How to Sneak Vegetables Into an Unhealthy Diet

It’s no secret that the culture of eating in today’s society is not a healthy one. Life is fast-paced, making it difficult to plan out and cook healthy meals on a regular basis. On top of that, processed foods and fast-foods are easily accessible and incredibly inexpensive.

Because of the way that our society has evolved at this point with regards to eating, most people don’t get anywhere near the required amount of fruits and vegetables a day, which is between 5 and 8 servings. Some people are lucky to get even one serving a day. However, obesity and type 2 diabetes are at all-time highs. Therefore, it is imperative that people begin eating better diets. An easier way of learning how to eat healthy is to add the good things like fruits and veggies to one's typical diet instead of concentrating on eliminating the bad things. By slowly beginning to add in healthy items, they will gradually take the place of a lot of the bad things like refined sugars and processed foods.

The societies in the world that eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, moderate amounts of fish, and only small portions of meat, starches and dairy all boast low to non-existent rates of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases and high numbers of centenarians. These societies are explored and analyzed in Sally Beare’s book 50 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest People, a must read for anyone interested in nutrition and getting motivated to eat healthier.

Luckily, it is very easy to begin sneaking veggies into foods that one already eats without having to overhaul everything in one’s diet all at once. It is definitely ideal to cut down on the amounts of refined sugars and processed foods in order to truly be healthy - especially since all the refined sugars we eat are the reason we're so obese and have diabetes in such high proportions. Additionally, there is new research showing that refined sugars may prevent the absorption of some essential vitamins. However, just adding veggies to a less-than-stellar diet will make a huge difference in overall health and nutrition.

  • Pizza: try adding veggies to any frozen or take-home pizza. If frozen, cut up veggies and top pizza before placing in oven and cooking following normal directions on pizza box. Asparagus is an excellent and surprising choice for a pizza topping. Other good options include broccoli, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers. Explore and try new things.
  • Pasta: whether making traditional spaghetti, simple pasta and store-bought sauce, or something fancier, veggies can always be added and added in bulk. For tomato sauce, potential add-ins include carrots, onions, mushrooms, spinach, eggplant, and many more. Another option is to add veggies such as broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms, zucchini, peppers, etc. to alfredo sauce. Herbs are another thing to try to add to pasta sauces. There are endless options when it comes to pasta. In addition to adding veggies to pasta sauces, trying wheat or sprouted grain pasta instead of white flour pasta will drastically increase the health of the dish.
  • Ramen noodles: a quickie but goodie, these noodles can be made healthier by throwing in some frozen green peas, edamame or corn, any combination of these, or by experimenting with other veggies.
  • Chips and dip: a quick and easy snack people fall back on is good old potato chips and dip or tortilla chips with salsa or cheese dip. Though not great for one’s health, this snack can be spruced up to a healthier status by throwing in some carrot or celery sticks as dippers in addition to or, better yet, in place of the potato chips.
  • Bean dip: bean dip/Mexican dip/5 layer dip is a great example of a dip that can be made healthier. Instead of the usual cheese and beans, layers of avocado, corn, and fresh tomato salsa can be added to the dip to ensure at least some fruits and veggies are being added to the snack. An excellent recipe that exemplifies this technique is Ellie Krieger’s recipe for Mexican 5 Layer Dip. Though recipe requires some prep, it could be simplified by buying some of the layers pre-made.
  • Burgers: burgers can be made healthier simply by adding healthy toppings such as cucumbers, black bean dip, sprouts, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, avocado, and the list goes on. Also, when prepping the meat before shaping into burgers and grilling, one could actually add in veggies such as onions and peppers to the meat mix.
  • Baked potatoes: baked potatoes are so delicious and readily available at so many restaurants. Often people eat them piled with anything but vegetables. However, it is really worth it to try adding veggies into the mix with these tasty treats - they are fantastic with veggies such as spinach, sprouts, bell peppers, mushrooms, garden peas, broccoli, herbs, and more. A great trick to try is getting a salad bar along with the baked potato in order to easily get one’s hands on some fresh veggies for toppings.
  • Macaroni and cheese: this all-American dish is a great vehicle for sporting some fresh veggies. A range of veggies from chopped asparagus to broccoli to peas and more will complement macaroni and cheese whether added during the cooking process or after the addition of the cheese sauce.
  • Stir-fried rice: this is another great base for veggies chopped up and added right in. There are many ways to experiment with a wide-range of veggies such as water-chestnuts, edamame, carrots, etc.
  • Grilling: though a night grilling out often invokes thoughts of burgers and ribs, this is a great and easy opportunity to throw some corn, veggie kabobs, eggplant spears, or asparagus on the grill, too.
  • Scrambled eggs: surprisingly, adding veggie to eggs is a treat. A great example is to add cilantro, tomatoes and onions. Other options include herbs, mushrooms, and a multitude of green veggies.
  • Meatloaf: sneaking some carrots, peas, onions, and/or bell peppers is super-easy and a great way to flavor and add texture to a dull meatloaf when added to the mix prior to cooking.
  • Hamburger Helper: this classic favorite, while easy and delicious, usually doesn’t contain any veggies. There are countless ways to throw veggies into this one. Depending on the flavor, one can experiment with a wide array of veggies, which can prove to be easy and fun.

This list hopefully gives an idea of how to begin adding in veggies. Almost every dish that one normally eats day to day can be made much healthier by adding in a nice dose of veggies. Doing this not only will increase the amount of fiber and nutrients in one’s diet, but will get the creative juices flowing and might provide an easy way to cook with kids in contrast to homemade meals for all those nights on the go.

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