Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeFood & DrinkRecipes

20 Ways to sneak more vegetables into your meals


1st Jan 2015 Recipes

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

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.

3. Start each dinner with a mixed green 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.

4. Purée vegetables into 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

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!

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.

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

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.

11. Open a can of low-salt 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

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

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

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. 

16. Use salsa liberally

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

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

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.

This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit