Veggies often get a bad rap. What should be among the most-eaten foods in your diet end up getting pushed aside, complained about, and generally disliked. Believe it or not, though, it doesn’t have to be like that. There are ways to prepare veggies that make them not only enjoyable, but in some cases downright delicious.
Boiled spinach, iceberg lettuce, and steamed peas and carrots are just a few old standards that may have shaped your image of “vegetables.” But today, a much wider range of veggies is available and a number of creative angles have been applied to cooking and serving vegetables. Rather than drop them in a pot of water or fry them in a vat of oil, try a new, creative, and healthy way to enjoy veggies.
New Ways to Enjoy Vegetables
1. Turn Them Into Fries
No, not fried fries – baked fries. Simply cut three or four medium-sized potatoes (sweet, gold, or russet) into wedges, toss them with about three tablespoons of olive oil, and bake for 30 to 45 minutes at 400 degrees. Seasoning them with ingredients such as garlic, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and sea salt makes a savory side dish. Add either rosemary, cumin, or smoked black pepper for a twist. Just remember to turn the wedges a couple of times while baking so they will be crispy on all sides.
2. Whip Up Fresh Juice
If you’ve tried V8 Fusion or a similar drink, you know it’s possible to combine fruits and veggies to make them taste good. Rather than opt for the store-bought version, why not try making some fresh juice at home? Pull out your dusty old juicer and press through two peeled, sectioned oranges and a half-pound of carrots to make eight ounces of a tasty blend. All that vitamin C and A in your system is sure to get you ready to tackle the day.
If you don’t want carrots and oranges, try beets with sweet apples and ginger, or a Granny Smith apple mixed with spinach for something more tart. The flavors may take some getting used to, but with a little experimentation, you’re sure to find a combination you love.
3. Make a Smoothie
Just like you can combine fruits and veggies in a juicer, you can do it in a blender, too. Blended vegetables retain more of their fiber content, which helps you feel full longer, making them a great breakfast option. There are tons of green smoothie recipes out there, but I like blending one avocado, four cups of fresh spinach, one cup of Greek yogurt, one cup of plain almond milk, two cups of frozen berries, and the juice of half a lime for the perfect morning pick-me-up. This recipe makes two 16-ounce smoothies.
Another tasty option is what I like to call a “sunshine smoothie.” Just mix half a cup of vanilla yogurt, a cup of frozen carrots, and a cup of frozen tropical fruits – pineapple, mango, and strawberry all taste great. Add water or coconut water to adjust the smoothie’s thickness.
4. Make Veggie-Crust Pizza
Who says pizzas have to be made with a traditional crust? Use your imagination and turn your veggies into the base of your pizza. For instance, you can make mini pizzas using rounds of eggplant as the crust. Start by slicing up the eggplant, brushing each piece with olive oil and Italian spices, and bake them at 450 degrees for about 20 minutes, flipping once. Remove them from the oven, top with your favorite pizza toppings, and return them to the oven until the cheese starts to crisp and brown.
If that’s not your thing, you can make a more traditional crust by chopping up a head of cauliflower and putting it in a food processor until it reaches a grain-like consistency. Transfer it to a bowl and mix with herbs, a half-cup of mozzarella cheese, and two eggs. Place it on a flour-covered pizza stone and press into a circle. Brush with olive oil and bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees, or until it turns golden brown. Add toppings, then bake again at 450 degrees until the cheese melts, about 5 to 10 minutes.
5. Try Fruit Leather, With a Twist
You don’t have to purchase fruit snacks when grocery shopping. Make your own fruit leather at home, but throw in some veggies for good measure. It’s going to come out of the oven looking browner than the store-bought variety, but I promise it tastes good.
Blend three cups of mixed greens (kale and spinach), two medium apples, a medium banana, one-and-a-half cups of frozen berries, and two cups of water. Pour your mix over a plastic wrap-lined pan and dehydrate it in the oven on its lowest heat setting (170 degrees) for about 14 hours, or until the center no longer feels tacky or spongy to the touch (8 hours should be the minimum). The mixture bakes into a sheet that you can slice and serve however you pleased. You can use whatever fruits you like: peaches, mangoes, and pineapples are delicious options.
6. Make Some Chili
When you think of chili, you probably think of beans, meat, and hearty flavors. That’s exactly why chili’s the perfect place to sneak in more veggies. Most chili recipes call for a base of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, but why stop there? Grate onions, carrots, and even zucchini into the chili base to stew with the meat and beans. If you like spicy chili, add more hot peppers, and top it off with diced onions when you plate it. And feel free to skip the meat completely – use a combination of kidney, pinto, and black beans, then jazz it up with onions, chiles, and peppers, and you’ll never notice that the meat is missing.
7. Turn Veggies Into Dips
Skip the bean dip and ranch dressing at your next party and serve fresh salsa and guacamole instead. It’s easy to make both of these dips from scratch, and they’re chock full of heart-healthy ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, cilantro, garlic, and avocado. When you serve them with veggie chips or 100% whole grain crackers, there’s no guilt when you go back for seconds.
8. Hit the Grill
Instead of reserving the grill for steaks, hamburgers, and chicken, clear off a corner for a batch of organic veggies. Slice up peppers, zucchini, and asparagus, rub with your favorite seasonings and a little extra virgin olive oil, and place them over the coals for a few minutes per side. You can then layer them on top of your burger or eat them on their own. Either way, the taste will be smoky and delicious – a completely new take on your standard side of vegetables.
My favorite is grilled avocado. Slice an avocado in half, remove the pit, brush with oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill flesh-side down on a hot grill for about five minutes, remove, and fill the pit spot with salsa, sour cream, or cheese. Drizzle with lemon juice and enjoy.
No matter what your relationship with vegetables has been over the years, the fact is that your body needs them. They’re full of vitamins, minerals, healthy carbohydrates, and proteins. However, there’s no point in trying to make yourself eat something you hate. The solution isn’t to keep force-feeding yourself the same cycle of steamed carrots and green salads, but to look for new ways to prepare different vegetables, adding them to dishes you actually enjoy until you find your veggie “sweet spot.” Trust me, it’s out there somewhere.
What tricks do you use to add more veggies to your diet?