How to Eat More Vegetables! Yes, YOU!

How to Eat More Vegetables
Practical Tips and Ideas from the 'veggie evangelist', her readers and other bloggers.

We all know we should eat more vegetables. But how, how do we do that, really? What real-life tips and ideas work? How can we build our lives around the healthiest of all foods, vegetables?

Over the several months, I'm going to share ideas that inspire me and just might work for you, too. They'll be presented one bite at a time, just quick posts every Saturday. But I'd love for readers and other bloggers alike to join me in building a list that inspires and encourages each and every one of us.

How to Eat More Vegetables


TIP #1
Reverse the order. In our very language, let's talk about talk about eating more vegetables and fruits, not fruits and vegetables. Why? Because fruit is so easy to like. It's sweet, it's easy to grab, it requires no kitchen, let alone cooking. Fruits are the brownies of the plant world. It's vegetables we need to really concentrate on, frankly, they're harder. So let's put first things first: vegetables. Practice saying it with me now, "Vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits."

TIP #2
Change the language. While we're working on the words, let's replace "I don't like vegetables" with "I don't like canned peas". Let's substitute "I don't like creamed vegetables" with "I don't care for creamed carrots." That way, the language itself leaves open the possibility of liking vegetables -- versus excluding the entire family of vegetables, versus nixing a particular vegetable, versus forgoing all vegetables prepared a certain way.

REAL-LIFE EXAMPLE My own example was, "I haven't yet found a way to cook fresh artichokes so that I really enjoy them." And you know what? I finally did discover a way of cooking artichokes that's easy and delicious, both, see How to Cook Artichokes in the Microwave. Putting something I liked in the future, not the present, really worked.

TIP #3
Move past broccoli, broccoli and more broccoli or carrots, carrots and more carrots. Quick, name five vegetables cooked in the last month. Can you? Most of us eat the same couple of vegetables cooked in the same ways again and again. To eat more vegetables, first get out of the rut of your own version of same-old same-old broccoli or same-old same-old baby carrots. Start by identifying just one new vegetable to try. To start online, for an eye-opener about all the many vegetables are easily available, see the Alphabet of Vegetables. But for real inspiration, visit the produce department in the grocery store and pick one whose color or shape appeals. Vegetables are quite beautiful, aren't they?! Then come back to the Alphabet of Vegetables, or search Food Blog Search for a recipe that appeals.

EXTRA TIP Did you know that baby carrots we buy in the grocery store aren't 'young' carrots or even 'small' carrots at all? Instead, they are commercial carrots that start with huge carrots that are ground into the bullet-shaped carrots credited with increasing carrot consumption by manyfold in the last decade or so. Like many, I like them for snacking. But when it comes to cooking carrots, choose whole carrots. The trimming and peeling process will take a few minutes but for real carrot flavor, there's no comparison.

Tip #4
Snack before supper. What??? Don't moms always say, "No snacks before dinner! You'll ruin your appetite!" Catherine uses smart snacks. She washes and cuts up cauliflower, broccoli and carrots straight from the grocery and keeps miniature cucumbers and bell peppers in the refrigerator. After school, when the kids are hanging out in the kitchen while she makes dinner, she puts out a bowlful along with hummus or a cottage cheese dip. Smart Mom!

THANKS! Thank you to Catherine from Brush Prairie, WA for this great tip!

TIP #5
Get serious about smoothies. Man, we love our smoothies! So many of you wrote in to suggest smoothies as a great way to incorporate more vegetables into our diets.

Reader Kathleen H. from Gallup, NM says that with smoothies, there's no worrying about recipes, about seasoning, about serving. Just blend up the vegetables and serve alongside protein for a complete meal. She recommends starting out with just mild, sweet veggies (for example, apple, carrot, and spinach), then working up to more serious smoothies. Here's how Kathleen does it:

"I have a Vita-Mix blender and use it to make a 'liquid salad' for lunch and dinner.  I wash, cut and toss into the Vita-Mix: half an apple, a carrot and greens of choice (usually a big handful of broccoli florets, parsley and cilantro) and maybe also spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery and kale. Add a little water and blend it up."

