There are a lucky few who have never met a veggie they didn't like. For others, eating them is more of a hold-the-nose-and-get-it-over-with affair. Then there's the majority, who tolerate veggies for the sake of their health benefits, but sort of wish they'd magically turn into chocolate or cheese.
Like them or not, plant-based foods are an essential part of a nutritious, well-balanced diet. They're packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants—and not a lot of fat or calories, making them a prime weight loss booster.
But what about taste? Are veggies destined to be good for your health and bad for your palate? Quite the contrary. Our ever-resourceful SparkPeople members have found some ingenious ways to work more produce into their daily diets. Whether you're catering to picky kiddos or trying to overcome your own veggie aversion, a sprinkling of creativity can make all the difference between lackluster and lip-smacking.
What are your favorite fun, creative ways to incorporate veggies into your diet?
- CATH2907: A salad can be made instantly more fun by adding texture and temperature variations. I love to add warm roast butternut squash and pumpkin seeds to a lettuce/cucumber/spring onion base, with a crumble of feta cheese or a spicy dressing.
- SPUNOUTMOM: I add colored peppers, broccoli and spinach as well as onions, celery and mushrooms to salads. My fussy husband likes the crunch from the pepper and celery. Same with pasta sauces—I add tomatoes, onions, celery, mushrooms and bell peppers, as many as will fit.
- REGENCYLADY2554: Baked beets are slightly sweet and need nothing on them to taste great. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and wrap beets in foil. Place them on a baking sheet and bake until beets are slightly soft to the touch, 45 minutes to an hour depending on their size. Cool beets in packets, then rub off skins (use a paring knife for tough spots).
- ALLTHECUPCAKES: I add extra veggies to lasagna, spaghetti and sandwiches. When we have taco night, I make a taco salad with lettuce as the base instead of tortillas or chips. I grate extra carrots into soup or add frozen veggies to casseroles. It all adds up!
- LOVEXAVIE: My tip: Find the best-tasting (veggies) around and eat them raw. I pound down a huge bag of veggies (red and orange bell peppers, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, snap peas and golden cherry tomatoes) every day. I pre-make the bags so it's convenient, and often [eat them] on the drive home from work. They are finger food and car-friendly.
- CATH2907: One of my favorites is roasted root veggies prepared with very little olive oil. I put them in a plastic bag with a teaspoon of oil and seasoning and shake to get an even coating. Plenty of squash, parsnips, carrots, onions, garlic and sweet potatoes...yum!
- MLAN613: In smoothies, I love mixing in spinach, kale and/or spring mix with kefir and then some fruit like blueberries, strawberries, banana or mixed berries. You could probably use baby carrots or celery, too. [Hummus also makes a] delicious dip for celery, carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.
- LOVEXAVIE: Use a yam like a baked potato. When done, cut length-wise, add some nutmeg and pumpkin pie spice and a bit of salt.
- KDYLOSE: I snack on celery sticks and sugar snap peas with a ranch dip that I make from yogurt, mayo and onion salt. You can use low-fat yogurt and mayo, and add other spices or a dash of sesame oil.
- KENDILYNN: If you like butternut squash, you can cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and roast it in the oven without oil. I still drizzle a bit of olive oil for flavor when I serve it. A bit of fat helps you absorb the nutrients.
- KDYLOSE: Make salads a whole lot more interesting by adding some little treats. I favor Trader Joe's roasted pecan baking pieces, maybe a little crumbled feta cheese with homemade ranch dressing, even the occasional bacon crumbles. A little bit of these kinds of additions go a long way toward making a salad attractive and satisfying to eat without adding that many calories.
- ICEDEMETER: The "add a bit of sweet" trick works with most of the more bitter vegetables. I've found that even a few tablespoons of chopped dried fruit (raisins, apricots, dates or figs) or some chopped fresh fruit (apples, pears or pineapple) can make a really "blech" dish of bitter vegetables taste good. Add a sweeter balsamic vinegar and maybe a few nuts for contrasting texture.
- CATH2907: I find frozen spinach is handy. I can throw a defrosted cube into an omelet, curry or soup for instant vegification.
- MARTHA324: Soups and stews! I just made Rachael Ray's stuffed cabbage "stoup" (lightened it with less olive oil and ground turkey). Veggies include onion, grated carrots and lots of cabbage, along with diced tomatoes and chicken stock. Not many calories and delicious. I added some brown rice to my bowl.
