegetables.
Carrots, zucchinis, celery, radish, cucumber are some examples that can be grated easily. Grated vegetables can introduce some healthy nutritious crunch to just about any meal.
In addition, the taste will be more subtle, since the vegetables will be finely cut.
18. Grilled Vegetable Skewers
A perfect opportunity to add more vegetables to your diet presents itself during the barbecue season.
Making vegetable-only shish-kabobs or skewers can be a tasty accompaniment to any barbecue made meal.
19. Stuff Those Peppers
This is another simple way to eat more vegetables. Simply replace some or all of the rice and meat from the contents of stuffed peppers with vegetables.
It’s good to experiment here to see which vegetable stuffing works for you and your taste buds.
20. Chip In With Vegetables
These days many people have heard of kale chips on account of their popularity. But there are other vegetables that can made into chips. Equally effective in this form are beets, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and zucchini.
21. Vegetable-Only Quesadillas
Who says meat and cheese have to be the primary or only ingredients in a quesadilla?
We highly recommend sneaking in some vegetables into this famous Mexican dish. A number of vegetables can work well here: broccoli, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, onions, corn and much more.
22. Pizza, But Not The Way you Think
Pizza crusts are no longer made only from flour, like many of us remember. These days vegetable pizza crusts are becoming more and more popular. Cauliflower pizza crust is probably at the top of the list. Other vegetable pizza crusts are also available: zucchini, carrot, beet root, squash, broccoli and spinach.
Find your favourite and you have yet another way to eat more vegetables.
In the end, these are just some of the ways you can start to eat more vegetables. Many more exist. If you have any other unique ways that you feel should be added to the list, feel free to share it with us.
The important thing to remember is to find ways to incorporate vegetables into your diet that you enjoy, that are convenient and that work specifically for you.
All you have to do now is plan and prep meals that incorporate some or all of these strategies. All the best.
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JM Nutrition is a nutritional counselling service by registered dietitians and nutritionists operating out of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada, with locations across Ontario and Nova Scotia.