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Author Zoran Trifunovic
Zoran Trifunovic Writer
Updated on Jun 10th, 2024
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How to Eat More Veggies (Even if You Aren’t Fond of Them)

Vegetables offer various health benefits that can prevent some diseases and even ease symptoms. In general, vegetables are among the most nutritious foods out there. There are many creative ways to prepare veggies and delight your taste buds. Also, if you consider yourself an eco-conscious person, eating more veggies instead of meat has a positive impact on our planet's well-being and yours.

Some vegetables may not be appealing at first glance. Maybe you tried broccoli or cauliflower in your youth and didn’t like them. But tastes evolve like everything else in life and the taste of vegetables often depends on how they are cooked and seasoned. In this article, I'll share some of the most nutritious veggies out there and easy ways to work them into your diet. 

Types of Vegetables

There are various vegetable types available, classified into different groups or families. Some of them even fall into multiple families. These include:  

  • Alliums: onion, garlic, shallots, chives

  • Edible plant stems: asparagus, celery

  • Gourds: cucumber, zucchini, pumpkin, squash

  • Root: potato, sweet potato, carrot, turnip, radish

  • Cruciferous: broccoli, cabbage, turnip, cauliflower, brussels sprouts

  • Leafy green: kale, spinach, cabbage, beet greens

Is This a Veggie or a Fruit—and Does It Matter?

Many plants you might think of as vegetables are actually fruits! This is because botanical definitions aren’t always the same as culinary ones. Let’s take a tomato, for example. It’s best known for its savory applications, so many consider it a vegetable. Technically speaking, though, it’s a fruit. 

Fruits and vegetables are both cornerstones of a healthy diet. They contain all sorts of vitamins and nutrients, fiber, and so much good stuff for your body. It’s not as important to worry about whether what you’re eating is a fruit or a vegetable. The best thing to do is enjoy a variety.

Here are some of my favorite fruits and vegetables:

Plant

Fruit or vegetable

Fun fact

Tomato

Fruit

This fruit is legally considered a veggie in the USA. 

Avocado

Fruit

The avocado is actually a large berry.

Watermelon

Fruit

Though technically a fruit, the watermelon is also the state vegetable of Oklahoma.

Carrot

Vegetable

This healthy veggie is great for adding sweetness to stews and carrot cake alike.

Rhubarb

Vegetable

Despite being famously paired with strawberries, rhubarb is a vegetable. 

How Many Veggies a Day?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend 5 servings of vegetables a day. This can be anywhere from 2.5 to 5 cups, depending on the plant. It’s best to enjoy a variety of veggies for the most nutritional benefits. To give you an idea of the portion size, a single serving may be 2 mid-sized carrots, 1 medium potato, or 1 large tomato.

Muscle Building

Fruits and vegetables are vital ingredients if you're looking to build muscle mass. Even though you may picture meat-based protein as the most important part of muscle building, you can’t skimp on the veggies. Anyone with an active lifestyle should still aim for at least 5 servings of veggies each day¹.

Plants provide the necessary nutrients for post-training recovery. And the holistic benefits of the antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber in vegetables go far beyond just building muscle. A healthy diet of plants will support immune function and help prevent illnesses.

Weight Loss 

The key to effective weight loss is to make sure you feel full after meals. One of the best ways to do this is to have fiber- and water-rich vegetables in your diet. These can help curb hunger and aid digestion since they’re voluminous and low in calories²

Note that cooked and raw veggies have different serving sizes. Most vegetables shrink when you cook them, so a good rule of thumb is to halve the amount. For example, a serving of raw veggies is around 1 cup. An average serving of cooked veggies is often closer to a half cup. That means the daily recommended intake is 5 cups of raw veggies or 2.5 cups of cooked veggies each day.

Certain vegetables are better for weight loss than others. Leafy greens and other non-starchy veggies like spinach, kale, and cauliflower are less calorie-dense than starches like sweet potatoes. This means you can eat much more of them without worrying about excessive carbohydrates. However, a good diet will have a balance of both.

