For decades now, my diet has been plant-based. You can tell by taking a peek inside my refrigerator.
So when someone complains they can’t think of ways to get more vegetables in their diets, as you can imagine I have plenty to say. For me, I’ve been doing it so long it’s easy.
It seems a common aspiration these days, what with our kids hitting new cholesterol highs and heart disease shooting through the roof. Whatever your dietary persuasion, it seems we can at least agree on this: eat your veggies.
The Plant-Based Journey devotes entire chapters and special sections to how you can, as I like to say, ‘plantify’ your plate.For now, in addition to the tried and true raw vegetables at hand in the fridge for an easy grab – washed carrots, celergy, strips of jicama, cauliflower flowerettes – here are some tried, true – and easy – ways to get creative with vegetables.
6 Easy Ways To Get Your Veggie Count Up
1) Soup, soup. Oh, and soup.
Soup has got to be THE easiest way to ramp up your veggie count. Case it point: this is what I made for lunch today:
- First I pan roasted onions (see #1 above), carrot slices, celery chunks and garlic.
- Then I added several inches of water in which I dropped an entire bunch of kale that had been chopped into bite sizes, and about a cup of green peas.
This was all done to tender-crisp in minutes. From there, I added:
- leftover lentil loaf (see 4 ways eating lentils helps you get your health & skinny on)
- red beans (cooked yesterday)
- leftover barley
Seasoned it all with Bragg’s Aminos and a couple of tablespoons of white miso, and served it with big slices of wholegrain lavash that I quick toasted in a flat grill pan.
Satisfying, filling, and enough left over for tomorrow’s lunch!
Did I say “soup” ;-)?
For more recipes and ideas, check out
- How to make slimming Smokey Butternut Lentil Soup in minutes and
- My simple soup trick to up your veggie count and get your skinny on (video).
2) Pasta Sauce
No, I don’t mean labor over a vat of tomatoes and various exotic seasonings. Of course you can if you want, but I’m an open-the-jar-of-marinara kind of pasta sauce girl. However, I DO know how to spice it up with more veggies.
Obvious and delicious choices for this are any kind of mushroom, which can be pan-roasted in advance as above and added to the sauce. Onions work in here as well. Summer AND winter squash work beautifully! Make your sauce as chunky as you like with any veggie within reach and pour it over wholegrain pasta and you have a filling, satisfying meal.
3) Topping Sauces for Grains and Potatoes
Here’s a nice twist that just requires a blender or food processor. But BOY is it easy and I utilize this strategy a lot when on travel to far flung parts of the world where finding a good fresh veggie can be challenging. In other words, it works well with frozen veggies. Perfect for cooking on the fly at home.
Start by cooking lightly: broccoli, peas, spinach – green is good! Quick cooking a frozen package or start from fresh.
Pour the cooked veggies into the blender or food processor. Add enough hot liquid to make it creamy and whir away. Add tamari, or veggie bouillion, or Bragg’s, miso, some nut butter….possibilities are endless. You now have a nice creamy sauce to pour over a pile of grains, potatoes, or even pasta.
5) Wrap It Up!
Any combination from the Pan Roasted (see #1) category, to fresh steamed, to chopped or grated raw works here. Something about a wrap “sexes” things up a bit and can make a very filling, satisfying meal. It’s also a great way to slip in extra an veggie count!
Use burrito-sized wraps (I like Ezekial sprouted, ), wholegrain (TJ’s wholegrain lavash), or corn. Start by spreading a bean paste or hummus on the wrap shell, pile in the veggies, wrap it up and chomp. Great by hand for a big mess 😆 or eat with a fork if you need to make it more classy. A winner every time.
For a quick video on how to make an easy, low-fat veggie wrap go here: Veggie Sandwich Wrap: A Fast Food Favorite
5) Pan Roast:
If you’re like me and love to eat roasted vegetables, or always look longingly at roasted vegetables recipes, knowing that you just won’t get it together to go to all that trouble, then this is the solution for you.
All you need is a big stainless steel, non-stick fry pan or seasoned cast iron, a cook top, and you’re good to go. Saute in a thin layer of water sweet onion slices, portobello mushrooms strips, red or yellow peppers, strips of summer squash (for a starter list). Season as you like with tamari, Bragg’s Aminos (a favorite, I now buy it by the jug)…or even a drizzle of molasses for a carmelly sweet undertone. Veggie broth works as well. The trick is to keep water at a minimum in the pan so you get a nice carmelized effect; just watch it so you don’t burn.
