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Clever Ways to Sneak More Veggies Into Your Day

These tips (and recipes!) will make getting your daily veggie requirement super easy and delicious.

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prepared meals nutritionists avoid | smoothieKonstantin Kolosov/Shutterstock

How to sneak more veggies into your diet

Even for those who like veggies, it can be a real challenge to consume the recommended number of servings each day (according to Canada’s Food Guide, half of every plate should be veggies and fruit). But with improved immune health on all of our minds lately, it’s never been more important to eat the rainbow. Thankfully, it’s easy to stealthily wiggle nutrient-dense vegetables into everyday dishes without even picky eaters putting up a fuss.

Here are our favourite ways to sneak more veggies on your plate at every meal.

Breakfast

If oatmeal is already a go-to, give this breakfast staple a hit of natural sweetness reminiscent of carrot cake by stirring 1 cup (250 mL) grated carrot, 3 tbsp (45 mL) ground flaxseed and 1/2 tsp (2 tsp) cinnamon into a pot of simmering oats. Top with berries, nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup. Why carrots? They’re packed with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that’s linked to a lower risk of breast cancer.

Do you prefer to drink your brekkie? Try this smoothie that’s brimming with Popeye’s favourite vegetable. Baby spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, which is necessary to stimulate white blood cells for better immunity. Bonus: Liquefying the greens reduces their flavour profile so that the taste of them disappears. Translation: You won’t feel like you’re drinking a salad. Ditto for baby kale. Try buzzing together 1 cup (250 mL) milk, 1 cup (250 mL) baby spinach, 1/2 cup (125 mL) plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 cup (125 mL) frozen pineapple, 2 tbsp (30 mL) hemp hearts, and 1/4 tsp (1 mL) allspice.

(Related: 30 Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas That Are Super Healthy)

Lunch

What’s on your lunch menu: a sandwich or maybe an egg-based dish? Consider adding lightly sautéed, grated sweet potato to your favourite frittata recipe. The orange spud delivers vitamin B6 to keep your metabolism in tip-top shape and help see you through an afternoon of meetings.

Or maybe you’re looking for something more classic, like an ooey-gooey grilled cheese. For a sammie you’ll flip over, mash 2 cups (500 mL) cubed, cooked butternut squash with 1 cup (250 mL) shredded Cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup (75 mL) sliced sun-dried tomato, and 1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh thyme. Spread on bread before grilling.

Butternut squash beefs up this comfort-food masterpiece with extra fibre to crush hunger, while sun-dried tomatoes boost levels of vitamins C and K.

Dinner

Here’s an awesome and easy swap that will help you rack up bonus points in the nutrient column. When mixing ingredients for burgers or meat loaf, swap half 
of the ground beef for 1/2 lb (250 g) chopped, sautéed cremini or button mushrooms. Not only does this instantly slash calories but research shows that meaty mushrooms are a source of potent antioxidants to aid in healthy aging.

For the mashed potato side to your meat loaf, replace half the spuds with steamed cauliflower florets. Simply pulse the cooked potatoes and cauliflower together in a food processor, along with a knob of butter and any other desired seasonings. This trendy veg is a good source of vitamin K, which can be a heart-hero nutrient by improving blood 
pressure.

(Related: 11 Fruits and Vegetables to Buy Frozen)

Dessert

What’s a family favourite that no one 
is going to turn down? Chocolate pudding! You can sneak in heart-healthy avocados, which are known to improve cholesterol numbers, for a no-cook fudgy pudding. Simply blend together the flesh of 2 small avocados, 
2/3 cup (150 mL) milk, 1/4 cup (50 mL) maple syrup, 1/4 cup (50 mL) cocoa powder, 1 tsp 
(5 mL) vanilla, 1 tsp 
(5 mL) cinnamon and 
a pinch of salt and chill for two hours.

Top tips:

Choose veggies that multitask

Beets, for instance, have a range of health benefits—from lowering blood pressure (thanks to their high nitrate levels) to providing detox support (due to the megadose of betalains they contain). Beets are also good for the brain. They contain betaine, an amino acid used to form the brain chemicals responsible for our body’s natural antidepressants.

Remember that good things come in small packages

One impressive “little” is peas. Did you know that with only 70 calories per half cup and five grams each of fibre and protein, peas offer the hunger-crushing duo that’s proven to help manage your weight. This humble veggie is so much more than a basic side-dish standby, says Abbey Sharp, RD. Each tiny pea is packed with plant-based phytonutrients, including carotenoids and vitamin C, which help promote strong vision, reduce your risk of heart disease and improve immunity. Peas are also a surprising source of powerful polyphenol compounds, which have been linked to a reduced risk of gastric cancer.

Want more recipes? Here are some veggie-packed ideas:

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eat more veggies | yogurt bowlPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Crunchy-Sweet Beet Yogurt Bowl

The beets blend into a vibrant, sweet sauce that also delivers naturally occurring nitrates, which can help keep your blood pressure numbers under control.

Recipe: Crunchy-Sweet Beet Yogurt Bowl

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eat more veggies | Sweet Potato Egg FrittatasPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Sweet Potato Egg Frittatas

When grated, sweet potato cooks in a flash to quickly infuse these baby frittatas with lofty amounts of immune-enhancing vitamin A.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Egg Frittatas

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eat more veggies | granola barsPhoto Credit: Janis Nicolay

Carrot Tahini Granola Bars

Granola bars you can feel good about because they are packed with nutrition along with a bit of chocolate.

Recipe: Carrot Tahini Granola Bars 

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eat more veggies | mac and cheesePhoto Credit: James Tse

Butternut Squash, Sage & Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Working as squash’s sneaky sidekick, cauliflower may lack colour, but it’s still loaded with nutrients.

Recipe: Butternut Squash, Sage & Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

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eat more veggies | BolognesePhoto Credit: Ryan Szulc

Better-For-You Bolognese

The dark colour and umami flavour of mushrooms are a natural replacement for slow simmered meat in this traditional sauce.

Recipe: Better-For-You Bolognese

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eat more veggies | pancakes

Sweet Potato Pancakes with Rhubarb Maple Syrup

Fluffy and not too sweet, these pancakes are made with quinoa flour for a great gluten-free brunch option.

Recipe: Sweet Potato Pancakes with Rhubarb Maple Syrup

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eat more veggies | spagettiPhoto Credit: Stacey Brandford

Spaghetti and Zucchini Pasta

Spiralized zucchini effortlessly subs in for half the pasta.

Recipe: Spaghetti and Zucchini Pasta

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eat more veggies | Vegetable ChiliPhoto Credit: Suech and Beck

Vegetable Chili

Packed with a delicious warmth of flavours, your guests will wish you made a second batch.

Recipe: Vegetable Chili

Next: 25 Pumpkin Recipes to Try This Fall

Originally Published in Best Health Canada