11 ways to sneak in fruits and veggies — and not just for the kids

3789315324_0fae978d1b_oI’m trying to eat more fruits and veggies these days — partly for their supposed health benefits, and partly because I’m still trying to lose 5 stubborn pounds. I figure I’m more likely to lose the weight eating green beans than brownie brittle.

I’m an enthusiastic eater. I don’t need to hide cauliflower puree in mac and cheese, or whatever it was Jessica Seinfeld was doing a few years ago. But unless you’re consciously trying to boost fruit and veggie consumption, it’s often easier to eat other things. It’s easier to grab a bag of potato chips as a side than to cook green beans.

So here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. I keep a giant Costco bag of frozen corn in the freezer. If I’m having soup, it’s quite easy to stir in some frozen corn, which thaws as the soup heats. Corn kernels add an interesting texture to leftover mac and cheese, too.

2. I keep a giant Costco bag of baby carrots in the fridge. Sliced and sauteed, these can go in soups and other prepared foods. If I’m cooking chicken in the oven, I cook it on top of baby carrots and get roast carrots — very tasty!

3. I learned to bake kale. Arranged on a cookie sheet with some olive oil and salt, they taste somewhat akin to chips.

4. I do desserts of fruit with mascarpone cheese. Peaches, blueberries, strawberries — all go great with this sweet creamy cheese and a little sugar. I might eat this as a snack, too.

5. I eat Gala apples with peanut butter as a snack. We’re coming into apple season these next few weeks.

6. I aim to eat veggies for lunch. Fortunately, my 3-year-old is willing to split a head of broccoli (steamed) with me, or some green beans, and I’m perfectly willing to cook both for him. It’s cooking them only for me that seems like a pain.

7. I’d like to eat tomatoes with mozzarella for  lunch. Unfortunately, my tomato plants pretty much went on strike. I have only green tomatoes. All the newspapers running recipes right now for the “abundance” of tomatoes one gets in late August are just pouring salt in the wound.

8. I throw a bunch of fruit in a smoothie. OK, I use ice cream, so technically it’s a milk shake. But it’s mostly fruit! Costco sells giant bags of frozen berries that work well for these purposes, and I also freeze berries that are close to going bad.

9. I eat frozen grapes as a snack.

10. I overbuy produce. I realize that wasting food is, well, wasteful. It’s pained me to throw out some pretty withered broccoli, but I also find that overbuying produce encourages me to eat more in order to eat as much as possible before it goes bad.

11. I put fruit on the counter, and on the shelves of the fridge. If it’s in the drawer, it’s dead to me. This is true in general. I once stashed some candy in my desk drawer, and found it a month later. It wasn’t some huge act of willpower that I managed to sit with a supply of my favorite candy one foot from me for an entire month — it was that I’d forgotten its existence.

How do you up your fruit and veggie consumption?

In other news: What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast came out Tuesday! Fast Company ran an excerpt called “The Simple 8-Step Process to Make Over Your Schedule — and Transform Dreams into Goals.” If you haven’t purchased the book, and you enjoy reading this blog, please consider buying a copy. I don’t run ads; books and articles are how I make my living. Thank you!

Photo courtesy flickr user Becoming Green

31 thoughts on “11 ways to sneak in fruits and veggies — and not just for the kids

  1. Do you like kiwifruit? They are an easy snack. Sadly, we’re in between seasons now so I can’t get them. I might try the baking kale idea when my sister’s CSA box next overloads her with kale!

  2. We eat fruit like it’s going out of style, but veggies are a challenge for all of us.

    What I’ve found helpful is buying them already precut at Trader Joes. They even have bags that you just pop in the microwave (fresh butternut squash, asparagus, green beans, etc). If it’s THAT easy, I’ll do it. If I have to dig out pots and pans and spices and a recipe, that may not happen.

    The other thing is making one veggie dish on Sunday, which will last at least a day or two. My mom cooks mostly vegetarian (Indian) food, so she has a really easy dry stir-fry recipe that she uses for nearly any kind of vegetable. I finally asked her to write it down for me, and it’s awesome and (fairly) easy. I figure if I keep practicing eventually I won’t need the recipe and it will really become something I could do daily.

    1. @ARC – I seriously need to start adding TJs to our grocery shopping repertoire. Except for their vast section of dark chocolate covered (fill in the blank). So maybe I need to add TJs to someone else’s grocery shopping repertoire…

      1. The candy section is HUGE, so if you’re tempted, it’s hard 🙂 But I do all of our regular shopping at Trader Joe’s. I can’t be bothered to do more than one grocery run per week, so every 3 weeks or so, I go to Whole Foods or Safeway, depending on what’s missing. (Hubby is particular about certain awful processed foods…)

        @Louisa – I’ll write it up in my blog and come back w/ the link. I don’t know it well enough off the top of my head, unfortunately and I’m not near the kitchen right now.

