Vegetables are high in disease-fighting fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. They are the shining stars in a mostly plant-based diet. Without the glycemic impact on our blood sugar that fruit has, veggies cannot be underestimated for their positive impact on our health.
Veggies are a choice most people could improve upon by increasing the amount and the variety consumed on a day over day basis. Not a huge fan? Try dressing them up with your favorite sauces like Asian peanut sauce, pesto, cashew cream, or a healthful salad dressing. Or tuck them into other foods you love. Below, we'll incorporate veggies in unconventional ways. Sure, spinach and leafy greens in smoothies, but what about left-over cooked veggies in a breakfast scramble? Or in a lunch wrap? Read on to boost your daily veggie habit.
- Frozen Freedom – One of the most accessible ways to introduce veggies into the diet: buy a bunch of frozen bagged vegetables and eat a bag a day. You can also stock up on favorite varieties when they are on sale. Find a cooking method and spices that you love. Be sure to include a generous use of olive oil or ghee, a sprinkle of sunflower or pumpkin seeds or a healthy sauce to help take the edge off the bitterness, especially if you have a tentative palate. This is an easy, customizable habit which can work 365 days a year.
- Crudité – Why not clean and prep raw veggies just twice a week? Keep in containers in the fridge and use as snacks (with hummus, guac, or nut butter) or for quick meal prep. An easy answer to “mom, there is nothing to eat.” If this feels like a lot of work, buy a prepared crudité tray from the grocery store. Do this prep with your kids; especially for teens, it’s a great opportunity to teach them about knife safety and involve their handiwork in the food (hint: they are a lot more likely to eat it as a result!).
- Sweet Roasting – When we slow-cook vegetables in the oven (toss with oil and salt/spices and put on a baking sheet or air fryer in a single layer) until they are just light caramelized, we free up their sugars and ease the bitter flavor of many vegetables, especially for the cruciferous varieties. Many people will not come near steamed Brussels sprouts, but they will gobble up a bowl of roasted ones. Try this for root vegetables too which become very sweet and creamy in texture.
- Bagged salad – no need to shun the pre-made. Bagged, pre-washed leafy greens hold the key to salads, smoothies and quick meal prep. Salad kits are popular and are truly a 1-bag wonder – all the ingredients including the dressing included! Choose organic as these vegetables carry a high pesticide burden.
- Veggie Steaks – ever heard of cauliflower steaks? Slice a cauliflower head to ½ inch thickness, coat with olive oil, and roast with your favorite spices. Ditto for portobello mushrooms. Makes a beautiful side or a centerpiece of a vegan meal. See below for the recipe.
Cauliflower steaks are a surprisingly caramelized, sweet and delicious treat. Cauliflower is a source of almost every nutrient we need including choline, which is hard to find in most foods, and sulforaphane, an antioxidant which inhibits cancer growth.
1 large head cauliflower, stemmed
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse cauliflower. Place on cutting board upside down. Using sharp knife, slice cauliflower into 1/2" slices. Don't worry if some of the slices fall apart a bit. Place all slices and pieces on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and use hands to coat both sides of cauliflower slices. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Roast in oven on top rack for 10-12 minutes and flip pieces with a spatula. Return to oven and cook another 12 minutes or until golden brown.