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3 Easy Ways to Add More Vegetables to Your Diet

Remember a few years back when there was a nutrition trend focused on hiding vegetables in food? The premise was based on the idea that vegetables don’t taste good so, to add more vegetables to our diets and get our families to eat them, they needed to be snuck into recipes so that no one knew they were there -  puree veggie of choice and mix in macaroni and cheese, pasta sauce, meatballs…

and no one will ever know!

canned foods on a shelf

I get it. I grew up thinking that vegetables were gross. Veggies were the canned corn or green beans that were served with pot roast; the peas in my favorite tuna casserole; or something frozen, then boiled beyond recognition then covered in butter or cheese sauce. Salads were iceberg lettuce with lots of French dressing or something involving Jello and whipped cream. Vegetables were an afterthought - something you ate because you had to.

I knew vegetables were healthy. I knew I should eat more vegetables.

I had no idea vegetables could have interesting and satisfying textures.

I had no idea they could be delicious.

colorful vegetable salad

Learning about different types of vegetables and how to cook them has been a slow and steady venture, beginning when I worked at The Good Earth restaurant in Uptown Minneapolis the early 90’s. They had the most beautiful salads you’ve ever seen piles of mixed greens loaded with a huge variety of raw and cooked vegetables, made delicious burgers out of black beans, and featured vegetables in ways that were almost foreign to this girl from the suburbs.

I picked up some tricks to help incorporate me add more vegetables to my diet while working there, and learned a few more along the way. Maybe they’ll help you too. 

These tips aren’t about how to hide veggies into your meals so no one knows they are there. They are about putting vegetables front and center, under the spotlight, and making them interesting, flavorful, and YUMMY! 

Subscribe to a Vegetarian Magazine or Newsletter, or Follow Vegetarian Cooking Blogs and Social Media Pages

Many years ago, I was on a mission to become a better cook (at a time when we still subscribed to printed magazines). I purchased a subscription to Vegetarian Times Magazine. It gave me a different perspective on cooking and supplied me with loads of veggie packed recipe ideas.

I’m not a vegetarian so I usually added meat or seafood. Shhhh, don’t tell!

Now, we have access to all kinds of recipes online through online blogs, websites, and social media, all of which are free. Pick a new vegetarian recipe or two to rotate in to your meal planning every week. Add meat if you’d like. I won’t tell.

Shop Produce Sales, Foreign Markets, Farmer’s Markets, or “Fancy” Grocery Stores for a Variety of Veggies

Some people plan their meals in advance, make a grocery list, and stick to it. I do the opposite. I shop and buy what looks good - or what’s on sale, then figure out what to do with it. If you are a “fly by the seat of your pants” cook, this method could work for you too. It helps to have proteins in your freezer. I always have a variety of meats and seafood in the freezer and plenty of canned beans. Stock your proteins when there are sales, rotate new items to the back, and pull out as needed.

Buy the veggies that are on sale, or the ones that look good to you. Farmer’s markets, foreign markets, and high end grocery stores have a great variety of produce options if you want to be adventurous. Buy something you have no idea what to do with! When you you’re planning your meal, look at what you have that has the shortest shelf life. Use that as your inspiration. Search online for recipe ideas or how to cook it, and pull your meats out of the freezer (or soak your beans) so you’re ready to cook tomorrow. 

If you’re feeling ambitious or you like to plan ahead, you could plan the entire week. I usually do a loose plan of 3-4 meals at a time. With leftovers and the occasional night out, this gets me through the week. This also gives me the opportunity to get any additional ingredients I might not have on hand.

Consider a Grocery Box or Meal Service

There are TONS of grocery delivery and meal services to choose from. I love wandering through a “big city” grocery store like Whole Foods or Minnesota favorite, Kowalski’s, but the nearest big grocery store is over an hour away. My local, small town market is great for last minute needs and basics but they just don’t have a great variety or quality of produce. A meal delivery service, even though it costs more than buying the individual groceries, is worth the extra cost for me because it saves me hours of my time.

Of the meal services I’ve tried, HungryRoot has the best variety and quality of produce, the healthiest options, and the best options for customization. Plus, the recipes are really good! It is similar in price to shopping at Whole Foods or other higher end grocery store. You’re definitely paying for convenience, but if you are busy and can afford to spend a little more, it’s a great option. 

You set your preferences in your account. You can specify by diet (Gluten-Free, Pescetarian, Keto, Low Carb, etc.) and you can by item, which you want sent more often, or not at all. The settings are very friendly for those of us with food allergies or that need to adhere to a specific diet. You can also specify if you want lunches, breakfasts, dinners, and/or snacks, how many people you are shopping for, and how many meals you want. They put your meal plan together, based on your preferences, and fill your cart with everything you need. If theres is a recipe or grocery item you don’t want, you simply delete it and select other things. You can choose from full meals that include all the ingredients you need to make it, or you can select individual items. 

When I’m feeling more frugal and have a little more time to cook, I use Misfits Market. The prices are closer to what I expect to pay at an average grocery store and they have great sales. It’s similar to HungryRoot in that you set your account preferences and they pre-fill your cart, but your cart is filled with individual grocery items instead of items bundled for recipes. They have a great selection of produce as well as bakery, snacks, beverages, meats, etc.

Their mission is to salvage food items that would have been wasted might make you think you’ll get lesser quality but I have always been very happy with the quality of the produce I’ve received. If the avocados are a little smaller or my carrots are bigger than the standard size, who cares??? The few times something has arrived damaged, it was very easy to receive a credit back to my account.

Like the meal service, if there is something in your cart you don’t want, you just delete it and choose something else. The almighty algorithms learn your preferences and start to load your cart with more things you are likely to like and remember the things you choose regularly. The longer you use it, the less you need to modify.  

I absolutely love MIsfits Market and this is what use most of the time. (I revert to HungryRoot when I’m too busy to even think about what I want to cook). I load up my cart with fruits and veggies. They have meat but we raise our own beef and try to get most of our other meat from local farmers. They also have bakery, dry goods, dairy, and anything else you would get at your local market. I typically add a few other items that are on sale or that I can’t get locally. Then, when my order comes I get to be creative and figure out how to use that things I have. 

Here’s an example of how that works for me: 

We’ve been eating a lot of fruit for dessert lately so I ordered a bunch of fruit, including mango. The plan was to make a big bowl of  strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, blackberries, and mango to have ready to serve topped with some whipped cream but…

the mangos were green! 

A green (unripe) mango is not soft and sweet. The taste and texture are more like a vegetable than a fruit. What to do - what to do? 

I searched the interwebs for  “what can I do with green mango” and a recipe for Green Mango Salad popped up. It was super easy and used simple ingredients I already had on hand. I pulled a teriyaki marinated pork tenderloin out of the freezer and was good to go with a side of white rice.

Tonight I’m looking in the fridge to see what needs to be used next. I challenge myself to use everything in the fridge before it goes bad. My delivery comes in two days there isn’t much left to choose from. I’ve got half a container of mixed greens, a whole red cabbage, and a GIANT watermelon radish that looks like it might be getting a little soft. I guess I’ll be searching “what to do with watermelon radish” and hoping the recipe includes red cabbage, or maybe I’ll roast cabbage “steaks” to serve alongside some real steaks. I could do a quick pickle on the radish or make a salad using all three. Hmmmmm…… so many options!

colorful vegetables in the shape of a heart

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