She's got the prep down too. "I prepare four rounds of veggies at a time, using 2 apples, 4 carrots, a small bunch of broccoli, a bunch of parsley, a bunch of cilantro. I wash and chop everything, then separate it all into four plastic bags and refrigerate. When I'm tired and hungry, I just dump one bag into the Vita-Mix, add a little water, and blend."

Shawna M. is also a smoothie fan. "I get lots vegetables and fruit every day by drinking 32 to 64 ounces of green smoothies. My green-smoothie ingredients vary from week to week, but here is the one I had today for breakfast: 2 cups of kale, 2 oranges, 3 or 4 chunks of frozen pineapple, 1 banana and 1/4 cup of water. Blend til smooth, drink and enjoy!"

THANKS! Thank you to Kathleen and Shawna for their tips!

TIP #6
Make it a project. Make it do-able. Make it fun. Make vegetables your next project. How about trying a vegetable in a new way every single day for a month? (Hey! It worked for me, it was the genesis of A Veggie Venture back in 2005!) But trust me, that's also some ambitious, so instead, how about setting out to try one new vegetable a month, or one new recipe a week?

If eating more vegetables is a family project, think about your own version of a Great Big Vegetable Challenge, complete with a refrigerator chart that lists vegetables and their "goodness" and "yuckiness" ratings.

HOW ANOTHER MOM MAKES VEGETABLES FUN Suzy G is mother to three in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Here's how she gets her kids to eat more vegetables: "I take them to farm stands. Many farms will let the kids look around the actual farm a bit. The kids get to choose what we buy, with the agreement that they will at least try it. They have learned to love string beans (especially purple ones!), fresh-picked broccoli and purple potatoes. My son will now eat any 'lettuce' that he gets from the farm -- though he calls kale, swiss chard and spinach 'lettuce'. They've even enjoyed Brussels sprouts when they got to pick the stalk and break off the sprouts themselves. In the winter, we hit the indoor farmer's markets and they get to choose there, too!"

THANKS! Thank you to Suzy G for this great tip!

TIP #7
Move vegetables to the center of the plate. Both figuratively and literally.

First, the figurative. When planning the week's menus, start with the vegetable, then plan the meal around it, as in, "Tonight we're having roasted asparagus. Let's see, that would taste great with roasted salmon." (Sound good? It is! This is a favorite spring recipe, Roasted Salmon & Asparagus, just 10 minutes hands-on time, no kidding.)

Now the literal. Place a large portion of vegetables on the plate. Now squeeze on a little protein.

TIP #8
Paint the plates with color. The most nutritious vegetables are bright- and deep-colored. Think the orange of sweet potatoes, the crimson of tomatoes, the claret of beets. Vegetables add verve and color to a plate, especially compared to cooked meat. Use the color to please the eye and inspire the appetite.

TIP #9
Move on. If you try a vegetable and don't like it, no problem, move on, there's another. Life's too short to eat stuff we don't like when there are plenty more choices. Besides, didn't your mother make you eat [name the worst one ever] canned spinach, creamed corn, overcooked asparagus and don't you still hate that one thing?

TIP #10
Take a chemistry lesson. If someone doesn't like a particular vegetable, it's possible that he or she just might be sensitive to chemicals that make someone appear to be a 'picky eater' -- and some times, the chemical aversion can be overcome by cooking the vegetable in a certain way.

For example, we all know people who hate Brussels sprouts. But the dislike is likely all about a sensitivity to bitterness caused by chemicals called glucosinolates. To counter this, the trick is to break up the center of the sprouts by cutting them in half and then, to leach out the chemicals, to cook them in a lot of well-salted water. Forget steaming, forget roasting, the chemicals must be drawn out of the core. A great source of chemistry lessons like this is On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee who also writes a blog called Curious Cook.

