20 Ways to sneak more vegetables into your meals

Surveys show that most of us get around two to three servings of vegetables a day, falling far short of the five servings that nutrition experts advise. Here are some health-boosting ways to sneak more vegetables into your daily diet.

1. Serve raw vegetables at every meal

carrot sticks

Nearly everyone likes carrot and celery sticks, cucumber slices, string beans, cherry tomatoes and/or green pepper strips.

They're healthy, they have virtually no kilojoules, they have a satisfying crunch and they can substantially cut your consumption of the more kilojoule-dense main course.

So make this a routine: place a plate of raw vegetables in the centre of the table, no matter what the meal is.

 

2. Sneak vegetables into breakfast and lunch

tomatoes

One reason we don't get enough vegetables is that many of us consider them merely as a side dish to dinner.

If you really want to increase your vegetable consumption, you have no choice but to eat them at other meals. But how? Easy:

  • Choose salad as part of your everyday lunch, whether on a sandwich or its own
  • Make scrambled egg a regular breakfast, using the egg to hold together sautéed vegetables such as peppers, mushrooms, courgette, asparagus, onions or any other vegetable you fancy
  • Eat leftover vegetables from last night's dinner with breakfast or lunch
  • Snack on cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and celery—all the time
  • Make vegetarian sandwiches using almost any vegetable that won't roll out of the bread or that can be grated.

Read more: 10 deliciously fresh salad recipes

 

3. Start each dinner with a mixed green salad

salad

And serve it before you serve the main course. Not only will it help you to eat more vegetables, but by filling your stomach first with a nutrient-rich, low-kilojoule salad, there'll be just a bit less room for the higher-kilojoule items that follow.

Read more: Grow your own summer salad

 

4. Purée vegetables into soup

soup

Potatoes, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli—just about any cooked (or leftover) vegetable can be made into a creamy, comforting soup.

Here's a simple recipe:

  1. In a medium saucepan, sauté 1 medium finely chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until tender
  2. Combine the onion in a blender or food processor with cooked vegetables and puree the mix until smooth
  3. Return the puree to the saucepan and thin it with stock or low-fat milk
  4. Simmer and season to taste

 

5. Order your weekly pizza with extra vegetables

pizza salad

Instead of the same old pepperoni and onions, do your health and digestion a favour and ask for the artichoke hearts, broccoli, hot chillies and other exotic vegetables that many takeaway pizza places offer these days.

 

6. Once a week, eat a main-course salad

salad

A salad niçoise is a good example: mixed greens, steamed green beans, boiled potatoes, sliced hard-boiled egg and tuna drizzled with vinaigrette.

Serve with crusty wholegrain bread. Bon appétit!

Get the tuna salad niçoise recipe

 

7. Pack your spaghetti sauce with vegetables

vegetable pasta

Take a jar of low-salt prepared sauce and add in green beans, peas, sweet corn, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and more.

Like it chunky? Cut them into big pieces. Don't want to know they're there? Grate or puree them with a bit of sauce in the blender, then add.

Read our saucy spaghetti arrabbiata recipe

 

8. Follow the golden rule

fish veg and chips

Half of your dinner plate should be filled with vegetables. That leaves a quarter of the plate for a healthy starch and a quarter for lean meat or fish.

This is the perfectly balanced dinner, according to experts.

 

9. Make a sandwich that has more lettuce and tomato than meat

sandwich

Stack the meat component in the sandwich to no higher than half the thickness of a standard slice of bread.

Then pile on low-kilojoule lettuce and tomatoes to the combined height of both slices of bread.

 

10. Eat a vegetable burger for lunch once a week

veggie burger

Top it with a sliced tomato and lettuce. Vegetarian burgers taste better than you might imagine.

Read more: 10 mouthwatering veggie burger recipes 

 

11. Open a can of low-salt soup…

soup

And add a bag of pre-cut broccoli and carrots, either fresh or frozen.

Voilà! You have asuper fastt and easy lunch or starter course that's bursting with good nutrition and fibre.

Flavour it with your preferred spices, herbs or spicy sauce and, as the soup simmers, it will simultaneously cook the vegetables.

