Even as adults, our inner 5 year old rears it’s stubborn head when it’s time to eat our vegetables. Whether your goals are weight loss, optimal health, hormone balance, or athletic performance, vegetables are one of the most underrated components of any nutrition strategy. It’s actually the only food group where every diet camp finds common ground. Keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, carnivore, and macro-counters alike all unite around the importance of vegetables for their key vitamins & minerals, fiber content, satiety factor, and nutrient density.
But even if the many benefits of vegetables are well-known, the average American is lucky to consume one serving per day – while the general recommendation is 4-6 servings of veggies per day. So how do we transform our idea that vegetables have to come in the form of a bland iceberg lettuce salad, carrot shavings, and diced tomatoes we pick around – all of which is doused in dressing to make it something we choke down just to appease our inner adult that is trying to ‘eat healthier?’
Let me introduce you to five ways to prepare vegetables that will have you (and your family!) filling their plates with vegetables, and maybe even asking for seconds!
Let’s just get the elephant out of the room. You do NOT have to gnaw at baby carrots, celery sticks, cucumber slices, raw broccoli, and kale to eat your vegetables. In fact, I personally consume maybe one serving of raw vegetables per day, and you’ll only find me eating a salad if it’s my only option. But there are some tasty ways to incorporate more veggies in their natural state:
- Chop celery sticks, carrots, cucumber and/or bell pepper slices and pack them with a single serve hummus or guacamole cup for an easy on-the-go snack.
- Massage raw kale in olive oil and lemon juice to make it more palatable and easy to chew. Mix one cup massaged kale with one cup Romaine lettuce for a delicious, nutrient dense salad.
- Make a chopped vegetable salad as a side for your next BBQ potluck. Simply dice a combo of your favorite veggies – cucumbers, peppers, onions, broccoli – in a bowl and add equal parts of olive oil and lemon juice. Add salt & pepper to taste. A big batch keeps in the refrigerator all week!
When it comes to convenience and time-efficiency, steamed veggies take the crown. Cruciferous and starchy veggies like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus, green beans, and asparagus are perfect for a simple steam, and can be on the table in less than 10-15 minutes.
- Frozen steamer bags of vegetables should be a staple in any household. Watch for sales and stock up on your favorite frozen vegetables to have on hand at all times. A quick 5 minutes in the microwave and a side of perfectly steamed broccoli is ready! Add a small amount of melted butter or ghee, and salt & pepper to taste.
- Invest in an inexpensive stainless steel steamer basket. Fill a medium saucepan with 1-2″ of water, place the steamer basket in the saucepan, fill with your veggie(s) of choice, and bring to a boil. Cover saucepan and veggies with a lid and allow to boil until veggies are fork tender. Add seasoning and enjoy!
If you want to feel like a culinary genius, experiment with roasted vegetables. One simple recipe applies to a multitude of different vegetable options that will have even the pickiest palates asking for more. To make the perfect roasted vegetable, use the following simple steps:
- Select your vegetable combinations (Brussels sprouts, bell peppers, onions, zucchini, squash, broccoli, etc) and chop into larger, bite size pieces. Do NOT dice the veggies to oblivion!
- Choose your cooking fat. Ideally, this is a fat that is solid at room temperature. I suggest ghee, coconut oil, or even BACON fat! Coat your chopped veggies thoroughly.
- Add salt, pepper, and any other desirable dry seasonings. Mix well in a large bowl and dump onto a large baking sheet.
- Roast in oven at 350 degrees for 10-20 minutes, or until fork tender. Finish on high broil to add a slight char, if desired.
If you want a starter recipe, refer to my Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts!
Nothing says summer quite like firing up the grill for a flavorful feast. The next time you are prepping your favorite grilled proteins, don’t forget to add some vegetables! You can halve bell peppers, paint lightly with olive oil, and place directly on a grill grate. For vegetables like mushrooms, onions, zucchini, eggplant, squash, or potatoes, you’ll want to coat in cooking oil and add to a grilling basket. You can also skewer cubed peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and other vegetables or fruits to create colorful & delicious kabobs!
A classic childhood strategy our parent’s used to ‘trick’ us into eating vegetables can be renewed again in adulthood. One of the easiest examples of this is adding a handful of fresh spinach to any smoothie. While it may turn the smoothie a shade of green, the spinach is tasteless when combined with frozen fruit and a protein powder.
Cauliflower is the ‘super food hero’ of 2020 – swooping in to save the our meals from being completely void of vegetables. Riced cauliflower, fresh or frozen, can be used in conjunction with any white rice dish to boost veggie power. Have a favorite stir fry recipe? Replace half the amount of white rice with cauliflower rice and you’ll never know the difference! Add cauliflower rice into soups for a flavorless addition of veggies. Peruse Pinterest for a multitude of recipes for mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes! The options for cauliflower are endless (and yummy!).
Vegetables will always be a staple in a healthful diet – regardless of your health & fitness goals. So learning how to prepare & use vegetables to your advantage, and transform them into a food group you actually crave. Put the days of tasteless vegetables behind you and explore new ways to incorporate them into every meal of your day!