According to the CDC, Nearly 90% of American adults are not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. A more recent survey has even shown that many Americans don't eat vegetables at all.
This statistic is shocking but also understandable. Without being scolded to "finish your veggies" by a parental figure at the dinner table, it's hard to find the willpower to eat any produce. I fear that my bad habit of skipping vegetables during a meal will turn into a life without a single vegetable in my system. I would try to justify my veggie-deficient diet with: "If I'm eating fruit, why do I need to eat vegetables? I could get all those vitamins just from eating fruits."
Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are not the same, nutritionally. Fruits tend to have more natural sugar than most varieties of vegetables. Vegetables contain more fiber per gram, offering a more potent source of vitamins that the body needs. Comparing fruit and vegetables that provide the same vitamin, you’ll find that the vegetable provides higher, more sufficient amounts of that vitamin. For example, carrots have the highest beta-carotene content (vitamin A) followed by parsley, spinach, mangoes, and papayas. Both fruits and vegetables carry some vitamin A, but the vegetables contain more sufficient amounts of vitamin A.
Also, a recent global health study concluded that one-fifth of deaths around the world were due to poor diets — "defined as those short on fresh vegetables, seeds, and nuts but heavy in sugar, salt, and trans fats." This information shocked me; it scared me into making significant changes to my diet.
The national nutritional guidelines recommend two to three cups of vegetables a day. It can be challenging to reach that guideline if you don’t like the taste of vegetables, like myself. I found that hiding vegetables in other foods was a strategy that worked for me. But I didn’t want to cheat my vegetable intake by just eating "Veggie Chips". So this was my criteria for picking out hidden-veggie dishes:
- Dishes that I can make at home, where I can see and control the vegetables going in the dish.
- Dishes that don't taste like vegetables.
- Dishes that don't use high amounts of fat or sugar to hide the vegetable taste.
Scroll down to check out the tasty list of veggie-enriched dishes!
1. Vegetarian Red Posole
At my house, we recently turned our posole family recipe into a vegetarian posole recipe. Posole, or any soup really, absorbs all the flavors of its ingredients. With the oregano, chili peppers, and aromatics in the soup mix, you’re able to mask any vegetable taste. Vegetarian red posole is a little spicy, a little sour, and a little salty. But altogether, it is warm and comforting. Whether it's vegetarian red posole (made with pinto beans instead of meat) or the original red posole, you can add vegetables to it quite liberally. I like to pile my bowl of posole with lots of cabbage.
- 4 large dried ancho chiles (2 ounces), wiped clean and stemmed
- 2 cups chopped onion
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 6 cups water, divided
- 1 (29-ounce) can white hominy (also labeled pozole and mote blanco), rinsed and drained
- 2 (15- to 16-ounce) cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 2 pounds zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 2 cups fresh corn kernels or 1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For toppings: Shredded lettuce, julienned radishes, chopped onion, additional dried oregano, and lime wedges for squeezing, each in separate small bowls
- Slit chiles open and remove seeds and veins. Heat a flat griddle or dry heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then toast the chiles, opened flat, 2 at a time, by pressing down and turning on either side with tongs, until fragrant and insides change color, about 1 minute.
- Put chiles in a bowl with cold water to cover and let soak until soft, about 20 minutes.
- While chiles are soaking, cook onion in oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Transfer chiles with tongs to a blender (discard soaking water) and add garlic, cider vinegar, cumin, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, cloves, and 1 cup water. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
- Add chile purée to pot and cook, stirring, 5 minutes.
- Add remaining 5 cups water, hominy, beans, zucchini, corn, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until zucchini is tender, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with desired toppings, and enjoy!
2. Zucchini Bread
Because of the green bits visible in this bread, I thought that there'd be a noticeable zucchini flavor. But the bread didn’t taste like zucchini at all. It's like a lighter version of a bran muffin.