TIP #11
Ask for help. Putting a main dish, a vegetable and a salad on the table can be a lot for a busy cook just home from 'work' (ahem). Recruit help. Can the kids wash and prep the vegetables? Can someone man the grill?

TIP#12
"No Time" is No Excuse. Thanks to reader Chris F. for this tip! Chris says she has only about 25 minutes for lunch, not enough time to crunch through a vegetable salad. So she buys bags of frozen broccoli and cauliflower, steams and purées them. For breakfast, she adds a spoonful to a morning smoothie, for lunch, she throws a scoop onto her salad.

The point here is not let "time" -- that is, "no time" since we all live busy-busy lives -- take charge. If it's a priority, there's time. And if it's not a priority? Well, that's okay. But if it is a priority? There's time.

TIP #13
Cook once, eat twice. Once cooked, many vegetables are just as good warmed up the next day. So alternate back and forth, cooking two (or three) meals' worth of vegetables one night, two meals' worth of the main dish the next.

TIP #14
Coming next week!

MORE TIPS
Watch for a new tip each Saturday. Never miss a one! If you love vegetables, or would like to learn more easy ways to cook vegetables (plus these weekly tips), be sure to sign up for a free e-mail subscription.



How To Chime In


READERS What works for you? Share your tried-and-true technique or tip in a comment or via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. I'll add it to my list and share it along the way. Yes, I'll mention your name! (First names only, of course, locations if you provide the information.)

BLOGGERS Write your own post about with your own tips and techniques for how to eat more vegetables. If you like, feel free to link to your favorite vegetables recipes in the post. Use the graphic if you like, be sure to link to this post using the anchor text "How to Eat More Vegetables", then let me know via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. I have the idea that I'll intersperse my own tips with links to other bloggers' posts/tips.

OTHER PUBLISHERS Would you like to publish this list of tips? Contact me via recipes@kitchen-parade.com, we'll figure out a way to make that happen.

Eat more vegetables! A Veggie Venture is the home of 'veggie evangelist' Alanna Kellogg and is the award-winning source of free vegetable recipes, quick, easy, and yes, delicious. Start with the famous Alphabet of Vegetables.

© Copyright Kitchen Parade 2011


17 comments:

I've noticed more books doing this. I'm currently reading The Way to Eat by David L. Katz and Maura Gonzalez. They routinely say vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits. Vegetables and fruits. It does take practice to get that to flow off the tongue!

I'm just finishing the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman and recommend the menus and recipes he includes. The preliminary chapters on "why food matters" are quick and easy to read as background, if one needs commitment-bolstering (though could have used some footnotes I think). He basically is and advocates "vegan til dinner", uses only whole grains all day, and reports excellent health improvements.

I say grow your own! Nothing tastes better than fresh out of the garden, crisp as can be, loaded with maximum nutrients, anti-oxidants, blood, sweat, and tears. For us, that is the way to eat more veg, pick it outside the kitchen door. Great idea Alanna, cheers!

1. Blend your vegetables! Doing this to makes soups, sauces, dips, etc. is a great way to get veggies without hardly even realizing it.
2. Smoothies. A handful of baby carrots in a banana-strawberry smoothie, a few pieces of spinach in an apple smoothie, etc. You hardly taste it! Its not much but every little bit helps.

http://starvedwriter.wordpress.com/

as a vegetarian, the base of most meals is vegetables. I have a much harder time getting more fruit in. I'd rather grab a cookie than an apple ;) but at dinner fill my plate with veggies and I'm psyched.

One of the things I always do is to make sure there is at least one whole vegetable in every meal...even if say on a Saturday night we make a plate of vegan nachos for dinner and a movie... I'll serve roasted broccoli or butternut squash, too.

Also having vegetable focused meals helps. A loaded baked potato for us means broccoli, peppers & onions, cherry tomatoes and tahini sauce. Marinara sauce means adding, spinach, mushrooms, peppers ect.