  3. Baked apples and pears are an awesome, easy low sugar dessert that have big “wow” factor around here.

    I try to serve vegetable soup at least once a week with whatever veggies are lying around. Kids love potato soup (celery, onions, potatoes, leeks, carrot) and my fave is broccoli cheese (so easy)..

    Baked sweet potatoes are an awesome lunch. Maybe a piece of cheese on the side. Or top it with butter and nuts and maple syrup.

  4. Roasted veggies are like dessert for me, and practically fast food. I don’t mind chopping vegetables, either– I find it therapeutic and a refreshing change from computer work. I throw in whatever I have in the fridge, toss with olive oil, and 20 minutes later, yum.

  5. I have a whole bag of frozen blueberries in the fridge (inherited from my neighbor’s move) … so maybe with baby vanilla yogurt? As someone who has food issues and has lost the baby weight and gained 20 lbs after that or 25 I will tell you ice cream is a no no food… yogurt OK but ice cream is a no no unless it is 1/2 cup on a cone from a store (never a carton).. where you’d have to back in to buy another half cup .. my friend is a physicist and he’s single and childless and way to into nutrition and he has done extensive research about how fundamentally addictive ice cream is — sweet and creamy you are biologically programmed to fail eating it lol.. I do think with young kids lunch can be a meal you eat while working that is a bit more adult, adventurous and vegetarian based etc.. or date night food — weight watchers suggests cottage cheese and honey.. so I’m going to try it ! http://www.weightwatchers.com/util/art/index_art.aspx?tabnum=1&art_id=214971

  6. Organic Baby Carrots from Costco – love these! Here is an easy carrot salad:

    Shred baby carrots in a food processor, add honey, raisins, some nuts and enjoy!

  7. hey also I got your book in the mail yesterday Tuesday. So I think that means when you pre-order it comes to your house on opening day ! so I thought that was cool. It is beautiful and much more my style than the electronic versions though I’m sure I’ll get around the to electronic equipment soon enough.. I work all day on computer so for me the book will be great poolside reading. I hope all your readers buy it !

  8. We did a Whole30 in April. (http://whole9life.com/category/whole-30/) It was tough and not something we could do long-term, but it really helped us reset our thinking on vegetables. Now we roast more vegetables, put them in stir fries, and even add veggies for breakfast (like eggs with onions and peppers).

  9. 1. We always have one fruit and one vegetable at lunch and dinner. Often they’re raw – my kids prefer crunchy fresh veggies vs. cooked ones.

    2. Find some healthy dips, like hummus or salsa (mostly veggies themselves) for dipping.

    3. I pre-wash and prep healthy food and have it on a highly visible shelf in the frig so we all can grab and go for school/work lunches. (You’re right – when this kind of food is in the drawer, it’s dead to me. Or if I have to wash it or cut it or …)

    4. I put the enticing foods in the frig drawers or out of sight in high cupboards. I’m short so I need a stool to reach the top shelf. I sometimes change my mind if I have to get a stool (…and sometimes I don’t.)

    5. My family (husband) has balked at vegetarian meals, but I have upped the amount of vegetables and reduced the amount of meat in foods like lasagna, stew, or what we Minnesotans like to call “hotdishes.” (Shhh… they haven’t noticed.)

    6. If I put a bowl of grapes or baby carrots and dip in front of my son and husband while they watch football, they will eat much more than if the food were on the table at dinner. Grazing works even for healthy foods.

    7. I bake a mixture of zucchini, summer squash, grape tomatoes, onions and garlic (and Italian or other seasoning) with a little olive oil. I use it during the week to put on sandwiches, pitas, on noodles, etc. My whole family likes this on spaghetti.

    8. My daughter and I like the 30 calorie Laughing Cow spreadable cheese or the more calorie peanut butter on celery or apple slices.

    9. In the winter, the quality of fresh fruit is terrible here. So I do buy the no-sugar fruit cups for school lunches. It seems a waste of packaging, but…

    10. Disguising fruit and veggies in other foods seems like too much work for me. (And would my kids really eat a green smoothie filled with spinach?) But I have some good recipes for muffins that have pumpkin, applesauce or shredded zucchini and carrots that replaces much of the oil. They’re from my mom and grandma, so I have to believe moms through the ages have struggled with how to get their families to eat more vegetables.

    1. @Marci – my kids seem to go more for the raw stuff too – so that’s what they get for lunch and dinner. But personally I like stuff a little cooked. So I’m trying to figure out how to do more of that…

      Love the idea of altering recipes to be more veggie, less meat.

