Discover how to incorporate more veggies into your meals with these six easy tips. You may be surprised with how easily it is to add them to your diet for optimal health and well-being.
We all reach the point in adulthood where we think, “I should probably try to eat more veggies.” Well, that day actually came years and years ago for me. And I just so happened to conquer my goal of adding more veggies to my diet pretty easily…
Don’t get me wrong–it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took me years to slowly start liking a wide variety of vegetables in different forms. I’ve always been able to eat plenty of fruit (as most people are). Fruit is juicy and sweet so they’re pretty easy to incorporate. Vegetables can be a little more tricky, though.
However, I’m here to tell you vegetables can be delicious.
I’ve roasted buttery butternut squash that practically melted in my mouth. Noshed on crispy kale chips seasoned perfectly with just the right crunch. I’ve even preferred huge, delicious bowls of salad over pizza or burgers some days.
Because it tastes good.
Once you learn to like all kinds of foods, a wide range of vegetables included, you’ll sometimes prefer the healthier ones over the more processed ones. Some people, like me, just truly enjoy eating healthy because it both tastes and feels good.
As a friendly reminder, just because you tasted a vegetable once as a kid or at that one dinner party years ago and didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you won’t ever like it. The person serving it may not have seasoned it well or prepared it correctly. Steamed veggies or canned ones are usually bland and limp and quite honestly not the way to serve vegetables (unless of course they are going into a well-seasoned soup). So if this is your idea of what a vegetable is, erase it from your mind. There are better ways to enjoy veggies. Promise.
Before we get into this, it should be noted that you have to have an open mind to trying new things. (And returning to old things you thought you didn’t like.) It all starts with your mindset. If you go in with a picky mind, you’re not going to magically begin loving vegetables. It all starts with curiosity instead of judgment. And the ability and desire to want to try new things.
Today, I’m going to share with you some of my best-kept secrets for how to incorporate more veggies into your diet.
How to Incorporate More Veggies into Your Meals
Reasons to incorporate more veggies into your diet:
- Aids in digestion
- Helps regulate blood sugar levels
- Prevents certain types of cancer
- Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
Can’t I just eat all fruits instead of vegetables?
Not exactly. Fruits and vegetables offer similar vitamin, mineral, and fiber content. However, the wider the variety, the more nutrients your body gets. Nutritional health is most optimal when a person eats a wide variety of foods. (Meaning you can’t just eat a lot of one, or even five, types of veggies or fruits and call it good–sorry to break it to ya). Besides, vegetables provide different vitamins and phytochemicals than fruits. You would miss out on some important nutrients if you only ate fruits.
Can’t I just take a multivitamin?
Well, most people should be taking a multivitamin each day. They’re not just for picky kids, pregnant women, or the elderly. Those who don’t take a multivitamin risk having nutritional gaps and deficiencies, as most people don’t eat a perfect diet.
Multi-vitamins are great if you use them as an insurance policy. They are there to cover your bases just in case, but you shouldn’t rely on them as a main source of nutrients. Nutrients are more readily available and easily absorbed when they come from actual food.
Vitamins and minerals taken in capsule form also do not contain necessary fiber required for a healthy digestive system.
Furthermore, the FDA does not regulate supplements and vitamins, which means you may not even be getting the dose you think you’re getting. So you still need to eat your vegetables and fruits to ensure you’re getting enough. They should be your main source of nutrients.
Bottom line: Find a multivitamin that supports your daily needs (speak to a doctor or registered dietician for recommendations), but more than anything you should be eating your fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins, dairy, and healthy fats. Whole foods are the best source of nutrients.
Are raw vegetables better than cooked vegetables?
Raw and cooked vegetables both over different nutritional benefits, so realistically you should be getting a dose of both. However, raw vegetables are not superior to cooked vegetables despite what many mistakenly think. This idea has been disproved again and again in the last few years.
In fact, cooking vegetables breaks down the cell walls of the plant when cooked. This chemical change actually releases some of these extra nutrients stored in the cell walls. The cooking process also supplies more antioxidants and minerals.
Furthermore, cooking vegetables in a healthy fat such as extra virgin olive oil can also increase the absorption of the nutrients from the veggies, along with adding an anti-inflammatory component from the olive oil.
How to Incorporate More Veggies into Your Diet
Begin gradually, aiming for one veggie a day in addition to fruits | How to Incorporate More Veggies
Start slow and keep expectations low to begin with. Work toward smaller goals before committing to eating 3-5 veggies each day. This could mean eating one vegetable a day in the beginning. Trying one new vegetable each time you visit the grocery store or dine out. (Many restaurants actually cook vegetables very deliciously, so don’t write this one off.) Or it could mean trying those veggie tots over regular tater tots in the beginning until you work up to dicing veggies really small and covering them with cheese before eating. Eventually, after that, you may want to work your way up to cutting them into normal size pieces and simply roasting or sauteing alone as a side dish. It all takes time.
Whatever you do, it has to be a slow progression or you won’t want to keep eating them. In the beginning you may just have to include other foods you love with them in order to eat them up. That is okay! (And even then they don’t lose their nutritional value. Broccoli is broccoli whether it has melted cheddar on it or not. Fact.)