- ZELDA13: I also like to "cook" inside the veggie—think stuffed peppers, stuffed cabbage or even stuffed zucchinis. Our favorite is to make a Mexican stuffing mixture with ground meat, salsa and some cheese.
- RUSTY_WOODS: I tend to eat lower carb, so I cook up some meat, and add eight to 10 servings of vegetables, kind of like a stir fry, minus rice. Today, for example, I [added] a can of mixed vegetables, a can of diced tomatoes and a can of mushrooms [to] some boneless, skinless chicken thighs. I add garlic, onion powder and pepper for flavor. Any vegetables will work, but the ones that soak up the broth taste the best (broccoli, cauliflower and potato).
- PINKD333: I make a big pot of vegetable soup with either chicken or turkey sausage almost every weekend. I use all types of veggies: potatoes, sweet potatoes, summer squashes, leeks, onions, carrots, butternut squash, cabbage and kale.
- ICEDEMETER: My personal favorite is to sauté mushrooms and finely chopped onion over medium heat, along with some minced garlic and a splash of rice wine vinegar or red wine vinegar. By the time the vinegar has cooked down, the mushrooms and onions have a ton of flavor and very little in the way of added calories. I may add some bitter greens, too. A couple of cups of spinach or finely shredded Brussels sprouts work great with the sweet flavors of the caramelized onions and mushrooms.
- LUANN_IN_PA: I recently discovered roasting butternut squash, cabbage and onions in the oven with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, pepper and rosemary. If that ends up being high in calories, cut the oil in half.
- ACCIDENTALHW1: Zucchini is practically tasteless when mixed well in other foods, and is an easy way to sneak in some vegetables. I'll put shredded zucchini in spaghetti sauce or sloppy joes, or pretty much any time I'm cooking with ground beef.
- ZELDA13: I love to use (veggies) as pasta. I cut up zucchini, yellow squash, spinach, mushrooms and onions and sauté them for 10 minutes. I add a low-sodium marinara sauce and top with some grated cheese. I actually prefer it to pasta.
- ICEDEMETER: To keep things on the lower calorie side, mixing sweet with bitter veggies is a great way to create a good flavor profile without adding a ton of calories. I find that just a bit of olive oil or butter always adds to the flavors, and that spices and vinegars add a lot of fun touches. It's amazing what a little bit of an herb can do—I loathe steamed carrots (love 'em raw or as part of a stir-fry) unless I toss on a shake of dried dill and a bit of smoked paprika. There are so many different herbs and spices that you can almost always find a combination that suits your personal tastes.
- CESPRINGALL: Years ago, I made marinara sauce from scratch. It called for shredded carrots. Since then, I have been hiding vegetables in almost all red sauces. I puree spinach, cauliflower and broccoli stems (cook fresh ones first and use the water as well)—anything without a strong flavor that the tomato sauce can cover.
- ICEDEMETER: [Have you] tried sautéed kale, baked acorn squash and steamed Brussels sprouts and thought they were bitter and disgusting? Maybe try sautéed red cabbage, baked butternut squash and steamed sugar snap peas, all of which are quite sweet. All are vegetables, but all very different in taste and texture.
- KDYLOSE: I've been experimenting with frozen broccoli florets. Add a little olive oil, garlic salt and lemon juice after you microwave it and it's delicious. Or I add coconut oil, turmeric, cardamom and a dash of cumin to make a curried dish.
- WOUBBIE: Focus on high-impact veggies, like spinach. You can add that stuff to almost any entree. If you buy it fresh, put a bunch of leaves in a baggie and freeze it. When it's frozen, you can crumble it into flakes and sprinkle it into or onto omelets, salads, soups, stews, sandwiches/wraps and pizza.
- ICEDEMETER: I'll try a new-to-me vegetable by buying just a few fresh at the grocery store. Then I try it as a side dish in two or three different meals over the course of a week, cooked and served a different way each time. It's never the "main" part of the meal, so if it turns out that I don't like it that way, there is still lots of food otherwise. I generally try to taste each one raw (if that's an option for it), lightly sautéed, steamed and roasted. I'll try it by itself first, to get a feel for the flavor, and then mix it with other veggies that seem to suit it. I'm also a fan of adding a quick sauce or topping to see if that works with it.
