Mom always told you to eat your broccoli, and she really does know best. According to Harvard School of Public Health, eating more fruits and vegetables can do everything from reduce your cancer risk to improve your eyesight. And new research continues to show the innumerable benefits of working more leafy goods into our diets. One 2014 study found that higher produce consumption was linked to a lower risk of mortality from all causes. The study said this was especially true for cardiovascular disease, which remains the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While most people will happily chow down on sweet berries, apples, and bananas, vegetables just don’t have the same appeal. With so many nutrients and a lower sugar content, they really deserve a regular place in our daily meals. The good news is that eating your vegetables can be both easy and delicious. These seven tips will get you on the road to munching down on more kale, carrots, and fava beans in no time.
1. Go meatless once a week
Instead of always looking to chicken, beef, or seafood to be the main attraction, give the role over to vegetables. The Meatless Monday campaign launched in 2003 as a way to encourage Americans to get healthier and be kinder to the environment. Setting aside one day a week to focus on plant-based foods means it will quickly become a habit. And while you could go for any day of the week, you might want to stick with the Monday trend. National Public Radio (NPR) reported the campaign has spread across the world, and some restaurants are now offering more vegetarian options on the first day of the week in response to the initiative.
In addition to getting more nutrients into your body, branching out from your regular proteins is a sure-fire way to add some new and interesting flavors to your diet. Many people look to hearty ingredients like mushrooms and legumes to fill the role of meat. A pot of curried lentils and spinach is sure to satisfy, as is a juicy mushroom burger. Those aren’t the only options, either. Nearly any vegetable can become a main attraction with a little bit of imagination, like this impressive cauliflower cake.
2. Add them to your favorite foods
If you find yourself struggling to choke down carrot sticks and steamed broccoli, try incorporating vegetables into your meal rather than serving them alongside. WebMD suggested tucking ones that are less intimidating into dishes that you already love, like adding zucchini to lasagna or incorporating some greenery into a quesadilla. Starting with small changes makes the transition a lot more manageable.
Of course, you can also get incredibly creative with this tip. Ever tried adding some pureed carrots to mac and cheese? Frozen spinach might be one of the best investments for people who dislike vegetables, because it’s easy to fold the greens into just about anything. Try this trick in some delicious meatballs, or give your guacamole a boost.
3. Eat a salad first
When you sit down at the dinner table, it can be tempting to go for your favorite dishes right off the bat. By the time you’ve polished off some steak and potatoes, you’ll likely be stuffed, and a lot less likely to down those asparagus spears. The Kitchn recommended starting every meal with a salad as an easy way to ensure you get your veggies, and it will also help keep you from overindulging in some less healthy choices. Try setting out the salad before the rest of the meal, and don’t move on to the main course until you’ve finished every last bite.
Bagged mixes make throwing together a salad really easy. Keep a few varieties on hand, and whip up a couple of batches of dressing to keep things interesting. Try your hand at a balsamic vinaigrette or a spicy dressing starring lemon and anchovies. But don’t limit yourself to lettuce, because tons of ingredients work just as well for salads. Blanched green beans or asparagus make tasty choices, and you can thinly slice just about any sturdy vegetable. We like this bright salad made from a bunch of different herbs and shaved veggies.
4. Buy something new
Sometimes there’s comfort in sticking with what you know, but that can lead to some pretty boring meals. Instead of automatically zoning in on the cauliflower or romaine, try going for something you’ve never had before. Cooking Light suggested trying a new vegetable every week. The story also said to make sure you’re going for something that’s in season to make sure you’re getting the most nutrition and the best taste. Keep in mind that you’ll probably have to venture outside of your regular grocery store to make this happen. Try ethnic food stores as well as farmers’ markets to see what’s available.
Once you pick up that unusual item, don’t let it languish in the fridge. Some ideas for right now: a fresh salad filled with purslane, an herb-filled pasta with fava beans, and pizza topped with fiddlehead ferns. When in doubt, pizza and pasta both take to different vegetables extremely well.
5. Replace your grains, pasta, and bread
Carb lovers might always turn to their favorite pastas or sandwiches for satisfying meals, but plenty of those starches can easily be swapped with different types of produce. Women’s Health suggested trying grated cauliflower instead of rice or other grains, sprouts instead of pasta as a base for meat sauce, and zucchini slices to take the place of a sandwich bun. And don’t forget about lettuce wraps. You can use leafy greens as a replacement for tortillas to make some tacos with serious crunch.
Alternative noodles have gained a lot of popularity more recently with the introduction of rotating slicers. They can turn just about any vegetable into strands that just beg for tasty sauces. Try these zucchini noodles with avocado pesto and bright spring veggies, or give this Moroccan-inspired salad made with carrots a shot.
6. Prepare them a different way
Steaming and blanching are definitely among your easiest choices for preparing vegetables, but they don’t usually impart much flavor. However, you don’t have to go to great lengths to make them taste phenomenal. Eating Well said adding ingredients like olive oil, garlic, and vinegar can make all the difference. Try sautéing greens in olive oil and finishing with chile flakes and lemon zest, or roast some broccoli with garlic and add a splash of sherry vinegar after it comes out of the oven.
7. Work them into breakfast
Starting your morning with a nutritious breakfast is a great way to set yourself up for healthy eating all day. Many people turn to fruit in the a.m., but there are so many delicious ways to cook with veggies in the morning. Cooking Light suggested adding peppers and tomatoes to egg dishes or adding some of the goods to your morning juice. But why stop there? You can try zucchini waffles for a sweet treat, or make an irresistible potato and asparagus hash.
For those not afraid to branch out from the usual breakfast foods, you can simply go for a bowl of roasted vegetables or a salad. It’s not as weird as it sounds, and Bon Appétit has a great guide to give you some ideas. Who knows, you might find you like a bowl of greens better than a bowl of grains in the morning.