Sneaking More Vegetables into Meals

Updated:Apr 30,2015

woman cutting vegetablesIf corn and baby carrots are the only veggies your family eats, you may want to try a more sneaky approach. The American Heart Association recommends eating a diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and other healthy foods. So, to help reach this goal, put on your creative chef’s cap and cook up some imaginative ideas for adding veggies here and there.

Here are some easy suggestions to get started:

Veggie Shreds

A box grater or the grating attachment on your food processor makes it super easy to shred zucchini, beets, or parsnips to add to all sorts of recipes. Add a vegetable serving to your favorite whole grain muffin and quick bread recipes by including shredded zucchini into your batter before baking. Sauté shredded carrots, summer squash or butternut squash for about 5 minutes before adding them to pasta sauce for a quick, veggie-filled meal. Picky eaters in the family may not even notice!

Blend in Mushrooms

Replace half the ground meat in recipes, like burgers, meatloaf and meatballs, with chopped, cooked mushrooms. Finely chop a package of mushrooms using a knife or food processor, then sauté in a little extra virgin olive oil until soft, for about 3 minutes. Once the mushrooms are nearly cool, gently mix them with ground chicken or ground turkey (choose extra lean ground meat and poultry). Then cook thoroughly and follow the rest of the recipe as is.

Cheesy Orange Veggies

Cooked orange vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and carrots puree into a color that makes them easy to add to cheesy dishes like macaroni and cheese, lasagna or baked enchiladas so you use less cheese; cheese can be high in saturated fat and sodium. Or, add these sweeter-tasting veggies to a blender with some low-sodium chicken broth and puree them into a velvety smooth soup that most kids (and adults) will adore when topped with salt-free crackers and low-fat, low-sodium cheese.

Beans Count

Yes, beans are a plant-based source of protein that can also boost your vegetable intake! Puree garbanzo beans, navy beans or even black beans into a creamy hummus-style dip; add a little lemon juice and garlic powder for zip. Serve with whole grain crackers (choose crackers with the lowest saturated fat, trans fat and sodium content), homemade baked tortilla crisps or baby carrots.

Smoothies

Grab your blender and mix together a frozen banana, fat-free milk or no added sugar low-fat yogurt, and then blend in raw spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes (cooked will be easier to blend) or just about any vegetable. The frozen banana makes for a sweet, thick and creamy smoothie and it also adds strong banana flavor to help mask the veggies. For a beautifully colored pink smoothie, pop a cooked beet into the banana-yogurt blend.


Article copyright © 2015 American Heart Association. This recipe is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit heart.org/simplecooking.



Last reviewed 1/2015