Sneaking More Vegetables into Meals

Updated:Nov 14,2014

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 filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables. 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 from muffins to meatloaf. In whole grain muffins and quick breads, replace up to half the soft margarine or oil with shredded veggies; then stir in some frozen no sugar added blueberries or raspberries as a bonus fruit. Shredded carrots, summer squash or butternut squash can be added to pasta sauce and cooked for about 5 minutes to soften – then they will never be noticed!

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 raw ground beef, ground chicken or ground turkey (choose extra lean ground meat and poultry). Then 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 whiz 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 vegetable! Puree garbanzo beans, navy beans or even black beans into a creamy 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

To your blender, add a frozen banana, fat-free milk or fat-free, no added sugar yogurt, a drizzle (1/2 teaspoon or less) of honey and then whiz 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-honey blend.


Article copyright © 2014 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.