Pregnancy 

To maintain a healthy pregnancy, you must have a varied diet that provides all the necessary nutrients, including vitamins, proteins, and carbohydrates. Specifically for vegetables, aim to consume at least 5 servings each day, preferably more³.

Vegetables that are great for expectant moms include:

  • Spinach for calcium, iron, magnesium, folate, and vitamins

  • Beans for fiber, protein, and folic acid (expecting mothers will likely still need a folic acid supplement)

  • Broccoli for vitamins A, B, and K and minerals like calcium and iron

  • Tomatoes for iron, fiber, vitamins A and C, folic acid, and lycopene

  • Carrots for vitamins A, B, and C, fiber, phosphorus, and manganese

  • Pumpkin for vitamins A, B-6 and C, zinc, and iron

10 Creative Ways to Get More Veggies into Your Food

There are many ways to prepare vegetables beyond salads. Below, I've included some imaginative ways to incorporate more plants into your diet. If you want more veggies but don't want to do all of the prep yourself, some meal delivery services can do the prep and cooking for you. 

1. Prepare Veggie Smoothies

You can increase your vegetable intake by blending them into smoothies. Water-rich veggies will do better than others. Some of the most smoothie-friendly vegetables are carrots, avocado, kale, spinach, cauliflower, and pumpkin

Kids in particular can have a hard time eating veggies. A smoothie containing leafy greens can allow them to get a considerable amount of daily veggie intake in a little more than half a cup. If the idea of having a purely veggie smoothie doesn't appeal, try mixing fruit and veg. Blueberries, bananas, strawberries, mango, and leafy greens is one of my favorite combinations. 

2. Cook Vegetable Soups

Soup is also a great way to ensure you get enough vegetables. Make large quantities of soup or stew, freeze it, and eat it over the next 2 to 3 months to save time. If you're not a fan of certain vegetables, you can mask their flavor with other vegetables and spices. 

I'm a big fan of vegetable soups. Some great additions to any soup or stew, in my opinion, are carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, and peas. If you're not a fan of clear soup with chunks of veg, you can mash or blend them for a thicker consistency.

3. Replace Flour Products

Healthy grains are highly beneficial to a holistically healthy diet. If you don’t have a gluten allergy, it’s wise to incorporate whole grains into your daily meals. However, if you’re struggling to fit veggies into your diet (or are trying to sneak some veggies into your kids’ meals), consider some veggie-based substitutes for carbs.

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be used to make a pizza crust. If you're looking to reduce your calorie and carbohydrate intake while boosting your fiber, substituting a traditional flour-based crust for a cauliflower one is an excellent choice. 

Cauliflower isn't the only veggie with this superpower. Other useful veggies include carrots, eggplant, sweet potatoes, and squash. All of these can be used to make novel pizza crusts and other carbs. I’ll reiterate, though, that carbs aren’t automatically “bad” for you: cereals, especially whole grains, are an important staple for many diets. 

4. Add Vegetables to Baked Goods

If you or your kid are particularly picky about vegetables, you can incorporate them into baked goods. That way, you'll provide yourself with essential nutrients while still enjoying your pie, cake, or bread. Vegetables can even improve taste and texture, and you can add them raw or cooked, as you prefer. 

You can add various veggies to baked goods. These include carrots, zucchini, potatoes, beets, cauliflower, kale, and pumpkins. 

5. Include Veggies in Desserts

You can sneak some vegetables into your favorite desserts, like a rhubarb pie. This way, you'll ensure an intake of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. If you add veggies in small amounts, it's unlikely to significantly change the taste of your favorite treat. What's more, the dessert may become softer and sweeter thanks to moisture and the natural sweetness of some vegetables.

You can even swap in veggies for some standard ingredients, depending on the recipe. For example, you can substitute oil or butter with sweet potato or avocado in brownies and cookies. In general, liquid fats like olive oil are healthier than solid fats like butter and coconut oil.

6. Blend Vegetable Sauces 

You can also blend vegetables and use them as a sauce. Onions, garlic, basil, and red bell peppers all work well in sauces. If you love pesto, spinach and kale are excellent plants for this sauce.

