Are you eating 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day? If you answered "no," you're not alone. In fact, as many as 90 percent of Americans don't get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their daily diet, according to research published in the Journal of Nutrition. Yet it's really not that hard to meet these guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. One trick: Use vegetable recipes that disguise them, or hide them in foods you like to eat. Here are some simple cooking techniques to get you started.
Vegetables are "Grate"
"One of my favorite ways of sneaking vegetables into meals is to grate or dice carrots, celery, zucchini, onions, and more, and put them in whatever you’re preparing for dinner," says Ruth Frechman, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association who has a private practice in Burbank, Calif. Grated or diced work especially well in spaghetti sauce, meatloaf, tacos, soups, and stew recipes. When you throw extra vegetables in marinara sauce, for instance, you’re getting a double dose because marinara starts off with tomatoes, says Frechman.
Hurray for Puree
You can make delicious hot or cold soups simply by pureeing vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, celery, asparagus, pumpkin and other squashes, and cauliflower. For an easy vegetable recipe, start with a bag of mixed frozen vegetables. Add just a tiny amount of butter, dry white wine, vegetable or chicken stock, and your favorite herbs and spices. "When you blend your mixture, it comes out creamy, so it’s a very rich-tasting soup," Frechman says. You won’t even think you’re eating vegetables.
Do the Salsa
"Lots of times, people don’t think of salsa as a vegetable," Frechman says. "They love salsa, but don’t realize it’s good for them because it’s made from tomatoes, pepper, celery, onions, cilantro, and lime." To avoid turning this into an unhealthy vegetable recipe, don’t scoop up your salsa with traditional chips. Choose healthier alternatives, such whole-grain crackers and vegetable choices, including carrot and celery sticks and sliced rounds of jicama.
Root for Roasted Vegetables
This great vegetable recipe doesn’t disguise veggies, but rather enhances them. Cut root vegetables (such as potatoes, squash, parsnip, and carrots) in chunks, coat them with a little olive oil, and roast them on a cookie sheet in the oven at 350 to 400 degrees for about half an hour. Roasting brings out their sweetness, so although you can still tell they’re vegetables, they taste so good no one will object, Frechman says. Season with a little curry or rosemary, and you’re not only getting nutrients from eating vegetables but also antioxidants from the spices.