Summer has arrived and with it comes all the most local, freshest and tastiest produce!!! Although it isn’t breaking news that many individuals fall short of the recommended daily dose of vegetables and fruit regardless of the research that lists the countless health benefits, individuals have done little to tackle this area of their dietary regimen. Unfortunately, the low calorie, high fibre, high fluid, antioxidant, vitamin and mineral-rich vegetables are the ones that suffer most as they tend to look a little more intimidating and lack the sweetness that fruit offers. As such, I have detailed a few quick-n-easy tips to assist you and your loved ones in increasing your vegetable intake.
Add veggies you are somewhat fond of to dishes you already adore. Layer zucchini slices, chopped spinach, or cooked carrots into lasagna, stir broccoli into macaroni and cheese, toss tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, etc. into an omelet/frittata or quesadilla, add grated or finely chopped vegetables to meat loaf, pasta fillings such as cannelloni/manicotti or ravioli, and fillings for Mexican entree fillings like tacos and enchiladas.
Soup scandal. Some homemade soups already contain a hefty serving of vegetables, but most canned and commercial products are lagging in their veggie dose! Adding carrots to chicken noodle soup works well as do edamame or green beans in minestrone soup. Add the raw or frozen vegetables while cooking or heating.
Salad toss. Load your salads with all the veggies you enjoy/can tolerate. The options include cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, green beans, onions, radishes, tomato, broccoli or cauliflower. You can even use spinach leaves instead of lettuce.
Dip-mania. Adding flavor to vegetables doesn’t get easier than providing a low fat, low calorie dip! Whether it is store bought light ranch, bleu cheese or Italian dressing, or homemade onion dip made from onion soup mix and fat-free sour cream, they are all tasty options.
Tasty toppers. Most people already consume items like spaghetti and pizza which makes them a great place to sneak in some vegetables. Chop any vegetables, even nonconventional ones like zucchini, asparagus, eggplant, celery, artichoke hearts, fresh basil leaves, spinach and carrots and add them to these dishes. Remember, the smaller the pieces, the less attention they will draw! You can also create your own dough out of cauliflower, here is an online example from an SWLC bandster: http://www.recipegirl.com/2012/01/16/cauliflower-crust-hawaiian-pizza/
The power of puree. Create your own sauce/broth by blending your favourite and maybe not-so-favourite veggies and season as you please!
Inventive veggies. Are the youth in your life holding you back? Make vegetables more fun for them and mealtimes will be a whole lot more fun for everyone! X-Ray vision carrots, speedy seafood, beauty cucumber circles, all-terrain vehicles – celery cars with carrot wheels (http://www.kraftcanada.com/en/recipes/all-terrain-vehicle-86937.aspx), etc. to have them eat more. Let’s face it: some vegetables are just more fun to eat than others. Corn on the cob (especially when grilled) continues to be fun into adulthood. So are veggie kabobs, and celery sticks filled with natural peanut butter or light cream cheese. And a zucchini half, tomato, bell pepper, or portobello mushroom stuffed with a savory filling can be as elegant as it is fun.
Get grilling! Let’s face it, grilling just tastes better!! Large pieces can go straight onto the grill such as portobello mushrooms, zucchini or peppers sliced lengthwise, thick eggplant medallions, and long spears of asparagus. Smaller pieces can be placed on a skewer, wrapped in a foil pouch or on a BBQ-friendly grilling plate.
Flavour fiasco. Add pepper, dill, paprika, red pepper flakes, a drizzle of light soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon/lime juice, a small spoon of honey or no sugar added marmalade. Mixing fruit’s natural sweetness with veggies is a fabulous strategy such as strawberries, apples and peaches!
Love the layers. Layering vegetables within hot/cold sandwiches, pitas, wraps, quesadillas, etc. is a fabulous way to create a beautiful looking sandwich, incorporate veggies into your daily intake and complement the already loved ingredients in many of your favorite foods. Roasted red pepper, roasted or sun-dried tomato, and/or grilled eggplant work well in hot or cold sandwiches. Raw tomato, spinach leaves, fresh basil, grated carrots, sprouts, sliced or grated zucchini, shredded green or purple cabbage go well in sandwiches, wraps, and pitas.
Turned off by texture? Oftentimes it is texture that leads us away from vegetables, but so many people don’t give them a proper chance. If all you have ever experienced is canned or overcooked vegetables, they definitely deserve a “fresh” start. Think outside the box: lightly stir-fry, grill, stew, roast, raw, steam or microwave. R-aw-some… raw veggies can be more appetizing than their cooked counterparts to people who aren’t crazy about vegetables since the flavors of raw veggies can be milder than those of cooked ones and the texture is crispy, rather than mushy.
Fast-food frenzy. All the fast food chains these days offer vegetables as compliments to your main or even as a main! Experiment with veggie sticks, side salads or salads made with grilled chicken/fish and choose the light or reduced-calorie dressing on the side.
Don’t reward yourself or others for eating vegetables. “Studies suggest that when we are rewarded for eating something, then the reward becomes the treat and we will not see the food itself as enjoyable. This indirectly teaches is that the vegetables are the punishment we have to get through in order to acquire our reward.”
Cheese please. Sprinkle grated or drizzle saucy reduced-fat cheese in small amounts over vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower to add a whole new type of flavour!
WebMD. Eat your vegetables: Fifteen tips for veggie haters. Retrieved June 15, 2012 from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-your-vegetables-15-tips-for-veggie-haters?ecd=wnl_wlw_011112.