By Hubert Cormier, Nutritionist
For many people, eating your veggies isn’t exciting or as intense as enjoying a piece of chocolate cake. Sometimes, that makes it impossible to achieve the recommended 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. So I’ll reveal 20 tricks on how to eat more veggies for the whole family!
1- Prepare raw veggies in big batches for the upcoming week
Always have veggies cut and prepared on hand. Add them to your lunches, take them out for drinks, serve them at mealtime, leave them on the table for the kids after school, etc. At the end of the week, you’ll be surprised at just how many veggies were eaten!
2- Grilled veggies on the barbecue
Try a cabbage, zucchini, cauliflower or eggplant steak with a little olive oil, herbes de Provence and ground pepper grilled to perfection on the barbecue. A real delight!
3- Add a little kick to your veggie dip
Not only are dips the perfect accompaniment for veggies, but they add great texture, too. Try making a dip with ½ cup (125 ml) of plain Greek yoghurt, ½ cup (125 ml) mayo, 2 tbsp (30 ml) of freshly chopped rosemary and 2 tbsp (30 ml) of maple syrup. Succulent! Dips made with cottage cheese or light sour cream are also popular. My personal preference? My classic spinach cottage cheese dip. Simply mix together 1 cup (250 ml) of cottage cheese with 1 cup (250 ml) of frozen spinach (thawed, drained and cooked for 2 minutes). Add 1 tsp (5 ml) of pureed garlic and lemon juice, as well as ½ tsp (2.5 ml) of cayenne pepper.
4- Discover vegetable-based dishes
Discover new dishes with a veggie base like vegetarian chili, soups, ratatouilles, etc. For a quick prep, use pre-cut veggies that can be found in the fruits and vegetable department or in the frozen food section of the grocery store. I, personally, love Arctic Gardens’ spaghetti vegetable mix. No more watery eyes because of cutting onions and the bonus is you save so much time for sauce prep.
5- Always have a plate of veggies on the table at mealtime
It can be difficult to instill good veggie-eating habits with kids, so get into the habit of putting a plate of veggies on the table. Even though they might not eat them right away, they’ll learn that a complete meal includes veggies. Eventually, they’ll learn to eat them on their own. Don’t have prepared veggies on hand? Simply heat up a bag of frozen vegetables like Arctic Gardens’ Orleans-style or Thai mix.
7- Vary the shapes and colors of vegetables
Try serving a Mexican salsa with grilled corn, avocado, chopped tomatoes, chopped red onion and orange pepper on a bed of arugula! Your eyes won’t be able to resist and your taste buds will thank you! Don’t hesitate to boost store-bought salsa with chopped veggies, fresh or frozen, that you have on hand. The more colours there are, the more vitamins and antioxidants there are. Be adventurous and try purple or blue veggies to add anthocyanins, oranges for carotenoids, reds for lycopene and green for chlorophyll. These substances protect the body from damage caused by free radicals that contribute to the appearance of many diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
8- Hide vegetables in dishes
Camouflaging veggies in your favourite dishes is child’s play! Add a layer of frozen mushrooms or spinach to your lasagna and put more veggies in stews. Make veggie pizza and hide fruits and vegetables in smoothies or transform potatoes into mashed potatoes with carrots and turnip. Be daring and try adding veggies to desserts. We bet that no one’ll even notice… Go ahead and use your imagination!
9- On the grill
Take advantage of the barbecue to make beautiful papillotes bursting with veggies. Add a few spices: garlic powder, celery powder, fresh herbs, dried rosemary, etc. Build a mountain of chopped red peppers, sliced Spanish onions, grilled sweet peas and roughly chopped asparagus next to a grilled chicken breast of filet mignon, then devour it. You can also pile veggies directly onto the meat for different presentation.
10- Veggies at a wine and cheese?
Veggies are all too often forgotten at a wine and cheese. Marinated vegetables (olives, pickles, sweet onions, grilled peppers…) make great sides for cheese and lighten up the meal. To make it even more appetizing, whip up a few colorful marinated or grilled vegetable skewers.
11- Decorate kids’ plates
Use vegetables to make fun designs! A smiling happy face with carrots, celery and cucumbers make veggies irresistible to kids!
12- Eat veggie appetizers
Appetizers are always a great chance to enjoy vegetables. In salads, soups, fruit and vegetable salsas or vegetables au gratin – the options are endless. Vegetables have low energy density which means they won’t ruin your appetite before the main meal, but will help you feel full more quickly. This decreases the number of calories consumed at mealtime.
13- Make up original names for veggie dishes
On the menu tonight: baked tomato surprise! Veal meatballs in tomato sauce will never be as tempting! In fact, a recent study took a look at people’s perceptions to food names and descriptions. Researchers discovered that vegetables with indulgent names encouraged people to choose them in comparison to vegetables that had healthy names which people perceived to be less tasty. They concluded that it’s better to give exciting, indulgent and delicious names to food like fruits and vegetables in order to entice people to eat them.
14- Bring a vegetable-based dish to potlucks
Potlucks are gatherings where everyone brings a dish to share. During these fun meals, it’s easy to eat more than what your stomach wants because the food is out all evening! A no-fail trick for a buffet-style meal is to fill half your plate with vegetables. As vegetables are often forgotten as these kinds of events, volunteer to bring them!
15- Make vegetables attractive
The kids prefer grilled vegetables to boiled? Take advantage of this openness to prepare other vegetables this way. So replace boiled carrots with carrots sautéed in the pan with a little olive oil and spices. Instead of canned asparagus, make grilled asparagus, etc. If someone has a sweet tooth, add a touch of honey!
16- Add vegetable spirals to a plate of pasta
You can find relatively inexpensive spiralizers at any kitchen accessory shop. It’ll turn you into a master vegetable spiraller who can add vegetable spirals to spaghettis and salads – or bowls like the famous Buddha bowls! This will help increase your vegetable servings! If you don’t have a spiraller, a vegetable peeler with do the trick and you’ll get beautiful vegetable tagliatelle.
17- Make oven-fried veggie fries
Have you ever tried oven-fried squash with nutmeg? Just cut squash into the shape of fries and throw in a few spices (cinnamon and paprika are always a great combo). Add a pinch of salt, freshly ground pepper and 2 tbsp (30 ml) of canola oil. Grill in an oven preheated to 400 °F for about 12 minutes (depending on the size of the fries), turning halfway through. Your squash fries will seduce you!
18- Dehydrated vegetables as snacks
Add your favourite spices to veggies before dehydrating them in a food dehydrator. If you don’t have this kitchen gadget, you can dehydrate veggies in an oven preheated to 170 °F for 3 hours with the door slightly ajar. You’ll have a snack that’s out of the ordinary!
19- Single servings fruit and vegetable smoothie
Frozen vegetables have less taste than fresh vegetables. So add them to your fruit smoothies and your kids won’t know the difference! You can even freeze little individual bags of smoothie mix. When the time comes, you’ll have the ingredients already assembled and ready for the blender! Adding vegetables helps vary the vitamins and minerals while lowering the smoothie’s energy density. In the end, it will contain fewer carbohydrates per serving!
20- Try new vegetables
Be daring and try new vegetables like celeriac, daikon, Romanesco, Swiss chard, jicama or rapini. You’ll definitely find vegetables that you’ll like and want to add to your grocery list!