1) Make a veg-heavy soup every week (right now for me it's one of the 0 pt WW soups). Soups get better with reheating, unlike some things.

2) Find out when your fav grocery store gets its produce delivered, and go on that day or the day after. You get better stuff and it hasn't been picked-over.

I have been drinking a Green Smoothie each morning. I get my vegetables and fruit in one serving. My favorite is spinach and cherries - yum!!

Eat more veggies is definitely on my to do list...I am implementing it one vegetable at a time. Love the comment about cherry and spinach smoothie..that actually sounds really good.

It seems like if you are a vegetarian (such as myself) it can still be difficult getting enough veggies and fruits in your diet if you go the "easy route" and eat lots of stuff that is processed. We've been trying to eat less processed foods (read, veggie burgers, even though I just wrote a blog post about it - http://ahappyvegetarian.blogspot.com/2011/02/veggie-burgers-many-different-ways.html if you want to read it!) and that's helped a lot. If you don't eat meat and you aren't eating processed foods - what does that leave you with? really just grains, fruits and veggies. We also have BIG plans for planting a garden, we are really looking forward to having homegrown veggies. We live in Michigan so it's hard to get decent fruit and veggies in the winter without paying a lot so I'm looking forward to late summer when we'll have lots!

just wanted to tell you ur website is a treasure trove! i really appreciate all these recipes where you incorporate vegetables. they are so delicious. ur a great cook! tx.

We belong to a CSA farm which provides us with certified organic vegetables starting in the early spring through late fall. We get a box of veggies every week. This not only helps to sustain your local family farms but tends to encourage you to eat more vegetables since you've already paid for them. In the winter we go to our indoor farmers' market. There aren't as many vegetable choices, but there is still great spinach as well as quite a few other possiblities.

I find that breakfast tends to be the place that's hardest to incorporate vegetables. If I have eggs, rather than just serving fried or plain scrambled eggs, I like to add veggies if possible. Tomatoes, cooked spinach, mushrooms, sauteed bell peppers and/or onions are all easy to mix into scrambled eggs or an omelet. If the vegetables are chopped finely, they don't take long to saute - then just add the eggs.

I just want to comment on the point about baby carrots. I've heard that often, but at least where I live I'm pretty sure you're actually getting a whole baby carrot. At least, they have a miniature but definitely identifiable core.

As a life-long vegetarian, I'm with Melissa! Fruit is harder for me, because more often than not it's messy (oranges) or I'm left with rubbish wherever I'm eating instead of in the kitchen (apples, bananas), or it's not in season! Plus bananas (my usual go-to fruit) are expensive here and often taste... odd.

Happily, I am unconstrained by dislike for the taste of veggies, from which some people suffer. I also am a family physician so I am asking people every day to get their 5-10 servings of vegetables and fruit daily, and try to walk my talk.

My gambit is simple - I just EAT MORE veggies. They taste great, especially when focusing on the brightly pigmented ones (which provide more of the phytonutrients that may help to decrease risk of heart disease and some cancers). I like veggies best when lightly steamed or eaten raw. My nightly meal usually consists of steaming some veggies (brocolli all year, summer squash, eggplant, or greens in season) and while they are steaming cutting up other veggies I want to enjoy raw. Often these might be chopped red bell peppers, tomatoes, shredded carrots or other root veggies like turnips. - whatever I have been able to find that looks good at the farmer's market (if I can get there) or the supermarket (if not). Celery works in the midst of winter when there isn't a lot of fresh produce available. The raw veggies go in a big bowl and the steamed veggies go on top. I usually sprinkle with raw nuts of one sort or another and sometimes add a few shakes of a little sesame oil. A little oil and lemon or vinegar dressing would be good for those who need more flavoring. Takes 15 - 20 minutes tops to get my meal on the table.