- ⅓ cup melted coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil*
- ½ cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 eggs
- ½ cup milk of choice or water
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + more to swirl on top
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 ½ cups grated zucchini (you’ll need 1 small-to-medium zucchini, about 7 ounces—gently squeeze out excess moisture over the sink before stirring it into the batter)
- 1 ¾ cups white whole wheat flour or regular whole wheat flour
- Optional: ¾ cup roughly chopped raw walnuts or pecans
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan to prevent the bread from sticking. If you’ll be toasting the nuts, line a small, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup.
- Toast the nuts: Once the oven has finished preheating, pour the chopped nuts onto your prepared baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are fragrant and toasted, about 5 minutes, stirring halfway.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the coconut oil and honey. Beat them with a whisk until they are combined. Add the eggs and beat well. (If your coconut oil solidifies on contact with cold ingredients, simply let the bowl rest in a warm place for a few minutes, like on top of your stove, or warm it for about 20 seconds in the microwave.)
- Add the milk, baking soda, cinnamon, vanilla, salt and nutmeg, and whisk to blend. Switch to a big spoon and stir in the zucchini (be sure to squeeze excess moisture out of the zucchini first). Add the flour and stir just until combined. Some lumps are ok! Gently fold in the toasted nuts now, if using.
- Pour the batter into your greased loaf pan and sprinkle lightly with additional cinnamon. If you’d like a pretty swirled effect, run the tip of a knife across the batter in a zig-zag pattern.
- Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the center of the loaf springs back to the touch. Let the bread cool in the pan on a wire rack. Use a serrated knife to cut individual slices.
- This bread is moist, so it will keep for just 2 to 3 days at room temperature. Store it in the refrigerator for 5 to 7 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months or so. I like to slice the bread before freezing and defrost individual slices, either by lightly toasting them or defrosting them in the microwave.
3. Green Smoothie
Green smoothies might be uber basic, but it is such an amazing, full-proof method for increasing your vegetable intake. Green smoothies are truly amazing at hiding lots of vegetables in small portions. There are numerous variations of a green smoothie, but this classic recipe is one of my favorites. It's tangy and refreshing. The sweet fruits prevent the green smoothie from tasting like grass.
- 1 cup roughly chopped spinach and kale , packed tightly
- 1 1/2 cups Almond Breeze Unsweetened Almondmilk
- 1 1/2 cups frozen mix of mango, pineapple, and kiwi chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/2 lemon , juiced
- Add the spinach and kale to a blender with the Almond Breeze and blend well.
- Add the frozen fruit, ginger and lemon and blend until smooth. If the smoothie is too thick, add more almond milk 1 tablespoon at a time.
4. Cauliflower pizza topped with basil or spinach
Making your own cauliflower pizza crust may not be as convenient as buying store-bought, but it's definitely worth the improved health benefits. The homemade cauliflower crust has close to a cup of cauliflower per serving! Store-bought cauliflower crust is a step up from white flour crust, but it doesn't contain as much cauliflower. The classic pizza toppings are what bring the cauliflower crust to life. Pesto sauce on pizza can complement generous amounts of spinach topping. Going for the classic red pizza fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil or spinach is also a delicious and nutritious option.
- 5 cups cauliflower florets
- 2 cloves garlic, divided
- 1 ½ cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 large eggs large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place cauliflower and 1 clove garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Transfer to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on High for 3 minutes. Let cool slightly and stir in 3/4 cup mozzarella, eggs, parsley and salt. Spread the mixture into a 12-inch circle, 1/4 inch thick, on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until brown and crispy around the edges, about 40 minutes.
- Remove the crust from the oven and cover evenly with your favorite pizza toppings, preferably spinach, mushrooms, pesto, basil, tomato sauce, or fresh mozerella. Return the pizza to the oven and continue baking until the toppings are heated through, about 5 minutes more.
5. None of these dishes fit your palate?
If none of these hidden-veggie-foods are your taste, you can try mushing vegetables into your favorite dishes. It’s a go-to method for hiding vegetables that most of the dishes on this list uses. Some ideas for this method are:
- Sautee shredded carrots or butternut squash in pasta sauce
- Replace half the ground meat in recipes like burgers, meatloaf, and meatballs with cooked chopped mushrooms.
Which vegetable-enriched recipe are you excited to try? Let us know in the comments below!