 

12. Move your vegetables to the top shelf of the fridge

apple

As long as they're bagged properly, they'll last as well as they would in a vegetable crisper. More importantly, now they'll be visible and enticing.

In particular, keep quick-to-eat vegetables such as baby carrots, red and green capsicum strips, broccoli florets, tomatoes and cucumbers as accessible as possible.

 

13. Eat vegetables like fruit

sloth cucumber

Half a cucumber, a whole tomato, a stalk of celery or a long, fresh carrot are just as pleasant to munch on as an apple.

It may seem unusual, but who cares? A whole vegetable makes a terrific snack.

 

14. Add chopped spinach or other hearty greens to your next soup or stew

stew

Just a couple of minutes is all that's needed to steam the greens down to tenderness and add quantities of potassium, fibre and calcium to your soup.

Use low-sodium vegetable juice as the base for soups instead of chicken or beef stock.

Incorporate grated carrots and shredded cabbage in your soups, salads or casseroles. These coleslaw ingredients add flavour, colour and lots of vitamins and minerals.

 

15. Go vegetarian one day a week

vegetarian

You can do this by replacing your meat with a serve of legumes such as lentils, beans or peas. Dried or canned are both fine.

Or you can dabble in the world of vegetarian cooking, in which recipes are developed specifically to make a filling, robust meal out of vegetables and whole grains. 

Learn more: 10 easy vegetarian recipes to try

 

16. Use salsa liberally

salsa

First, make sure you have a large batch of tomato salsa filled with vegetables. One good approach: add chopped yellow peppers and courgette to shop-bought salsa.

Then put salsa on everything: baked potatoes, rice, chicken breasts, sandwiches, eggs, steak, even bread. Don't save it just for corn chips. It's too tasty and healthy not to be used all the time.

 

17. Roast your vegetables

vegetables

Here's a great side dish that's easy to make, delicious to eat and amazingly healthy. Plus, it tastes surprisingly sweet, and lasts well as a leftover, meaning you can make large batches to serve throughout the week.

Cut hearty root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, carrots and onions into 3-cm chunks and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt, freshly ground pepper and fresh or dried herbs. Roast in the oven at 220°C until soft, for about 45 minutes, turning once.

 

18. Use vegetables as sauces

sauce on meat

How about pureed roasted red pepper seasoned with herbs and a bit of lemon juice, then drizzled over fish?

Why not puree butternut pumpkin with carrots, grated ginger and a bit of brown sugar for a yummy topping for chicken or turkey? Cooked vegetables are easily converted into sauces.

It just takes a little ingenuity and a blender.

 

19. Grill your vegetables

grilled veg

If you use your grill only for meats, you're missing out! Peppers, courgette, asparagus, onions, aubergine, tomatoes—they all taste great when grilled.

Generally, all you need to do is coat them with olive oil and throw them on the grill. Turn every few minutes and remove when they start to soften. Or put chunks on a skewer and turn frequently.

 

20. Go exotic

Kohlrabi

Every week, try to buy a slightly exotic vegetable, perhaps something that you've never eaten before. Here are some ideas, and some preparation and cooking suggestions:

  • Chicory
    This type of lettuce has a mild, slightly bitter flavour, and is packed with fibre, iron and potassium. Use it in salads and with vegetable dips.
  • Buk choy
    An Asian cabbage, buk choy is excellent chopped and stir-fried in a bit of peanut oil and soya sauce. Or add it to the soup just before serving.
  • Kohlrabi
    A member of the turnip family (pictured above), this is also called a cabbage turnip. It's sweeter, juicier, crisper and more delicate in flavour than a turnip, and the cooked leaves have a flavour like kale.
    Trim and pare the bulb to remove all traces of the fibrous underlayer just beneath the skin, then eat the vegetable raw, boiled, steamed, microwaved or sautéed, or add to potato casseroles.
  • Fennel
    Also known as sweet anise, fennel has a mild liquorice flavour. The feathery fronds can be used to flavour soups and stews, while the broad, bulbous base can be eaten raw, or sliced/diced for adding to stews, soups and stuffing.

 

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