- ACCIDENTALHW1: Roasted broccoli and cauliflower are big in this house. Boiled or steamed carrots tossed with a bit of butter and orange zest or dill are also big hits. Also [try] asparagus roasted with lemon pepper and butternut squash stuffed with onions, raisins and spices.
- 1MOM93: I use half cauliflower and half potatoes when making mashed potatoes.
- CARDIOGRAPH: When using ground meat or chicken in any recipe, you can easily add other finely chopped veggies to stretch the recipe or cut the calories. When making ground beef (or turkey) taco meat filling, I add an onion, a red or green pepper, and even jicama or a carrot. Or when I make lettuce wraps, I add minced bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms and peppers to the ground chicken filling. The kids don't complain too much, since they are so finely chopped and covered in flavorful taco or Thai sauce.
- HWNHMMBRD: When my son broke his jaw, we got a Nutribullet to liquefy foods. I started to make green smoothies with it, and found it is an excellent way to add veggies to your diet. I use a full serving or more of a fresh leafy green—I prefer spinach and baby bok choy for their lighter flavor—and one or two servings of fruit. I usually use plain water for the liquid, but coconut water is also good--simple and low calorie.
- CHYRRESP: I like to add veggies into my scrambled egg beaters (I use a half cup of veggies and one cup of egg beaters). Zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, onion, celery and spinach are my favorites. I cook the veggies first and add about two teaspoons of water, and when that's cooked I add the egg beaters.
- SPARKS07: You can add veggies to Crockpot recipes: All the swirled-together-flavors after cooking all day might be an easier way to sneak in some veggies. When my non-veggie friends come over, I might put a little parmesan or shredded cheese on top, and then it seems like a treat to eat your veggies.
- CARDIOGRAPH: When making any sauces, you can add pureed veggies. In sauce for pulled pork, I puree an apple or red pepper into it. For pasta sauces, I use any leftover veggies, like celery, zucchini or even salad greens.
- CESPRINGALL: I make my own hummus. I add roasted garlic, my own sun-dried tomatoes and usually a couple of roasted poblano peppers.
- JOY8756: Years ago, I taught my seven children to like vegetables by preparing them first and having them ready to eat before the rest of the meal. Hunger is the best sauce. Keep trying any new food and you will probably develop a taste for it. Now that I am working on my weight, I eat a plate of veggies (some raw, some cooked) prepared with a little olive oil as a first course, then eat more with the rest of the meal. I am satisfied with much less meat and don't need empty carbs.
- DONNAKOVAC: I love pasta sauce, and I discovered that if I put ground meat, pasta sauce and cheese on mixed veggies, sweet potatoes or squash, it's almost as good as any pasta dish or pizza.
- BOREDA: Try steaming a green veggie, like French beans, mangetout or tender-stem broccoli. Cool, then eat with a spoonful of homemade vinaigrette dressing. It makes a delicious snack, or you can eat it instead of a salad for more fiber and vitamins.
- FRUITSOFWELLNES: This quick breakfast option will blast your body with nutrients, protein and vitamins: Scramble up about three large eggs and throw them in the frying pan with olive oil. Chop up as much spinach as you want and throw that in the pan. Cook it all up, throw it on a piece of wheat toast and enjoy.
- TOUDLES: Keep lots of cleaned and chopped vegetables in the fridge for snacking and easy meal prep. I get more veggies in by having them for breakfast in a garden omelet, a green smoothie, pumpkin pancakes or just leftovers from dinner warmed in the microwave. I love Kate B's Amazing Kale and Eggs.
- SLIM4LIFE09: With breakfast, I'm not a mushroom/peppers in my omelet kind of gal, but I like tomatoes, so I would have a cup of cherry tomatoes along with my egg(s) and toast. I'd bring a baggie of veggies for a morning snack, usually from a veggie tray I would buy, with a mix of cherry tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and red peppers. I went through one or two veggie trays a week—while it would be cheaper to cut your own at home, I liked the convenience.
- LOTUS737: I'm not a huge fan of raw greens, so I make sure to add baby spinach to my protein shakes (I freeze it myself from large containers), but I also like to sauté and pair with sweeter veggies, like kale and sweet potato.
