Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on August 30, 2021
This brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables. You can roast one or a mix of them. Pair them with others with similar textures, such as bell peppers with zucchini or sweet potatoes with cauliflower. Be sure to cut them into same-size pieces so they’ll cook evenly. Toss with olive oil and seasonings. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 50 minutes or until tender.
Snack on Green 'Chips'
Turn dark leafy greens into a crunchy snack. To make green chips, rip out the stems of a sturdy green, such as kale or collards. Tear them into bite-size pieces and toss them with olive oil. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes or until crisp. You can also bake thinly sliced sweet potatoes, beets, or carrots into chips.
Fire Up the Grill
Grilling vegetables can ramp up the flavor and add smokiness. Try making colorful kabobs with 2-inch chunks of zucchini, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, red onion, and mushrooms. Grill for roughly 20 minutes, basting with a balsamic vinegar-and-mustard sauce, until tender. Don’t have skewers? Wrap them in tin foil. For a vegetarian meal, grill thick rounds of eggplant or portabella mushroom caps.
Serve Them With a Tasty Dip
Instead of chips, use fresh vegetables to scoop up your favorite dip. Try different ones, like carrots, bell peppers, radishes, jicama, and snap peas. You can pair them with hummus, guacamole, blue cheese, or salsa. Or make your own with Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs. It may make you want to go for seconds: Research shows that kids eat more veggies when they're served with dip.
Use Them in a Dip
Add veggies to your favorite dips. You can mix tomatoes into guacamole or blend roasted beets into hummus. Or stir together Greek yogurt with cucumbers, mint, ginger, cumin, and lemon juice. Another crowd-pleaser is a creamy spinach-artichoke dip. Mix spinach and artichoke hearts with sour cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, and parsley, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Pair Them With Fruit
Fruit adds sweetness, which can balance out a vegetable’s bitterness. Try topping veggies with fresh or dried fruit. A few delicious combinations: dried cranberries with roasted Brussels sprouts or diced apples with sautéed kale. Or use fruit to jazz up your favorite salad, such as cubed watermelon tossed with arugula and feta cheese or strawberries with spinach and goat cheese.
Turn Them Into Noodles
Swap regular pasta for thinly sliced veggie “noodles.” Not only are they lower in calories, but they also add an extra shot of nutrients. You can use a special gadget called a spiralizer, or just slice zucchini, carrots, or sweet potatoes into thin strips. You can also make thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Sauté until tender, and serve with your favorite pasta sauce.
Blend Them Into a Smoothie
Veggies can make a quick breakfast or snack healthier. Toss some spinach, zucchini, or frozen cauliflower into a fruit smoothie. Chances are you won’t notice their mild flavor. Or make a veggie the star of the show. Blend a carrot or butternut squash with a frozen banana, vanilla yogurt, milk, and cinnamon to whip up a pie-like drink.
Garnish With Pickled Veggies
Pickled veggies can add tanginess to sandwiches, tacos, and more. Make your own by mixing vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices in a sterile jar, then adding veggies like cucumbers, carrots, and radishes. They'll keep for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. Or pick up a jar at the store. For an extra boost, go for sauerkraut or kimchi. These pickled cabbages are made with healthy probiotics, or good bacteria.
Cook Them With Eggs
Vegetables turn eggs into a heartier meal. Toss them into an omelet, scramble, or breakfast sandwich, or bake them into a quiche or frittata. You can use any veggie, such as mushrooms, spinach, peppers, and tomatoes. Plus, the combo ramps up the nutrition: Research shows that eggs help your body take in and use healthy nutrients called carotenoids that are in vegetables.
Bake Veggie 'Fries'
French-fried potatoes are high in fat and calories. For a healthier version, try baking carrots or butternut squash into fries. Peel and slice them into quarter- to half-inch strips. Toss with olive oil and seasonings, like salt, pepper, rosemary, and thyme, and bake at 400 or 425 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Flip the veggies over, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes.
Top Them With Cheese
Cheese adds flavor, calcium, and a creamy texture to veggie dishes. Sprinkle some on cooked vegetables, or toss some into a salad. For a lighter take on a childhood favorite, you can whip up a low-fat cheese sauce. In a saucepan, bring a cup of evaporated skim milk and a tablespoon of cornstarch to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in a half-cup of shredded cheddar. Add Worcestershire and maybe some hot sauce. Serve with broccoli, cauliflower, or another veggie.
Season Them With Herbs and Spices
Herbs and spices add flavor without a lot of salt or calories. Plus, they give you a dose of antioxidants. Dress cooked vegetables with a little olive oil or butter, then sprinkle on different seasonings. Try cinnamon, cumin, and chili on butternut squash and sweet potatoes; basil and garlic on spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli; and dill and lemon on carrots and green beans.
Make a Mash
Mashed potatoes are a classic comfort food, but you don’t have to stick with spuds. For a lower-calorie spin, steam cauliflower, garlic, and leeks until they're soft, then blend them in a food processor. Or roast a butternut squash until tender, and mash until creamy. Add a little butter. You can also try mashing cooked peas, celery root, parsnips, or pumpkin.
IMAGES PROVIDED BY:
Cassie Bjork, RD, author, Why Am I Still Fat?
Isabel Maples, RDN, spokesperson, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Creamy Cucumber Mint Sauce Recipe,” “Easy Collard Green Chips Recipe,” “Carrot Fries Recipe,” “The Beginner’s Guide to Cruciferous Vegetables.”
Harvard Health Publishing: “5 Tips for Healthy Grilling.”
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “The Addition of a Plain or Herb-Flavored Reduced-Fat Dip Is Associated with Improved Preschoolers' Intake of Vegetables.”
Mayo Clinic: “Artichoke Dip,” “Get More Veggies with a Spiralizer,” “Healthy Recipes: Roasted Butternut Squash Fries.”
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “Broccoli & Cheese,” “Grilled Vegetable Kabobs.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: “Effects of Egg Consumption on Carotenoid Absorption From Co-Consumed, Raw Vegetables.”
University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative Extension: “Homemade Pickles & Relishes.”