If you’re a dedicated reader of the Motive Nutrition blog, you know that we don’t shy away from encouraging our MN community to load up on veggies. We’ve highlighted increasing vegetable intake as a top 5 tip for a healthier you in the new year, written about simple ways to up your veggie intake, and shared some of our best and finest recipes.
New to the Motive Nutrition blog? Welcome! Feel free to look around, get inspired, and thank you for giving me yet another opportunity to write about a topic I’m truly passionate about –enjoying your vegetables into the most unsuspecting ways and places.
Aside from putting together plentiful and colorful salads, slicing up crudité, and sautéing or roasting fresh veggies as a side dish, there are an abundance of ways to ensure these nutrient and antioxidant packed foods hold their own in your diet. A recent trend in the food blogosphere focuses on hiding vegetables in recipes and selling them off as the plain old thing – broccoli mac & cheese for kids, pumpkin puree chocolate brownies, and cauliflower pizza. These recipes aim to trick their eaters into thinking they’re eating the foods they are accustomed to while inconspicuously providing a portion of vegetables.
Though April Fool’s has long since passed, I used the infamous day of trickery to pull a practical trick of my own on family and friends by trying out a new recipe at a family dinner – a fruit and nut cake. This new recipe was an instant hit with my food-stubborn family members and everyone jumped on the opportunity to take home leftovers. Little did they know, I snuck a whole bunch of zucchini in the batter, caving into the hidden vegetable trend.
After reflecting on my successful April Fool’s Joke, I quickly came to realize that it was counterproductive for me to join in to this new fad of sneaking vegetables into recipes with the hopes that no one would realize. While this concept may seem clever at first, I realized that it’s another one of those food trends that drives me a bit nuts as a nutritionist with a passion for a back-to-basics approach when it comes to nutrition and health.
Why do we have to trick ourselves into eating these fresh, colorful, and delicious nutrient-dense foods that play an important role in reducing our risk of chronic disease and provide the macro and micronutrients our bodies need to survive and thrive? We don’t! In fact, I dare you test out these tips, wholeheartedly knowing that the veggies in your dish are one of the reasons your recipe looks and tastes as great as it does.
You’re going to need some tools to execute this tip. If you’re preparing a smaller meal, a spiral slicer, like the GEFU spirelli spiral slicer, will do just fine. But if you’re making a bigger batch, say for a family dinner or as part of your weekly meal prep, you’ll need something like the Le Rouet to get the job done.
You might be thinking, what kind of vegetables can I spiralize? In all honesty, anything goes. The more traditional examples are zuchinni, carrots, and squash. Step out of the box and try beets, parsnip, sweet potatoes, and eggplant. These veggies and any others your experiment with using your spiralizer can complement a pasta dish, be an alternative to the pasta itself, or can be added to salads to spice things up! This recipe for zucchini noodles with avocado pesto is an MN favourite!
2. Fat & Sugar: Play with your proportions
When baking, try replacing the fat or sugar in your recipes with vegetable purees.
When replacing fat: swap 1 cup of fat in a recipe with ½- ¾ cup of a puree
When replacing sugar: swap ½ cup of sugar in a recipe with ¼ cup of a puree
Think beets, carrots, sweet potato, pumpkin, and butternut squash in brownies, muffins, cakes, loaves, you name it. Just keep in mind color and flavor when choosing which purees you substitute in your recipes. With these ratios, you’ll not only up your vegetable intake and show off your creativity in the kitchen, you won’t compromise the taste or texture of your recipes.
3. Blend & juice, don’t cleanse
Blending and juicing are great ways to incorporate and enjoy fresh and frozen produce throughout the day. A green smoothie or green juice are quick and easy snacks that contribute to your daily veggie intake, just as long as they don’t become your sole source of nutrition. In my books, juice-only cleanses are and always will be fad diets.
Easy and delicious go-to’s: spinach, kale, romaine, collard greens, dandelion greens, romaine, cucumber, celery. Not feeling the green? No problem. Carrots, cooked sweet potatoes, beets, and red cabbage contribute to great concoctions as well. Combine vegetables of different colors and flavors in your juicer and throw in at least 1 portion (read: 1 fistful) of vegetables in your blender to help meet, or even surpass, your daily vegetable needs.
Now it’s your turn.
I challenge you to appreciate the vegetables in your diet for the healthful foods that they innately are. Not by sneaking or hiding them in inconspicuous ways, but by celebrating them and letting them shine in your recipes for the nutrient-providing and tummy satisfying foods that they are.
By Katie Cohen Olivenstein RD