- ZELDA13: I like cauliflower any way, but the other night I roasted it. I spritzed a roasting pan with cooking spray and added a head of cut-up cauliflower. I also added asparagus, onions, garlic powder and some lemon juice, and baked it at 425 for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. When it was done, I sprinkled on some parmesan cheese and paprika to give it a bit of color. Very easy and very tasty.
- FRUITSOFWELLNES: The easiest way, in my opinion, is throwing all the healthy greens you can find into a smoothie. That's how I usually get my quick fix for the day. But if you're looking to try something yummy and want to have leftovers for the next couple of days, try out a vegetable soup.
- ICEDEMETER: I pretty much stick with roasting, grilling, lightly steaming or stir-frying veggies. I use a variety of oils and spices with them, but often prefer the simplicity of the natural flavor. I find that mixing up more bitter vegetables (Brussels sprouts, for instance) with sweeter vegetables or fruits during the cooking creates really enjoyable variances in flavors.
- CORIE115: I'm a big fan of chopping veggies into large chunks, putting them on skewers and grilling with some seasonings and a big squeeze of lemon. I can pretty much trick myself into thinking anything is special if it's on a skewer.
- LOTUS737: I'm a big fan of roasting larger batches of veggies. It's easy to change up the flavors that way, and they can be incorporated into so many dishes. I use them on salads, as sides to protein, pureed into soups or sauces, on sandwiches or underneath eggs.
- ALIHIKES: I have a few favorite recipes in which I use lots of vegetables: Vegetable curry (light coconut milk, lots of veggies, exotic curries and ginger, topped with a few cashews); roasted vegetables (they taste delicious when they are roasted); stir fry veggies with brown rice and a healthy sauce; and veggie frittata (like a veggie quiche minus the crust).
- CARDIOGRAPH: When I make Asian noodle recipes or stir fries, I add a can of shoestring bamboo shoots. They have little taste, and my kids think they're just other noodles
- LALALOVELY76: I make awesome veggie frittata muffins. In addition to eggs, I add mushrooms, tomatoes, green onions, green bell peppers, broccoli and cottage cheese. They're so yummy and good for you. This week I'm going to make them with spinach and gouda cheese.
- JULIAFLANAGAN: I used a couple tablespoons of avocado on my salad instead of dressing and it was amazing! Avocado and hummus are great replacements for dressings and spreads, plus they are easy to make so you know exactly what you're eating.
- ICEDEMETER: For salads, I often use chopped vegetables that I cooked earlier (usually a mix of green beans, snap peas, asparagus, carrots and broccoli), all either steamed or roasted to the point of caramelization, along with some roasted apple chunks, some raisins and a balsamic dressing.
- BECBAC4: [Try] asparagus sautéed in a little olive oil, [then] add a little taco seasoning and a tiny bit of salt to taste...yummy! I also like asparagus with olive oil, adobo and granulated garlic, salted to taste. Mushrooms sautéed in olive oil with rosemary is great!
- ELLAGURU518: I love turmeric! It's great on roasted or pan-fried carrots, parsnips and any winter squash. I actually put a little turmeric in my pumpkin bread. I also like making mashed parsnips with garlic and turmeric—it's basically just like making mashed potatoes. Peel and roughly chop the parsnip, and boil it in salted water. I usually drop in a peeled garlic clove. Once everything is soft, drain and add a little turmeric and olive or coconut oil, then mash away.
- DUGBAG: I love to finely chop up several kinds of cruciferous vegetables, then sauté them in coconut oil with a curry spice mixture. The Brussel sprouts are especially amazing!
- LAGIRL0547: I bake some broccoli, add a little sea salt with a dash of red wine vinegar and [then] add lemon and lime. I even use this on salad with a little parmesan cheese.
- TINAALLMAN98: I have a spiralizer and I use zucchini. After I spiralize the zoodles, I add some salt and let them drain in a strainer, then heat them up with a little olive oil and add my meat and sauce.
- CHASINTHEDRAGON: I've been experimenting lately with Indian-inspired cooking. It really opens your eyes to how mixing different spices, veggies and fruits can make fun, complex flavors. For example, I always kept cumin around for Mexican cooking and cinnamon and ginger around for assorted things, but mixing the three had never occurred to me. You can create new flavors you've never encountered.
- ZORBS13: I make butternut squash soup with cayenne and a little sprinkle of cinnamon. Add a small amount of butter to the broth/squash while it is boiling, then puree and add cream/milk.
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