It’s tough to choose vegetables over favorite foods like pizza, hamburgers or cookies, but they are important for a healthy lifestyle, maintaining or losing weight, and lowering your chances of disease. They can be delicious, too. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends adults eat two to three cups of vegetables per day, though according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people—about 90%—aren’t getting enough.
Wondering how you can fit in more veggies to your diet without giving up your favorite foods or just eating salad? Here are seven ways to add (and enjoy!) vegetables to your meals.
1. Sneak in Vegetables at Breakfast
Kick-off the first meal of the day with a serving of veggies. No, we don’t mean eat a salad for breakfast (but that’s perfectly fine too). What about trying a smoothie? They are easy to make and brilliantly hide the flavor of any most vegetables. You can chop, steam, freeze and blend ½ cup to 1 cup vegetables like cauliflower, sweet potatoes or squash like zucchini into any recipe and using frozen fruits and veggies makes prep time easier and faster.
You can also add vegetables like chopped, raw, or sauteed tomatoes, peppers, dark leafy greens like spinach and onions into omelets, scrambled eggs, frittatas, and quiches. Craving something sweet? Add grated zucchini or carrots to pancake, waffle, or muffin batter. Hint: If you blend the veggies before adding them to your chosen mix, you won’t even be able to tell they are in there.
2. Turn Veggies into “Zoodles”
Have you tried zoodles? Zoodles are a fun veggie alternative to pasta. Turn sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, beets, turnips, summer squash and more into pasta using what is called a spiralizer, a kitchen tool that turns veggies into a spaghetti-like shape. Pop the zoodles in a bowl—cooked or raw—and add your favorite sauce, such as tomato, pesto, or salad dressing, and voila!
3. Swap Out One Side for a Veggie Alternative at Lunch and Dinner
Simply swapping out (or adding in) a side of raw, baked, or steamed vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, peas or whatever vegetable you like is a straightforward way to get an extra serving of the good stuff. But let’s get creative: If you love mashed potatoes try mashed cauliflower, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash or sweet potatoes instead. Can’t give up French fries? Give sweet potato or parsnip fries a try instead.
4. Air Fry Everything
Love fried food, but not what it does to your health? An air fryer might become your new best friend. For a crunchy texture, toss or spray fresh or frozen vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potato fries, or carrots lightly in oil and “air fry.” The rapid circulation makes food crispy, similar to deep frying, but without the extra oil.
5. Use Leafy Greens in Place of Buns or Tortillas
Skip the bun. Opt for large, dark leafy greens in place of your usual bun, tortilla, or wrap to cut down on calories and increase your daily veggie count. You can still keep the same stuff on the inside! Try greens like butter lettuce, collard greens, swiss chard, or kale for your burgers, lunch wraps, tacos, burritos, and more.
6. Turn Vegetables Into Chips
Your favorite snack food just got a healthy upgrade. Make your own veggie chips by baking (or air frying) leafy greens lightly tossed in oil like kale, spinach, thinly sliced beets, sweet potatoes, and even Brussels sprouts. Bake until crispy and top with your favorite spice or lightly salt.
7. Make Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower is a versatile and adaptable vegetable, making it a perfect stand-in for classic foods, such as rice. Buy fresh or frozen cauliflower rice and prepare according to package directions. Or make your own cauliflower rice at home by grating a halved head of fresh cauliflower, steam, saute or boil and season. Use in your favorite rice dishes like egg-fried rice or risotto, or beef up soups or chilis.
Adding more vegetables into your day isn’t as daunting as it may seem. In fact, eating more vegetables can be delicious and fun. Get creative in the kitchen and play around with different ways to incorporate vegetables at mealtime, discover new ways to prepare them or find similar swaps for traditional dishes, so you never have to sacrifice flavor or forgo enjoying your favorite dishes.
Written by Marisel Salazar for Matcha in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.