Start by pureeing them into soups/smoothies | How to Incorporate More Veggies
This one is great for those with texture issues or who just can’t stomach the thought of an actual vegetable touching their lips. Sometimes disguising a vegetable in a delicious homemade sauce, soup, or smoothie will do the trick. It sure has for me.
A few of my favorite ways to add veggies through these methods:
- Adding fresh/frozen greens into smoothies before blending with fruits, milk/yogurt, and nut butter
- Pureeing tomatoes for an authentic, homemade marinara sauce that can be used in pasta or pizza dishes (I have a really great recipe you can try HERE.)
- Pureeing butternut squash, tomatoes, peas, carrots, or more into different soups for a smooth soup with vibrant color
- Roasted red peppers blended into a pasta sauce for more color and nutrition
- Fresh greens and basil blended with olive oil, salt, parmesan, pine nuts, lemon juice, and garlic for a homemade pesto that goes well with bread or pasta
Add very finely chopped pieces to dishes | How to Incorporate More Veggies
Here’s another clever idea. Chop them up small, very finely, and add them to your favorite dishes. I’ve used this on my husband in the past, who is harder to please than me. I chop them really small before adding them to a stir-fry or fried rice dish. Sometimes I add them to homemade pizzas. And I often even mix them into Mexican dishes. We love cooking with a plant-based chorizo and sometimes I’ll add diced peppers, onions, and corn to the mix to not only make the dish stretch farther but also to up the nutrition. When they’re disguised with other flavors, you really can’t tell aside from the bright colors intermixed in.
Cover them with your favorite sauce, dip, cheese, or other topping | How to Incorporate More Veggies
I already mentioned this one in my first tip, but let me at least give you a few more ideas on how to do this.
Here are some favorites:
- Broccoli with melted cheddar or mozzarella
- Roasted sweet potato “fries” coated in olive oil, salt, and paprika, baked, and then dipped in ketchup
- Fresh greens (mixed, green or red leaf, romaine, kale, arugula, spinach, etc.) topped with your favorite dressing and favorite toppings for a salad
- Roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze and caramelized onions
Learn how to cook them properly | How to Incorporate More Veggies
Here are some ways you can enhance the taste of vegetables and bring out their true flavors and textures:
- Caramelize them in a pan on the stove (caramelizing anything adds a richer, sweeter flavor to it)
- Roast them in a little olive oil and salt
- Experiment with different herbs and seasonings
I can’t stress this one enough. Learn how to cook vegetables. If you’re not used to cooking, learn how to at least roast a tray of veggies in the oven. This can be as simple as throwing them on a tray lined with parchment paper, adding 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, adding ½ teaspoon of sea salt and roasting at 375-400ºF for 20 minutes. It’s really that easy. I like mine with a nice golden brown color, not charred, but roasted enough to really bring out the flavors. They’re thoroughly cooked but firm enough to hold their structure without going limp.
Make them look pretty | How to Incorporate More Veggies
Yes, presentation is important when cooking. A vibrant, stunning presentation can be the difference between trying something new and refusing to eat it. Do some research online or watch some cooking shows. Watch how they plate different dishes by garnishing, drizzling sauces, and topping with bits of other foods for a beautiful plate of food that anyone would desire.
This may seem silly, but doing this gets you more excited for what you’re about to eat. Part of my adventurous eating stems from the beauty of the foods I eat. It truly is an experience when you’re at a restaurant and the food is brought out so aesthetically made, why would it be any different at home? This could mean investing in new plateware that gets you excited for mealtime. Or even mixing different vegetables together to create fun dishes. I always consider color and texture when combining different foods. Experiment and have fun with it.
Incorporate these ideas into your dinner meals and watch how your view towards trying new foods (not just vegetables) soars.
Final thoughts | How to Incorporate More Veggies
Remember, don’t judge yourself too harshly. Even if you’re just sampling different types of potatoes for the first month, that variety will still benefit you. (Starchy vegetables are actually a great start and can still have fiber, Vitamin C, and lots of other nutrients in them.) You have to start somewhere. And generally, the more slowly you ease into something, the more likely you’ll be successful in accomplishing a goal.
Something else worth mentioning: Even when introducing new foods to children, research has shown you have to introduce foods 20 times before they may even like it. That’s a lot. Well, the same thing goes for adults. Taste palates are not set in stone. You need to keep trying new things, sometimes over and over and in different ways to learn to enjoy them. That’s the real key to enjoying all kinds of foods.
Now, you don’t have to go entirely plant-based to reap benefits of incorporating more vegetables into your diet, either. You don’t have to follow the trend of 10+ fruits and vegetables every single day. (Studies have actually shown the variety of different plants consumed over the course of a week could be more important for health than tracking a simple number of servings each day.) You don’t have to do a huge diet overhaul. That just wouldn’t be realistic.
My point is you don’t have to restrict foods you already love, or go nuts with the vegetables. But increasing them may play an important role in improving your personal health. I think there is a way to increase vegetable intake while also enjoying all the old foods you still love. Yes, you can have both.
More Recipe Inspiration
Easy Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers