You know how great vegetables are for you. You’ve heard all about the fiber that keeps your cardiovascular and digestive systems healthy. You know they’re a great source of antioxidants, which help prevent disease from the inside out. And you know they’re an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, all of which are necessary for a balanced diet. Blah blah blah … but knowing the benefits isn’t making you like them any more. You’ve accepted it — you hate vegetables and there’s nothing you can do to change that fact. WRONG! Here are five ways to slowly but surely work more veggies into your diet and maybe even learn to love them:
1. TRANSFORM THEM
Raw vegetables aren’t nearly as satisfying as their cooked counterparts. Raw Brussels sprouts can be pretty unappealing to plenty of palates. But slice them, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 425°F for 30 minutes and you’ve achieved a total transformation. They’ve gone from bitter to sweet. Even humble romaine lettuce, often served on a sandwich or in a salad, gets new life when cut in half lengthwise, drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar and popped it on the grill for 5-10 minutes. If you prefer vegetables bear no resemblance to their natural form, pureeing is the way to go. Roast butternut squash in the oven, scoop the insides into a blender and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth to make a delicious winter squash soup or better yet … stir the purée into mac-n-cheese.
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2. SEASON AWAY
Most food needs seasoning. Rosemary and lemon are a match made in seasoning heaven, and are the perfect combo to add to potatoes, carrots and onions. For those of you who like a little heat, use chili powder, cumin and paprika for a warm flavor. Toss diced sweet potatoes with a blend of these spices and then sauté to make a breakfast hash, or coat an ear of corn with the mixture and throw it on the grill. And don’t forget cheese — it can more or less mask other flavors. Try cheddar cheese melted over steamed broccoli or grated Parmesan atop grilled asparagus.
3. GET SNEAKY
With a little creativity, veggies can be hidden in some of your favorite dishes. Start by choosing those with a subtle flavor that are similar in color to what you’re making. An easy trick is to add finely chopped onions, carrots and red bell peppers to tomato sauce, or roasted and pureed squash to a cream sauce on a pasta dish. As your tolerance increases, you can get more daring. Grated zucchini and carrots can be mixed into muffins, while beets can be stirred into chocolate cake, brownie batter or blended into a smoothie with citrus and banana. Speaking of smoothies, try blending spinach into your next creation — it may add a green tint to your drink, but bananas and berries easily cover up its mild flavor.
4. KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY
Once you find a veggie you like, try others in the same family, since they’ll often have similar flavors and textures. If you like carrots, other root vegetables, such as turnips, parsnips, beets, jicama and yams, are the natural next step. Start by cooking them the same way that you found carrots to be the most palatable. This means if you like roasted carrots with a drizzle of maple syrup and fresh thyme, chances are you’ll like roasted parsnips prepared that way, too. If you can handle sneaking spinach into your smoothies, try subbing in other leafy greens, like kale, collard greens or turnip greens. Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to white potatoes.
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5. EMBRACE THE REPLACEMENTS
Some vegetables make awesome (and low-calorie) replacements for traditional ingredients in recipes. Don’t believe me? Try using lettuce in lieu of buns or tortillas to hold your next burger, sandwich or taco together. You can also swap rice out for grated cauliflower or try these cheesy cauliflower grits. Veggies also make a great alternative to traditional pasta. Zucchini noodles, aka ‘zoodles,’ can stand in for spaghetti, whereas sliced eggplant can double as lasagna noodles.