“Eat your vegetables.”
We’ve hard it so often that it’s easy to take for granted. Sometimes, however, we need to slow down and actually consider why vegetables are so important to our overall health. Perhaps knowing their importance will motivate us to eat better. Eating a wide variety of vegetables helps you reduce the risk of chronic diseases and provides essential vitamins and nutrients that our bodies can’t produce themselves, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov, a site created by the USDA.
The site goes on to say, among numerous benefits, that vegetables are low in fat, reduce the risk of heart disease, and can even protect against certain forms of cancer. A diet with plenty of vegetables is excellent for improving blood pressure, reducing the chances of kidney stones, and defeating type 2 diabetes.
Eating plenty of vegetables is also a good method to reduce the amount of unhealthy foods that you eat. For example, if you eat a large plate of sautéed veggies, you are less likely to eat a helping of high-fat casserole.
Having a diet rich in vegetables helps you look better and feel better, but, to be frank, some vegetables aren’t appetizing. One of the biggest reasons that people don’t eat vegetables is because they don’t like the taste or they simply find them unappealing. Fresh broccoli, asparagus, carrots, bell peppers, and many other vegetables simply aren’t as appealing as a cheeseburger, a slice of pizza, a deli-meat sandwich, or a plate of pasta.
So how can you make vegetables more appealing to yourself and your family? As you’ll see, making vegetables more delicious, without sacrificing nutrition, is actually quite simple.
12 Healthy Ways to Make Vegetables Tastier and More Delicious
Salt gets a bad reputation, largely because it’s jam-packed in processed foods. However, a pinch sea salt won’t hurt if it helps you eat a plateful of vegetables. Don’t get excessive with the salt (that would taste bad anyhow), but make sure to give each recipe or veggie dish a little salt to enhance the flavor and make it more savory.
In addition to salt, using a bit of fat (again, not too much) can help spread and enhance the flavor of vegetables. Olive oil has many benefits, including better heart health and stroke prevention. Olive oil can also enhance the flavor by coating the vegetables with a smooth, healthy layer that goes great with a crispy crunch. If you don’t have olive oil, a small amount of butter can also be used with your vegetables.
There is no one herb, seasoning, or spice that is wrong for vegetables. They all have their benefits and should all be considered for your cooking. What’s your favorite seasoning? Do you like Italian-style seasonings like oregano or basil? Do you like the hearty flavor or thyme or bay leaves? No matter what you like, a bit of seasoning can enhance the flavor of even the most bland vegetables. One suggestion you might try is the combination of fresh garlic added to sautéed vegetables for enhanced flavor while adding a nutritious, natural taste.
Frozen vegetables and canned veggies have their purpose, but if you want to serve and eat the most delicious vegetables possible, you have to work with fresh, high-quality veggies. Use vegetables from the super market that are crisp, colorful, and ready for the kitchen, and serve them up with the best seasonings for outstanding results. Frozen vegetables usually have the same nutritional qualities as fresh, but they’re not nearly as delicious.
When you eat vegetables, it doesn’t have to be all plants. Who says you need to eat a bland piece of broccoli? Add bacon bits, parmesan cheese, chorizo sausage, or sunflower kernels to make the vegetables more appealing. Depending on the veggie and the recipe, you could also add fresh cheese, raisins, Chinese noodles, orange slices, or virtually any other flavorful ingredient.
Large hunks of veggies can be off-putting for some people, but smaller pieces can help mask the flavor. Smaller chunks (think diced) will have more surface space for olive oil, butter, salt, herbs, and other flavorful additions, making them far more delicious.
One of the most effective ways to increase your vegetable consumption, especially leafy greens, is to add salads to your diet. However, some types of dressings (creamy dressings like ranch in particular) tend to be high in calories, sugars, and saturated fats. That’s why vinaigrettes, which are made with oil and vinegar, tend to be healthier options. Of course, each brand’s dressing is different, but if you find a vinaigrette that you like (such as raspberry or garlic), it will often (but not always; check the nutritional info) be a healthier choice.
If the thought of eating a naked carrot stick stick seems unappealing and bland, experiment with a few hummus dips or other relatively-healthy dip options. Humus is made from chickpeas, which are actually quite healthy compared to other dips such as ranch dressing or sour-cream-based vegetable dips. While hummus is not perfect (it can still be full of fats) a review published in the journal Nutrients stated that “substitution of common dips and spreads with hummus helps to increase diet quality.” They researchers added that it could help prevent some diseases and improve weight management.
Have you found that while you can’t stand veggies prepared at home, Chinese-food veggies seem to be more appetizing? While many Chinese foods (at least the type we Americans call Chinese food) can utilize unhealthy, often sugary sauces, they also use a technique called blanching, which quickly boils the veggies then drops them in ice water to stop the cooking. You can then grill, sauté, roast, or simply eat the veggies as-is. This is a good way to soften vegetables without making them mushy.
Few vegetables have as much flavor as onions, and while raw onions are a powerful food (so powerful they make us cry!) diced onions can be added to virtually any dish to increase the overall flavor. Diced onions can be added to steamed carrots, sauced broccoli, or baked cauliflower. Anything that needs flavor will get a boost, as well as added health benefits, from onions.
Lots of people don’t like carrots and celery, but who doesn’t like chicken noodle soup? If you don’t have a craving for veggies, perhaps you could make a soup (soups are surprisingly easy!) that will allow you to add more plants to your diet. Soups cook for a long time, mellowing and weakening the vegetables’ flavors. Soups can even have veggies in the broth, such as a tomato soup with minced carrots as part of the broth. From beef and barley soup to chicken and dumplings, making soups is a great way to add veggies and more water to your diet.
If all else fails, try completely hiding the vegetables. Meatloaf, for example, can be loaded with mashed vegetables, largely masking their flavor and their presence. You could also make zucchini or banana bread with grated carrots. Another strategy is mashing vegetables into sauces for noodles or rice, increasing vegetable consumption without having to “suffer” through the task of actually tasting them.
Cooking Techniques to Avoid
Boiling makes fresh, crisp, flavorful veggies soggy, mushy, and flavorless. Boiling also robs the vegetables of water-soluble nutrients, making them less nutritious. Take a look at the water next time someone boils broccoli; the water will have a greenish tint, and that green color holds many of the nutrients that make broccoli healthy. Instead of boiling, stick to blanching, roasting, or sautéing.
Frozen veggies are a good alternative for a busy weeknight when you need a fast, convenient vegetable in your meal. However, they can be mushy, soggy, and just as unappetizing as over-boiled veggies. Yes, they are generally as nutritious as fresh vegetables, but not nearly as delicious.
Adding Fake Cheese
If this article was just about ways to make vegetables more flavorful, then adding fake, processed, orange cheese that comes in a cardboard box would be a viable option, but this is about healthy ways to make vegetables more flavorful. Smothering your broccoli in processed fake cheese might make it creamy and delicious, but it can add a large amount of saturated fat and calories. According to EatThisMuch.com, a single ounce of Velveeta-brand cheese has 80 calories and 56% of the recommended calories from fat. (And that’s only one ounce!) It also contains 18% of your daily sodium and 18 grams of saturated fat. It might make the veggies more appetizing, but it won’t help your waistline or your health.
Now you’re ready to improve your diet with tasty, healthy vegetables. With these tips, you’ll eat better, have more energy, and slim your waistline, all while finally enjoying the vegetables you’ve been missing out on for years!