Do You Make This Mistake When Cooking With Vegetables?

by Kristen Keen MBA, RD, LD

Last Updated: May 6, 2020

“Eat your veggies” has been a mantra through the ages. While this phrase usually populates our minds with images of steaming green beans, fresh salads, or the classic party veggie tray, there’s a good chance you’re thinking about this all wrong. One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to cooking with vegetables is that they think they have to stand alone- a salad, a veggie side dish, or a few pieces of lonely cauliflower strewn across your appetizer plate. In reality, vegetables are some of the most versatile- and easy to incorporate- foods ever. Whether you simply don’t like the taste and texture of vegetables by themselves, or you prefer other types of foods that typically don’t include them as ingredients, you can get around this with a dash of creativity (and a decent blender). From fresh, frozen, canned, and freeze-dried, veggies are a kitchen chameleon bringing out different flavors and textures while delivering powerful nutrition. How can we reframe our thinking to get more veggies into our favorite foods?
  1. Remember the “why.”
    Eating an abundance of vegetables contributes to overall health as studies have shown produce consumption correlated to gut, heart, and even brain health. Keeping veggies at the core of what we eat may improve longevity and decrease risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and metabolic syndrome.
  2. Sneak in servings of all types.
    Cooking with veggies is a simple hack for meeting adequate intake levels for vitamins, nutrients, and even phytochemicals. Phytochemicals, also called phytonutrients, are naturally occurring plant chemicals that can have protective qualities for our health. Each color of the phytochemical rainbow plays a role in supporting different benefits. Red, purple, and blue veggies are antioxidant powerhouses.

    Blueberries, purple cabbage, and blackberries all contain anthocyanin and lycopene pigments, which may help improve heart and brain health. Here’s how to sneak them in:
    • Adding red cabbage to coleslaw or even a salad.
    • Make stuffed red peppers for a healthy dose of nutrients.
    • Puree roasted red peppers for a romesco sauce.
    • Add Beet powder to baked goods for color and nutrition.
    • Add cherry tomatoes to an omelet.
    • Make a purple potato soup.

    Green vegetables contain lutein and chlorophyll pigments, which may help support vision and prevent cellular damage. Here’s how to sneak them in:
    • Chop and dice fresh cucumbers to mix with plain Greek yogurt and a squeeze of lemon for a Greek tzatziki sauce.
    • Spinach about to go bad? Chop and store in ice tray with a water halfway full. Pop out frozen cubes to add to your smoothie.
    • Zucchini bread is always a good way to sneak in some vegetables into your kids' diet. Try one with double the amount of zucchini.
    • Collard Greens can easily be used as a low carb wrap! Make this fiber boosting recipe as a part of your meal prep this week.

    Orange and yellow produce contain carotenoid pigments which may be beneficial for eyes, skin, and immune system health. A healthy dose of Vitamin A is easy to achieve with a serving of this color. Here’s how to sneak them in:
    • Add carrots to your stir-fry for an extra crunch.
    • Spaghetti Squash is a delicious alternative to pasta
    • Corn fritters are a tasty appetizer to enjoy
    • Sliced yellow peppers are great for dipping
    • Black bean and corn salsa is an easy taco topper
  3. Use your veggie hacks to make sure you’re getting enough. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should aim for three to five servings of vegetables a day. One vegetable Serving = 1cup of raw vegetables or 1/2 cup of cooked vegetables. That’s about the size of your fist. You can begin by incorporating one vegetable hack with each meal. Here’s an example:

    Breakfast: Sauté 1 cup spinach before adding scrambled eggs to an omelet.
    Lunch: Add tomato, lettuce and/or peppers to your sandwich or wrap.
    Dinner: Make a veggie bowl for dinner with potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts.

Ready to reframe your idea of eating more veggies? Basic knife skills are the key to unlocking the powerhouse of benefits from veggies in the kitchen. Cut a spud to get the Vitamin A party started with some baked sweet potato fries. There is a world of possibilities when it comes to cooking vegetables at home. From roasting, to sautéing, to airfrying the possibilities are un-pea-leavable!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Kristen Keen MBA, RD, LD

Kristen Keen MBA, RD, LD

Kristen believes having a strong relationship with nutrition is key to having a healthy life and that relationship should center around the power of self-love!