You’ve probably heard it a million times, starting with your mother: “Eat your vegetables!” (She was right, by the way.) For optimal health, it’s best to eat at least five total servings of fruits and vegetables daily, but statistics show that most Americans fall woefully short. According to the CDC, adults in the U.S. eat fruit only 1.1 times per day and vegetables merely 1.6 times per day, on average.
Vegetables are an important part of your diet, because they contain essential nutrients such as antioxidants, which help ward of cancer, and fiber, which makes you feel more satisfied after a meal and helps prevent overeating and obesity. Plus, veggies are usually low in calories and sugar.
In fact, in my new book—The Gene Therapy Plan—I go into more detail about how vegetables can help you look and feel your best. I discuss how eating certain veggies can switch genes on and off, which can help you steer clear of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, premature aging, and more.
If vegetables are so good for us, then why do we have such a hard time eating them? Well, they go bad relatively quickly, compared with most pantry foods that are filled with preservatives, and if you go food shopping only once a week, it can be hard to predict exactly how many vegetables you and your family will eat. They take a relatively long time to prepare and cook, compared with pre-made meals that you can zap in the microwave in two minutes. And some people don’t like their bland taste, since many other foods on the market are overly processed and filled with sugar.
But those are minor obstacles, and you shouldn’t let them stop you from eating as many vegetables as possible. With a little creativity, you can find ways to sneak more veggies into meals that will make them taste even better than before. Want some ideas? Just check out these 10 tips, below.
1. Cook an Omelet
For breakfast, don’t just throw a few eggs into a pan. Diced peppers, onions, and tomatoes are just a few vegetables that can add a spicy and savory kick to this popular meal. They’ll also make the omelet look larger, more colorful, and even more appetizing.
2. Blend a Smoothie
Fruit helps make a smoothie sweet, but you need a handful of leafy greens in every smoothie to balance it out, so your blood sugar doesn’t spike too much. Try filling up half the blender first with spinach, kale, or romaine greens.
3. Make Pasta Primavera
Instead of using tomato sauce—which does contain tomatoes (yay, veggies!), but often has a lot of sugar (boo!)—top whole grain or vegetable noodles with a wide variety of steamed vegetables, such as chopped broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, green beans, and snow pea pods. Garnish the plate with a little fresh olive oil, basil, oregano, garlic, and Parmesan cheese and you’ll be surprised how delicious your veggies will taste!
4. Wrap a Sandwich Differently
Rather than framing your sandwich with a form of bread such as a bagel, English muffin, roll, or pita, swap in a lettuce wrap. The crunchy, refreshing feel may win you over.
5. Don’t Pass on Puree
Create a homemade soup or add more veggies to an existing soup by throwing in pureed vegetables, such as cucumbers, sweet potatoes, or pumpkin. This smooth and creamy solution will make your taste buds happy.
6. Bulk up a Casserole
Give a casserole more veggie-infused volume by finely shredding zucchini or squash and mixing it in with your other ingredients, such as grilled chicken, cheese, and brown rice. You might not even know you’re eating vegetables!
7. Snack Wisely
Skip munching on potato chips, pretzels, or corn chips. If you’re looking for a crispy, satisfying snack, bake kale chips. It’s easier than you might think. Simply cut the leaves into 1.5-inch pieces, toss them with oil and a little salt, and then bake them.
8. Enrich Beef
Whenever you’re preparing burgers, meatballs, or meatloaf—or any beef dish, for that matter—replace anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 of it with finely chopped mushrooms. The texture of mushrooms is so similar that you may not even notice the difference.
9. Improve an Old Favorite
Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Make it even more delicious by adding in vegetables, such as peas. You could also puree some root vegetables, such as rutabagas, turnips, and/or parsnips and toss them into the mix, along with white beans for extra fiber.
10. Reach for a New Condiment
Forget ketchup, mustard, and mayo! Sneak avocados into your daily diet by spreading guacamole onto your sandwiches as a condiment. This staple at Mexican restaurants is filled with unsaturated (“good”) fats. Just keep the spread to two Tablespoons or less so you don’t consume too many calories.