Simply decide if you are in a savory or sweet mood. These cook in minutes and then can fill a big portion on your plate or decorate a pile of steamy rice (my current favorite is brown jasmine). They also keep well for leftovers (you won’t have any unless you plan ahead to make it so), soup additions, wraps, sandwiches….versatile!
I admit that the roasting of veggies doesn’t happen much in my house, because I’m usually all about what can be done in the least amount of time with the least amount of fuss. But roasted vegetables are so good when I do get around to them, I would be remiss not to bring this eat-more-veggies method to your attention. It might just be your thing.
6) Green Drinks
Also known as “blended salads”, are the ultimate pathway to LOTS of dark green in a hurry. You can use a powerful blender, Vitamix is best but not everyone has the luxury of inheriting a relic from the 70’s like I did!
Green drinks and smoothies are not a good choice for every day – food was designed to be chewed, when we can – see To smoothie or not to smoothie? The skinny on blending your fruits and greens. Yet in a pinch or when pressed for time, they can be a perfect solution. If it is the only way you can seem to sneak more vegetables and greens into your day, then I’m all for it because, after all, I just want people eating more plants and moving their bodies. Smoothies are a great way to bring kids on board with greens too: see 2 ways to turn your kids on to green leafy vegetables: Kale chips & ‘Smoothie, the movie’.
Start with some water in the blender; add some fruit (chunks of oranges, pineapple, or mango are favorites, juice concentrate will work in a pinch). Cram in some handfuls of spinach and/or mixed greens, add some crushed ice, and whir. You have a good 2 servings of vegetables before you even know what hit you. Read more about green drinks here: green drinks and Green smoothie with Plant-Based Dietitian, Julieanna Hever (video!).
If you’ve been locked into thinking vegetables – lettuce salad and V-8, guess again. Spread your green wings!
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Ohhhh! I like them ALL!
Cooking a pot of veggie broth up right now to make some veggie soup for lunches this week!
Can’t wait to go shopping again to get some more for roasted veggies! YUM!
@Trisch: Sounds like you are a step ahead Trisch. It’s great to get excited about healthy foods, isn’t it?
Great post! Love your ideas Lani.
@Casey: Thanks Case!
Wow Lani, you popped into our conversation and delivered with wonderful ideas! I’m so veggie challenged because I’m allergic to bell peppers and don’t do fungus (mushrooms). It seems every recipe has these as the basis, however, I will not give up, but find recipes that I can easily fix.
@April: there’s a big world beyond bell peppers, isn’t there! Actually, I’m not too fond of them and pretty much stick with the red ones when it comes to peppers – especially the roasted ones!
Hope you got some ideas from the post and conversations! Check out Rhonda’s pasta sauce recipe.
My ds was a non veggie eater for quite a while, he is better now, but I started making my own spaghetti sauce from scratch and it is easy and good and filling. To hide the veggies I take onions, garlic, carrots and celery and dice it up very small in food processor. I take 2 cups of spinach and cut it up fine. I then saute all that in a pan with 1 tsp of olive oil (or any oil of your choice). Then I use diced tomatoes, I buy the organic ones with only sea salt, and I blend one can of the diced tomatoes. Pour all this in with the sauted veggies. YOu can add mushrooms too, or any veggies, zuchinni etc. Just saute and add tomatoes and simmer. To thicken if isn’t thick enough add paste or tomatoe sauce. But usually the two cans of diced tomatoes, one blended, is enough. Add spices, like thyme, marjoram, oregano, extra garlic and small amount of pepper (I like the lemon pepper version) and sea salt. It is ready usually in 30 minutes and goes great over all pasta.
@Rhonda: What a scrumptious recipe. So full of goodies! Thanks for the share.
Well, Lani, I have to say that you really do make it sound so simple!!
I think I can have a go at these.
Sure Tara! There’s more where that came from! You sound adventurous and like my kind of workout buddy 😉
In summer I do the wrap thing for veggies, and in winter I usually go for pasta sauces but I have never heard of topping sauces for grains and potatoes. That sounds delicious. Thanks so much for the idea!
Great Ideas. Lovely post.