Add veggies you almost like to dishes you already love.
Layer zucchini slices, chopped spinach, or cooked carrots into lasagna. Stir broccoli florets into macaroni and cheese. Toss whatever veggies you like (tomatoes, spinach, mushrooms, broccoli, asparagus) into an omelet or quesadilla.
Try them in soup.
Embellish your favorite soups with added veggies. Some homemade soups already contain a nice amount of vegetables, but most canned and commercial choices can stand to have their veggie quota bumped up. I love adding carrots to chicken noodle soup, and edamame or green beans to minestrone. Just add the raw or frozen vegetables while you are cooking or heating the soup.
Slip them into salads.
Load your salads with all the veggies you enjoy (or at least tolerate). The options include cucumber, grated carrots, zucchini, green beans, onions, radishes, jicama, tomato, broccoli or cauliflower florets. You can even use spinach leaves instead of lettuce.
Serve them raw.
Raw veggies can be more appetizing than their cooked counterparts to people who aren’t crazy about vegetables. The flavors of raw veggies can be milder than those of cooked ones. And the texture is crispy, rather than mushy.
Take raw vegetables skinny dipping.
There’s nothing like a little light ranch dressing or onion dip to make a platter of raw veggies disappear. Make it super easy by using bottled light ranch, bleu cheese, or Italian dressing. To make light onion dip, stir onion soup mix into some fat-free or light sour cream.
Sneak them into spaghetti and pizza.
Most people like spaghetti and pizza, which makes them a good place to sneak in some vegetables. Chop any vegetables your family likes (zucchini, onions, eggplant, broccoli, celery, carrots) and add them to the spaghetti sauce. The smaller you chop them, the less likely anyone will notice that they’re there. Vegetables can also be a tempting topping for your pizza, adding fiber and nutrients. Any combination of the following will work well: fresh tomato, onion, bell pepper, mushroom, zucchini, artichoke hearts, fresh basil leaves, and chopped spinach.
Drink your vegetables.
There are several good veggie juices on the market (V-8 or carrot juice), even veggie-fruit juice blends that taste great. Or, create your own veggie blend juice by blending some carrot juice with a fruit juice (like mango, tangerine, or orange juice).
Increase the fun factor.
Let’s face it: some vegetables are just more fun to eat than others. Corn on the cob (especially when grilled) continues to be fun into adulthood. So are veggie kabobs, and celery sticks filled with natural peanut butter or light cream cheese. And a zucchini half, tomato, bell pepper, or portobello mushroom stuffed with a savory filling can be as elegant as it is fun.
Try these easy ways to get more vegetables into your diet.
Grill, baby, grill!
After you take your meat off the grill, why waste the hot coals? You’ll be amazed at how great grilled veggies taste. Before grilling, just brush veggies lightly with canola or olive oil, light Italian dressing, or the same marinade you’re using for your meat (make sure to use marinade that hasn’t touched the raw meat). Large pieces can go straight onto the grill (portobello mushrooms, zucchini halves, large pieces of eggplant, asparagus spears). String smaller pieces onto a skewer for a veggie kabob.
Know how to cook the stronger flavored veggies.
The strongest tasting (and smelling) vegetables are those in the cruciferous family, along with some greens, and raw eggplant. Keep in mind that generally, the longer you cook these veggies, the stronger their odor and flavor will be. The exception is eggplant, which becomes milder with cooking.
Cruciferous vegetables include cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. Some research has found that people who dislike cruciferous vegetables tend to have a sensitivity for tasting a substance known as PROP (a bitter tasting component).
To cut the bitterness of these veggies, there a few tricks you can have up your sleeve. Add a little olive oil (or other fat) when stir-frying or sauteing; add something salty or sour (like a drizzle of light soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, lemon, or shredded Parmesan); or glaze the vegetables with something sweet (a small spoonful of honey or orange marmalade).
Try them where you least expect them.
You might be surprised at how well vegetables can complement the featured ingredients in many of your favorite foods. Roasted red pepper, roasted or sun-dried tomato, and/or grilled eggplant all work well in hot or cold sandwiches. Raw tomato, spinach leaves, fresh basil, grated carrots, sprouts, sliced or grated zucchini, shredded cabbage (green or purple) go well in sandwiches, wraps, and pitas. Add grated or finely chopped vegetables to meat loaf, pasta fillings (such as manicotti), and fillings for Mexican entree fillings like tacos, enchiladas, and flautas.
Be sensitive to textural turn-offs.
If your experience is mostly with canned or overcooked vegetables, give them a “fresh” start. You might be more willing to eat vegetables prepared in more texturally pleasing ways (lightly cooked stir-fry veggies, raw veggies, or veggies lightly cooked in a steamer or microwave, just to the point where they’re slightly tender but still have a nice crunch. Minimal cooking also keeps the color is bright and appealing. Consider a bright green asparagus spear, cooked just until crisp-tender. Then think about overcooked or canned asparagus, which is beyond soft in texture and has an olive green color.
Even fast-food vegetables count.
You can even get vegetables at your favorite fast-food chain — as long as you like salads, that is. Look for side salads or salads made with grilled chicken and choose the light or reduced-calorie dressing. Use half of the packet of dressing (it’s plenty), and you’ll be adding just about 25-50 calories and 0-4 grams of fat to your salad.
Don’t reward your kids (or yourself) for eating vegetables.
“Studies suggest that when we are rewarded for eating something, then the reward becomes the treat and we will not see the food itself as enjoyable,” notes Collins. When this is standard table practice for vegetables, we’re taught indirectly that the vegetables are the punishment we have to get through to reach our reward.