3 Ways To Sneak Veggies Into Family Meals

by Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Last Updated: September 10, 2020

Most dietitians would agree that the one food group everyone can eat more of is produce. Increased consumption of produce is linked to lower rates of nearly every medical condition: diabetes, cancer, heart disease, depression, blood pressure, and more. While produce may not cure COVID-19, fruits and vegetables are nutrient powerhouses that can optimize the immune system, which can help to fight off contagious viruses and infections. Fruits tend to be easy for most to eat, but vegetables seem to have more barriers. Here are three easy ways to sneak vegetables into family meals:
  1. The Blend.
    Thanks to the Mushroom Council, “The Blend” is a now-famous culinary technique. This technique combines chopped mushrooms with ground meat to add more nutrition, flavor and sustainability to meals. “The Blend” technique can be used in many family mealtime staples including burgers, tacos, meatloaf, lasagna, meatballs, or in any marinara sauce. Anytime that ground meat is used, whether it is ground beef, ground turkey, ground chicken or even meatless crumbles, try using this technique to “veg-up” the meal. Follow the tips below to become a Flexitarian and Blenditarian in no time:
    • Wash and chop mushrooms to the size of ground meat either with a knife or food processor (but be sure not to “puree” the mixture).
    • Sauté or bake the chopped mushrooms before combining with raw meat, to reduce water content and enhance flavor. It will work nearly as well if you skip the pre cooking and just combine the raw mushrooms with raw meat.
    • Swap anywhere from 25-100% of meat for chopped mushrooms. We usually use about 50% mushrooms, 50% ground meat.
    • Combine the mushrooms and raw meat, then cook the meat as you would normally for your recipe of choice. Ensure a safe, internal temperature is reached. Many Blend recipes and tips are found online.
  2. The shredding technique.
    Get out the cheese grater or mandolin and shred those veggies into itsy-bitsy pieces to mix into nearly every casserole, pasta, rice, or ground meat-based recipe. These small pieces mix seamlessly with the other flavors so that they’re hardly noticeable, while also enhancing the other flavors in the dish. Great gratable vegetables options are carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet peppers, onions, and broccoli stems. Try adding shredded vegetables to pasta sauce, meatloaf, macaroni and cheese, risotto, cheesy rice casserole, pasta or rice salad, rice pilaf, lasagna, and taco meat.
  3. Riced everything.
    Riced cauliflower is a hot ingredient right now. Thanks to the overwhelming interest in riced cauliflower, there are other riced vegetables swarming the aisles as well, such as riced carrots and riced broccoli. Since “carbs” are not evil, we believe riced cauliflower’s best use is to mix in with rice and other ingredients. Riced vegetables are a key “kitchen hack” ingredient and there are many ways to use them. Try incorporating to add bulk and volume to a recipe while adding more vegetables, and enhance the flavor of both the cauliflower and the other ingredients. The same recipes that work for using shredded vegetables and “The Blend” will also work in harmony with riced vegetables.

While we don’t recommend “hiding” vegetables, ricing is a great way to help include more into every meal. Whether you are a shredder, blenditarian, or rice hacker, try using these creative ways to kick up the veggie content of every meal.

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

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

Katy Keogh, MS, RDN, LD

A mom of 2 little kiddos and over 15 years’ experience in nutrition, Katy enjoys helping her patients squeeze good nutrition and activity into an already “full” life and find their own balance with nutrition and health while still enjoying food to the fullest. She is an expert in weight management, mindful eating, digestive health, anti-inflammatory nutrition, culinary nutrition, cooking/baking, and any other topic related to food! Outside of work, you’ll find her traveling, walking, jogging, beer tasting, and eating gelato.