Growing up, I consumed a steady diet consisting mainly of milk, Doritos, Fruity Pebbles, and whatever baked goods my mom and sisters whipped up that day.
It wasn’t unusual for me to get a serving or two of veggies per week. And when I did eat them, it was something like a little bit of Broccoli smothered in Velveeta cheese.
Then, in my mid-twenties I caught the health and fitness “bug” and that all changed.
I immediately realized that veggies are an important part of a healthier, stronger, better-looking body. And eventually, I grew to not only tolerate eating veggies, but actually craving them (no, seriously).
But I get it if you’re someone who either doesn’t like eating vegetables or if you just struggle to get enough in each day.
So here are 3 ‘hacks’ you can use to get more veggies in daily (and make eating them suck less).
HACK #1: LEARN HOW TO “HIDE” YOUR VEGGIES
Did you know that if you put a handful (or even 2) of spinach in a smoothie you will barely know it’s there?
Seriously, aside from the fact that your smoothie will be green, you probably won’t have any idea that you put spinach in there.
If you’re someone who a) doesn’t know how to cook veggies (we’ll cover that in a second), or b) doesn’t like them, then learning how to “hide” them may be just the skill you need to pick up.
Here are a few ways you can hide your veggies so that you barely notice you’re even eating them:
- Eat Cauliflower Rice (on its own or mixed in with regular rice)
- Put spinach in your smoothies (you won’t taste it)
- Eat Stir Fry (when you mix veggies like peppers and onions into a stir fry with chicken or shrimp and rice, you notice the veggies less).
- Toss pureed veggies into Chili, soups, etc.
HACK #2: KNOW HOW TO PREPARE VEGGIES
Sometimes, just knowing how to cook veggies makes all the difference. I used to HATE broccoli, then I tried it steamed instead of raw or sautéed and I loved it.
Below you will find 3 of the most common ways to eat/cook your veggies, some tips for preparation, and a list of the best veggies for each method.
Some veggies are convenient and good eaten raw, which is a win-win because it allows you to get your veggies in without much hassle.
Here’s a list of veggies that most people prefer raw:
- Spinach (and all forms of lettuce/mixed greens
- Bell Peppers
I’m not exaggerating when I say that learning how to steam veggies completely changed my life.
Before steaming, I genuinely hated eating vegetables. Then I got a steamer and actually started looking forward to eating them.
Another reason steaming is one of the best cooking options is the ease it provides. If you have a rice cooker/steamer, you can literally toss some veggies in, hit a button, and in 10-15 minutes it’s ready.
Here’s a list of veggies that are great steamed:
- Green Beans
There’s a variety of ways/tools to steam, but nothing beats a rice cooker/veggies steam combo.
Here’s the steamer I use: Cuisinart Rice Cooker. It’s a rice cooker and steamer in one and I use it pretty much every day.
All you gotta do is toss the rice and/or veggies in there, push the button and in 10-15 minutes, you’ll have some perfectly cooked rice/veggies ready to go.
Sautéing is a great option for people who “hate” eating veggies because the addition of oil/butter used can make them taste a lot better.
The trick – and the caution – with sautéing is that you have to be meticulous about how much oil/butter you are using. It’s really easy to go overboard and end up adding hundreds of calories to your meal without even realizing it.
We will cover specific portions of added fats in a few lessons, so in the meantime, make sure you are keeping any added oils or butter used for sautéing veggies to a minimum — no more than about 1 tablespoon per serving of veggies.
So that means for each fist-sized serving of veggies you sauté, you should use no more than 1 tablespoon of oil/butter.
Here’s a list of veggies that are great sautéed:
- Bell Peppers (all colors)
To sauté veggies:
Pick some from the list above, wash/cut veggies as desired.
Heat an appropriate amount of oil for the amount you will be cooking (1 tablespoon per 2 fist-sized servings of veggies) in a pan over medium heat.
Toss in veggies, and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring often.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
HACK #3: PREPARE AHEAD OF TIME AND COOK IN BULK
Planning ahead is the single best strategy for staying on track with your nutritional plan. Even if you know what a healthy meal looks like – what really matters is that you figure out how to actually eat that most of the time in the context of real life.
Things WILL come up, and if you haven’t planned ahead, building new habits (like eating veggies at each meal) is going to be very difficult.
Taking advantage of preparing ahead of time and cooking in bulk takes 3 steps.
Step 1: Plan ahead. Look at the list of veggies above and pick out a few from each category that sound good (or at least tolerable) to you.
Decide what veggies you will eat at each meal and how you will prepare them.
Get out a piece of paper and write down Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for each day of the week. Next to each meal on each day, write what veggie you will be eating with that meal and how it is prepared.
Breakfast: Spinach in a smoothie (raw)
Lunch: 8-10 baby carrots (raw)
Dinner: Broccoli & Cauliflower (steamed – make enough to have leftovers for 2 more meals)
Breakfast: Spinach in a smoothie (raw)
Lunch: Leftover steamed Broccoli & Cauliflower
Dinner: Onions and mixed peppers (red, yellow, green) sautéed as part of stir fry (make 2-3 servings to provide leftovers).
Step 2: Make a grocery list and go buy enough veggies to provide 1-2 servings at each meal for a week.
Step 3: Cook in bulk whenever possible. You could do this a few ways.
Pick a day (Saturday or Sunday) as “prep” day where you steam, sauté, and cut up various veggies for each meal for the coming week and separate them into individual containers.
Each time you cook veggies throughout the week, cook extra so that you have leftovers for the days following.
Or, you could definitely do a combination of both, which is what I do.
Typically, I’ll cut up any raw veggies that I will have for the week and separate them into individual containers/baggies so that I can grab them and have them with me at work or on the go with ZERO prep or thinking required.
Since I typically cook a meal each night with my family for supper, I make enough of whatever veggies we are having to provide leftovers for 1-2 more meals.
Utilizing this 3-step process for planning and preparing veggies each week will take most of the stress out of making sure you’re getting all your veggies in with minimal hassle.
GETTING ALL YOUR VEGGIES IN EACH DAY
If the idea of eating veggies with each meal has you stressed out, take a deep breath. You don’t have to be slaving away in the kitchen three times a day to get this done.
I recommend preparing your veggies using a variety of the ways discussed above – raw, steamed, etc. – to make the process as simple and efficient as possible.
Here’s an example of how you could get all of your veggies in with minimal cooking:
Breakfast: 1-2 handfuls of spinach in a smoothie
Lunch: Mixed greens salad with some peppers and carrots
Supper: Steamed Broccoli and cauliflower
… That’s a day’s worth of veggies, and you only had to actually cook something once.
If you’re planning your meals ahead of time (which you’re doing, right?) and taking advantage of the prep/cooking in bulk strategies discussed above, getting veggies in with each meal is actually very simple and shouldn’t take much of your time.