7. Create a Burger Mix

Sneaking vegetables into your favorite burgers is another way to eat more greens. Better yet, you can switch to veggie burgers by leaving out meat-based ones sometimes. You can use various edible plants to mix up burgers, including beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and potatoes. 

For a flavor punch, add onion, garlic, or any other veggie you like. Also consider incorporating peas, corn, and beans among other ingredients. Mushrooms may be a good addition to fortify your DIY burgers. 

8. Slice Your Own Chips 

Make homemade chips for a healthier alternative to those you find on supermarket shelves. Besides potatoes, you can use sweet potatoes, kale, beets, and Brussels sprouts.

To do this, slice your selected vegetables into thin pieces and sprinkle a bit of salt on them. Next, place them in the oven and bake for up to 20 minutes, depending on the vegetable type. Remember to flip them halfway through to ensure even baking.

9. Make a Meal of Salads 

Many people see salads as light side dishes, but a well-composed salad can form a satisfying and complete meal. Try a bed of spinach greens topped with shallots, pickled beets, chopped almonds, quinoa, and feta. Drizzle an olive oil vinaigrette over the top and enjoy your filling, plant-powered meal.

10. Assemble Quick Wraps

Veggies make a great filling for easy wraps and sandwiches that don't require cooking or other processing. For example, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and peppers. 

You can also add extra veggies to your usual fillings. If you’re a fan of buffalo chicken, put that in a wrap with carrots and celery for a healthy crunch. There’s nothing wrong with a tortilla, but you can also use lettuce or cabbage leaves. You can even find wraps made from cauliflower!

Benefits of Vegetables

Vegetables are some of the most nutrient-packed foods you can eat, offering numerous health benefits like:

  • Relieving joint pain by lowering inflammation and protecting cells from damage all over your body

  • Keeping blood pressure in check thanks to potassium, a mineral that reduces the negative effects of sodium

  • Reducing risk of cancer and other diseases such as heart attack and stroke

  • Improving digestion thanks to fiber that regulates the bowels

  • Helping with weight loss since veggies are low in calories and filling

Some of the Most Nutritious Veggies

No single vegetable is king because each plant offers unique benefits. This is why incorporating a variety of veggies is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. To diversify your diet, here are some ingredients to focus on adding to your meals:

Spinach

Spinach is a highly nutritious leafy green vegetable, excellent for healthy bones, muscles, nerves, and the blood clotting process. Rich in calcium and iron, spinach is a low-calorie option that also packs high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K and folate. What's more, it’s rich in antioxidants, which help protect the body against oxidative stress and support overall health.

Spinach is versatile enough to be enjoyed both raw and cooked. When raw, it's a refreshing component in salads, smoothies, and sandwiches. If you prefer it cooked, lightly sauté or steam spinach to retain its nutrients and flavor. You can add it to pasta dishes and soups, or use it as a side dish.

Kale 

Kale is a powerhouse of nutrients, offering substantial amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, which are essential for various bodily functions. It also contains fiber, potassium, and calcium. It is especially beneficial for individuals with high cholesterol and supports heart health and healthy weight maintenance¹⁰. Its anti-cancer properties make it a valuable addition to any diet.

You can eat kale raw or cooked. If you prefer it raw, add it to salads and smoothies. Note that cooking kale results in antioxidant loss. But if the idea of eating kale raw doesn't appeal to you due to its hard digestibility, steam it to preserve most nutrients. 

Beets 

Beets are rich in potassium and folate. They're also known for their heart-healthy nitrates and antioxidants. Beets are great for heart health and can help people with diabetes. Nitrates and antioxidants support the prevention of cancer and heart disease. Furthermore, these veggies have anti-inflammatory properties and are beneficial for people suffering from high blood pressure¹¹

You can enjoy beets raw in salads, but they also make a great addition to sandwiches and juices. If you prefer them cooked, it would be best to steam them for quick serving and nutrient retention. You can also roast them on a baking sheet in the oven. 

