Low in calories and high in fiber and micronutrients, veggies are an essential part of a well-balanced diet. If you’re not a huge fan of veggies, it can seem hard to get a wide variety in your diet. While you can play around with different cooking methods (i.e., steaming or roasting), another great fix is dressing them up with healthy sauces and dips. “Not only can a yummy-tasting topping encourage you (and even make you excited) to eat more vegetables, but they themselves can be a source of additional nutrition, containing extra protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants,” says Sara Haas, RDN. It’s simple to whip these up — a blender or food processor helps, she says, but often all you need is a whisk or a fork.
To give your next grain bowl or plate of sliced veggies a big health boost, try these six sauces and dips. Just start with your base (noted below), mix in the add-ins and adjust to taste.
Base: Greek yogurt
Add-ins: Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, grated or diced cucumber, salt
Recipe: Tzatziki is often a blend of 1 cup (150g) Greek yogurt, 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 clove grated garlic, 1/2 cup (75g) grated cucumber and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
Nutrition bonus: Greek yogurt is a powerhouse protein source: 1/2-cup offers 12 grams of protein.
Serving idea: Dip a serving of baby carrots in the sauce for a couple of extra grams of fiber, and you’ll have a well-balanced, filling snack.
Base: Chopped fruits
Add-ins: Lime juice, cilantro, onion
Recipe: There’s no reason to save salsa for chips only, or to think of salsa as something heavy on tomatoes. In fact, this fruit-filled recipe proves you don’t need tomatoes at all. A mix of apples and strawberries stars in this recipe, but you can also use any fruit you have on hand. Toss with the juice of 1 lime and 1/4 cup (60g) each of chopped cilantro and onion.
Serving idea: Serve with crunchy veggies like jicama slices or whole-grain pita chips.
Base: Leafy greens and nuts
Add-ins: Olive oil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, salt
Recipe: In a food processor, combine 2 cups (120g) kale, 1/4 cup (40g) unsalted almonds, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 clove grated garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a generous pinch of shredded Parmesan cheese until the consistency is smooth.
Cook’s note: To make a traditional pesto, you’d need a big pile of basil. But if you don’t love the taste of herbs or don’t have any on hand, you can easily switch the ingredients. For instance, instead of basil, opt for an antioxidant-rich hearty green, like the kale in your fridge. (Arugula or carrot tops also work well.) While pine nuts can be pricey, unsalted almonds are an easy substitution and add extra protein and healthy fats.
Serving idea: Dollop on top of grilled veggies.
Base: Greek yogurt and nuts
Add-ins: Garlic, lemon juice, salt, Ras el Hanout
Cook’s note: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different spice blends that punch up the flavor of your sauce. Case in point: “Ras el Hanout, a warm blend of spices including cinnamon, clove, coriander and turmeric is a favorite,” says Haas.
Recipe: Blend together 1/2 cup (75g) plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup (40g) ground pistachios, 2 smashed garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt with 1 teaspoon Ras el Hanout for a creamy sauce you’ll want to smother veggies in.
Nutrition bonus: “This sauce is vegetarian and high in plant-based protein from the nuts and Greek yogurt.” Bonus: Garlic and Ras el Hanout add disease-fighting antioxidants, she says.
READ MORE > 10 EXCITING HERBS AND SPICES FOR HEALTHY FLAVOR
Add-ins: Lemon, salt
Nutrition bonus: Tahini is a sesame seed paste that comes in a jar similar to nut butter. Just 1 tablespoon of tahini contains 90 calories and 2.5 grams of protein, more than 1 gram of fiber and 8 grams of total fat, most of which is heart-healthy unsaturated fat.
Recipe: In a bowl, mix together 1/2 cup (75g) tahini, juice of 1 lemon and 1/4 teaspoon salt. It becomes thick and clumpy, so thin it out with a little warm water until you reach the desired consistency.
Serving idea: Tahini has a rich, nutty taste and pairs well with zesty lemon to dress up a colorful salad.
Base: Peanut butter
Add-ins: Soy sauce, garlic, ginger, honey, lime
Cook’s note: You can also make this with other nut butters, like almond. If peanut butter is typically too sweet for you, a few added ingredients take it straight to savory.
Nutrition bonus: Peanuts contain several antioxidants, including resveratrol, flavonoids, and phytosterols that decrease bad cholesterol, promote longevity and fight heart disease and cancer, according to a review in the Journal of Food Science and Technology.
Recipe: In a blender, combine unsweetened peanut or almond butter, soy sauce or coconut aminos, chopped garlic and fresh ginger, honey and lime (rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar are other options) and stir together until smooth.
Serving idea: Drizzle over sauteed green beans, dip in raw celery or toss with stir-fried veggies.
Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.