  10. I eat veggies for breakfast. I don’t like traditional breakfast food. I like leftovers, salads, anything but cereal. I also add kale, other greens and zucchini to fruit smoothies and the berries retain a sweet flavor.

  11. If you’re using frozen fruit, Dannon All Natural Vanilla Yogurt (pretty sweet) works almost as well as ice cream.

  12. For smoothies, if you’re using frozen fruit, Dannon All Natural Vanilla Yogurt (pretty sweet) works almost as well as ice cream.

  13. I have no problem eating my own veggies, but I do struggle a bit with my kids, especially my toddler (my 3 year old is a good eater, thankfully). I am seriously considering the “hiding game” with the little guy because my usual method of offering things multiple times has NOT worked. He just turns up his little nose (rather cutely) or throws it on the floor (not so cute).
    We eat mostly vegetarian meals, so we go through plenty of vegetables and so so so much fruit in our house.
    And I don’t get “forgetting” about treats in a drawer. I will forget about carrots in the crisper, but when 3pm hits, I’m hunting through all my drawers just in case there is some tasty snack I “forgot about” (never happened).

  14. Grazing – yes. My mom used to always put a huge bowl or plate of fruit on the table on a weekend day in the summer. I do this sometimes. It inevitably gets eaten.

    Roast a LOT of veggies at once. Especially on a day with a little more time to cook. Get a few roasting pans out (as many as will fit in the oven, ideally). Coarsely chop a lot of veggies into the pans. Add olive oil, S&P, herbs and flavoring optional, roast at 425 F or so for 45-60 min. And by a lot I mean many pounds. They cook down considerably and are super flavorful. No comparison to steamed or frozen/reheated. When I do this on Sunday I hope to have a few tupperwares leftover to take me through the week, but we will often end up eating most of it for dinner. Favorite roasting veggies would be cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and okra. Root veggies work well too (parsnips, beets). Broccoli is acceptable, but a bit more delicate. Prep time is usually around 5 min, maybe 10 for higher maintenance veggies.

    Cook huge amounts of greens. Buy a large clamshell of spinach. Heat a large pan on the stove to medium with olive oil. Add some crushed garlic. Add 1/2-1 lb of spinach. Stir as it cooks… 5 min or so. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice and S&P. Spinach is easiest, but I also saute kale in olive oil with some salt. Swiss chard I steam with a bit of water, and then drain and add butter. I always make as much as I can fit in the pan. Takes about 10 min from start to finish, and only a few minutes of actual work.

    1. @M – I’ll have to work on the roasting veggies idea. I know I’d like it, and there’s really no way I’ll wind up eating beets otherwise

  15. I try to have some fruit or vegetable prepared and out on the counter while cooking dinner. Hungry kids will consume a more generous portion then than they would have consumed DURING dinner.

    Also, I am ashamed to say this, but each of my kids went through a toddler phase of preferring frozen veggies. And by that I mean frozen veggies in their frozen state. My kids would snack on frozen peas and or frozen mixed veggies before dinner.

    1. We’ve been having frozen veggies (still frozen) a lot. Both the baby and the 6 year old love frozen peas. I like them too. 🙂

      They also both like fresh fruit. Veggies, it’s hit or miss. We just keep trying, but generally only things that I like (unless we’re doing a CSA).

      1. I have to say that one benefit of living in the south rather than on the east coast is that there’s really good fruit year round, and not just during blueberry and apple season.

    2. I LOVED frozen veggies as a kid, too (though I’d pick out the lima beans, yuck). I’ve tried it on my kids but they caught on….and went back to whining for goldfish and fruit leather.

      1. @Ana – what is with the goldfish?? I never buy it, but I had the kids tonight at the store and I caved. My toddler likes Sunday school now solely because it’s the place they feed her goldfish. They should try this in adult church too.

        1. I’m pretty sure what’s with the goldfish/bunnies is autolyzed yeast or yeast extract or msg. (They all give me the same damn msg headache and they’re all addictive. I’m no chemist, but when I get the same nasty reaction…)

        2. This is one thing I’m thankful for about having a dairy allergy in our family. We skipped the goldfish thing entirely, because even the non-cheese ones have dairy in them. Now she doesn’t want them, even if she could technically have them.

  16. What I find helps is just saying “I will have fruit or veggies with every meal, including snacks.” With the rule in place, I do a better job remembering.

  17. I do pretty well by bringing fruit to work and having it for snacks. I usually eat 3-4 pieces a day that way. Less on weekends. Also my mom (and her mom) indoctrinated me into making sure each meal has a protein, starch, and veg. So we do. And the DCs have to eat a veg or fruit even if it isn’t the one we provide with dinner.

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