Whether it’s planning ahead or disguising them for picky eaters, today our dietitians are sharing their favorite ways to fill up on more fruits and veggies:
Add them to baked goods.
Lindsay Livingston, RD, recommends using “mashed versions of pumpkin, roasted squash, apples and sweet potatoes or shredded produce like squash, zucchini, carrots and apples. “Using a food processor helps chop things up even smaller and makes them less noticeable. You can also add dates, bananas and applesauce for natural sweetness to replace sugar.” Enjoy many of her produce-packed baked goodies on her blog, The Lean Green Bean.
Prep ‘em ahead & consider cook-time.
Elle Penner, MPH, RD, likes to make eating more vegetables a breeze by prepping them as soon as she gets home from the grocery store. This way, veggies are handy “to cook or toss into a salad during the week.” She even stores them according to approximate cook times. “Broccoli and cauliflower go into one container while denser vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips and squash go in another,” notes Penner. Other produce with similar cook-times include onion and bell peppers, or summer squash and zucchini.
Mix them into meats and sauces.
Making veggies blend with meats and sauces is another pro tip! Sara Rosenblum, MS, RD, LDN always adds vegetables to her meatballs by tossing veggies like zucchini or broccoli in the food processor and mixing them into ground meat. She also chops up veggies into small pieces to add to store-bought marinara sauce.
Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD founder of milkandhoneynutrition.com loves to bulk up dishes with diced cauliflower and broccoli! “Anytime I cook ground meat, I’ll add in either of those. It doubles the volume (hooray for leftovers!) and adds some fiber, vitamins and minerals!” says Phipps. The vegetables you choose are up to you, and many would work. In addition to broccoli and cauliflower, try bell peppers, carrots, zucchini or squash, onion or sweet potato.
Dish them up as dessert.
Sara Rosenblum, MS, RD, LDN also enjoys making frozen fruit desserts. For example, she likes to make frozen “sandwiches” out of banana slices and peanut butter. For a sweeter treat, you can also dip the sandwiches in melted chocolate and freeze again before enjoying.
A similar spin from Taylor Conrady RD, LDN is to make fruit popsicles. Just blend mashed banana with Greek yogurt, stir in your favorite berries or citrus, and freeze!
Bring out their best flavors.
Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, dietitian and blogger at fANNEtasticfood loves the flavor of roasted veggies. Not only is it simple and “hands-off,” she notes that “getting a little color and crispiness on these veggies really amps up their flavor and makes them much more lovable.”
To roast veggies, drizzle or brush them with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and your favorite spices, and roast at 400F until tender. Use Elle’s storage trick above to make roasting each type of vegetable even more simple.
Anne’s other tip for making vegetables delectable is to spice them up! Some of her favorite combinations include: cumin and chili powder, garlic and lemon zest, maple and cinnamon, garlic and rosemary, ginger, garlic and soy sauce, or pesto sauce.
Make v(egg)ie muffins.
And finally, we can’t forget that breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day, so we’ve got to make it count! Taylor Conrady, RD, LDN cooks ahead and freezes delicious egg-veggie muffins. She says, “it’s my favorite way to use up whatever vegetables are hanging around or are on their way out.” All you need to do is dice them up, add them to a dozen scrambled eggs with shredded cheese and spices, and portion into muffin tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375F. She keeps them in the freezer and moves the amount she needs to the refrigerator the night before. The next morning, pop them in the microwave for 30 seconds and you’re good to go!
Meghan Stanfel, MA, RD, CA also focuses on breakfast saying, “Most mornings you can find me keeping it simple with a slice of whole wheat toast with nut butter plus slices of fresh fruit on top. I love using fresh strawberries or grapes! The fresh fruit adds more fiber and skips the added sugar in traditional jam spreads.”
As for those veggies? “One of my favorite meals is an omelet with onions and green peppers, topped with nutrient-dense avocado slices for a savory breakfast treat!” says Stanfel.
With the variety of hacks these dietitians’ have offered, we hope you can pick at least one and start making small, but important, steps towards filling up on more fruits and vegetables!