Eating the recommended 1 to 3 cups of vegetables each day can be a challenge. In fact, a 2017 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only one in 10 adults meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation.
Many people who don’t get enough say they don’t like the taste of most vegetables and the few they do like become too repetitive after a while. The good news is there are countless ways to prepare vegetables that are not only healthy but delicious as well.
Different cooking methods, using a variety of herbs, spices, and flavorings provide unlimited recipe options. You can also increase your daily vegetable intake by hiding vegetables in casseroles, meatloaf, or soups, and adding greens to smoothies.
Here are some recipe ideas that will satisfy your palate and help ensure you get the daily recommended 1 to 3 cups of vegetables a day.
Ask the Pros
You may think you don’t like vegetables because you haven’t found any that suit your taste buds. If your experience with veggies is limited to steamed broccoli and bland casseroles, then it’s definitely time to branch out.
Start by visiting your local farmer’s market and scope out some new-to-you items. Take the time to talk to local growers and find out which vegetables are in season. You’ll get the best flavor from foods that are grown locally and picked fresh.
If there is no farmer’s market in your area, talk to the grocery produce managers. These pros will more than likely be happy to share buying tips and preparation ideas that can make vegetables taste infinitely better. Many grocery stores also provide recipe cards with new ideas for cooking.
To make sure you always have vegetables on hand, try keeping a less perishable stash of veggies in your kitchen, too. Opt for frozen or canned vegetables as alternatives.
A simple solution to reduce the sodium content of canned vegetables is to wash and drain your vegetables with water before preparing them; which can decrease the sodium content by almost half.
Try New Cooking Methods
Few people truly enjoy plainly steamed or boiled veggies with little or no seasoning. Many vegetables often turn mushy and bland prepared this way. Fortunately, there are different cooking techniques that can help you discover more vegetable recipes you like.
- Air Frying: One method that has grown in popularity is using an air fryer to get the delicious, crunchy taste of fried food without the extra fat and calories. Another tried-and-true method is roasting or grilling vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil to get a more complex flavor.
- Oven Roasted: Cooking vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil in a 400 degree F oven brings a sweeter flavor to vegetables. The addition of oil can help you to absorb fat-soluble vitamins.2
- Sautéed: Cooking vegetables in butter or oil on the stovetop is a popular way to prepare them. Like roasting, the additional fat improves the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins in the vegetables.3 To keep the fat and calorie count down, use a small amount of oil and add vegetable broth or chicken stock as the vegetables cook to keep them from getting too browned or sticking to the pan. While you can sauté almost any vegetable, it works best for leafy greens such as kale, mustard greens, or spinach.
- Blanched: This method involves briefly putting vegetables in boiling water followed by an ice bath.
Add Flavor Boosters
If you’re convinced you can’t stand the taste of vegetables, chances are they just need some extra flavor. Think about the foods that you actually do enjoy. What seasonings are used to prepare them? You can often use those same spices and seasonings to make vegetables taste better.
- Mexican style: If you love tacos and nachos, sprinkle cumin, cayenne, or even Tabasco sauce on sliced zucchini or yellow squash. Roast the veggies for about 10 minutes at 425 degrees F.
- À la française: Chop fresh herbs like tarragon, and toss with a teaspoon of olive oil. Brush lightly on asparagus and roast for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Indian spices: If Indian food is your fave, sprinkle curry powder on eggplant or another soft vegetable and grill or roast for 25 to 30 minutes.
- Vinegar or juice: You can also use juice, a fresh-squeezed lemon, or vinegar to gives it a new taste. Add it during the cooking process or drizzle on top before serving. Fresh or dried herbs and spices also bring another dimension to vegetable dishes.
- Garlic: A vegetable in its own right, garlic can be the magic ingredient for transforming a boring dish into one you can’t get enough of. You can buy garlic as a bulb or preprepared in a jar to save time. Add it to roasted and sauteed dishes.
- Cooking Oils: Cooking oils come in a variety of flavors that add different dimensions to dishes. Coconut oil, for example, tastes vastly different than olive oil. Experiment with different oil and spice combinations to find your favorites.
- Cheese: While you want to avoid smothering vegetables in cheese sauce, a sprinkling of a strong tasting cheese like Parmesan or Manchego on top of the finished dish can add some extra flavor.
Hide in Other Recipes
If you still can’t tolerate the taste of vegetables, try hiding them in some of your favorite foods. For example, chop steamed broccoli into small pieces and add to a low-fat turkey meatloaf. The blended seasonings in the loaf will cover up the taste of the broccoli, and you’ll get one or two servings’ worth of vegetables in a lean and hearty meal.
Another growing trend is making pizza crust out of cauliflower, which many people find still tastes great even if it’s not close to the real thing. Top your pizza with your favorite sauce, cheese, and meat, and you’ll forget you’re also eating vegetables.
You can also add vegetables to your favorite sweet smoothie recipe without them affecting the flavor. For example, when carrots are added to a strawberry or raspberry smoothie, they add sweetness and color. And this green smoothie recipe contains a healthy dose of spinach you won’t even notice, aside from the vibrant green color.
Lastly, soups are a great way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Many creamy soup recipes include vegetables like cauliflower to add texture and complement old favorites like potatoes. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself craving vegetables with one of your newfound techniques.
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