My bowl looks like it ends up holding a quart of veggies. I haven't measured. In the AM I eat two servings of fruit on my cereal. Lunch is often 1-2 pieces of fruit and a handful or two of raw nuts between patients. I am not a vegan or even a vegetarian, but this is just what I enjoy eating most of the time.

My main problem with above scenario is it works great for a single person, but not if I were trying to eat dinner with my husband every night. He is the classic meat/potatoes/bread kind of guy who eats from a limited roster of veggies and in limited amounts only. I haven't cracked that problem and don't think I ever will. I think hiding shredded veggies in sauces and other foods would be necessary in his case. I think some people are just never going to be able to retrain their palate to enjoy vegetable tastes. That's why it is SO important to get our kids eating a wide variety of veggies from an early age. (It is possible that the genetic variants of taste buds may also play a part in some people's dislike of vegetables. I don't think we know yet what proportion of our taste comes from genes vs environment.)

Thanks for your work to promote vegetable intake! It is sorely needed.

Every week, I try to eat a vegetable (especially those from other countries) I pass by in the store but have never tried. It helps that cooking relaxes me--last week I tried Fennel with Parmesan Salad, Fennel Au Gratin, and Fennel Cauliflower Soup. This week's vegetable is Chinese Broccoli. I had it cooked with soy sauce yesterday and sprinkled it with garlic-flavored almond slices. Since I obviously don't have recipes for this type of vegetable in The Joy of Cooking or Betty Crocker, I have Internet recipe sites that I scour for vegetable recipes.

Pat

I am pre-diabetic and I would like to stay in the pre- category (though I have a ridiculous sweet tooth).

What I have been doing is looking out for the qualities that are in the food that I like but shouldn't eat so much of, and to experiment with vegetable substitutions to capture those qualities. I'm thinking of the intangible, though it may have to do with mouth feel and some nuances of taste, I don't know. I'm sure it's highly individual. Anyway, here are some things that have become staples for me, and the food they replace in my mind.

Kabocha squash, turnips and cauliflower are my mainstays, because they are so versatile. I'll use other kinds of hard squashes, but kabocha is my favorite.

I roast a kabocha squash and toast its seeds and refrigerate slices of the squash to use later. I melt jack cheese on the slice of squash and top it with salsa or jalapenos en escabeche, and that serves the purpose of quesadillas, enchiladas, or even grilled cheese sandwiches. Also, it's quick and easy. You can do it without the pre-roasting, but you need about seven to ten minutes in the microwave.

I make lasagne or macaroni and cheese -- except that the pasta is replaced by cooked cauliflower. The latter is probably more properly called a "kugel."

I can make a thing that is like a kugel/a kookoo/a crustless quiche with any vegetable, though my favorites are chard or kale, artichoke hearts, or broccoli/cauliflower -- this seems to me to serve the nostalgic function of starchy food without being starchy at all.

When my kids were little, one of the quick foods of choice was frozen peas cooked with pasta and seasoned with parmesan cheese. Now I make it with no pasta and add some walnuts.

You've already mentioned it before, but I make a combination of celery root and turnips mashed together to replace mashed potatoes. Adding cauliflower to the mixture makes it even better.
Soups that traditionally have potatoes or rice or pasta in them just get turnips now, and they taste better for it.

Like I said, this is really an individual thing, and one person's match is another person's glaring missmatch, probably. The key is contemplating what you want out of food and looking for those qualities in places you hadn't thought of before.

I just now noticed your "How to Eat more vegetables" tips, Alanna. Excellent!!

We recently discovered the wonders of kale in an omelette. One day, we had a little leftover stirfired kale and onion from the previous night and on a whim threw it into that morning's omelette. It was fabulous.

We are still so grateful to you for your cauliflower au gratin with anchovy. We now often add anchovy to broccoli as well. (I know, I know, we're supposed to eat other vegetables besides broccoli. But broccoli is so delicious!!)

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe, whether a current recipe or a long-ago favorite. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. ~ Alanna