Carrots 

Carrots are a nutrient-dense vegetable known for their high vitamin A content (beta carotene), which is crucial for maintaining good eyesight and may help prevent vision loss. Next, carrots contain nutrients that have cancer-fighting properties. 

They are also rich in fiber, potassium, and antioxidants, supporting overall health and wellbeing¹². They can also lower cholesterol and help shed pounds. 

Carrots are versatile since you can eat them raw or cooked. Like most vegetables, you get the most nutrients if you eat them raw. Steaming is the best cooking method to retain most of the good stuff. Roasting carrots loses some nutrients, but it also makes them delicious. 

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a vibrant and healthy addition to any diet, packed with essential nutrients such as potassium and various vitamins. They're famous for their high levels of lycopene and beta-carotene, powerful antioxidants with anti-cancer properties. Several other antioxidants protect vision. 

This fruit may reduce the risk of macular degeneration¹³. In addition, the nutritional makeup of tomatoes can help protect against heart disease and manage high blood sugar.

Eating raw or cooked tomatoes has its benefits. Keeping them raw retains maximum nutrients, but cooking tomatoes actually releases more of the antioxidant lycopene. 

Easy Tips to Get Started

Here's how you can start eating more veggies straight away:

  • Replace unhealthy snacks from the supermarket: If you're a fan of chips (who isn't?), it's easy to bake your own at home. Some of the best veggies for chips are potatoes, carrots, beets, celery root, and parsnips. 

  • Experiment with different flavors: You may find some great flavor combos when mixing and matching different veggies, fruits, and proteins. Some of my favorite veggie pairings are avocado and spinach, baked broccoli and cauliflower (with cheddar), and mushrooms and rice. 

  • Get veggies ready in advance: When it comes to cooking, there are lots of things that can get in the way, whether it's a long day at work or a last-minute social engagement. To prevent less healthy improvisations, do as much prep as you can ahead of time. This way, you can prepare your vegetables quickly or (depending on the vegetable) eat them raw.

  • Dress your veg: Don't hesitate to dress your vegetables with olive or another oil to improve their flavor. Just be mindful of the amount if you're counting calories. If you prefer something different from what you can find in the store, consider making a mustard- or yogurt-based dressing with ingredients from your pantry.

FAQ

Why should I make sure I eat veggies daily?

Veggies have some fantastic nutritional benefits, so it’s really important to include them in your diet. They improve digestion and help to lower your risk of cancer, heart attack, and stroke. Veggies help to lower blood pressure and can relieve joint pain, too.

What is the recommended daily portion of veggies?

An adult American should be consuming 5 portions of vegetables per day. It’s better to consume a wide variety of veggies rather than loads of a single type. The amount that is counted as a portion depends on the vegetable. For carrots, it’s 2 mid-sized for 1 portion but 1 large tomato is 1 portion.

How can I add vegetables to breakfast?

There are lots of easy ways to add vegetables to your morning meal. Smoothies are such an easy way to pack in lots of veggies. Spinach and kale go really well in smoothies, as do carrots and avocados. Veggies go well with fruits as well, so don’t be afraid to blend blueberries, bananas, and spinach together.

Are veggies good to eat for weight loss?

Veggies are essential if you’re trying to lose weight, but some vegetables are better than others. Non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, are better than sweet potatoes, which are higher in calories. Leafy greens are high in fiber and have a high water content, leaving you feeling satisfied.

References

    1https://www.uwhealth.org/news/eating-for-peak-athletic-performance

      2https://medlineplus.gov/weightcontrol.html

        3https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/pregnancy/nutrition-and-physical-activity/eat-healthy-during-pregnancy-quick-tips

          4https://www.eatingwell.com/article/277310/healthy-smoothies-best-smoothie-ingredients-10-to-ditch/

            5. https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/nutrition/healthy-eating/best-vegetables-for-arthritis

              6https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241504829

                7https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28338764/

                  8https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9268622/

                    9https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15797686/

                      10https://nutritionsource.hsph.harvard.edu/food-features/kale/

                        11https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-beetroot

                          12https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/carrots

                            13https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17010222/

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