Only 2% of Australians are eating the recommended 5 serves of vegetables per day according to the latest findings from Roy Morgan Research.
Below are seven simple ways of increasing veggies in your families diet without them even noticing.
1. Start Early
Yes getting kids to eat veggies from a young age is really important but this is about starting early in the day. If you only think about veggies at dinner time, you’ve got a big challenge to get in your 5 serves. Try to include veggies in all main meals, yes even breakfast. This can be as simple as a handful of spinach with poached eggs, using green beans or asparagus spears as dippers in hard boiled eggs or some mushrooms on toast. Omelettes are a great way of using up leftover veggies or ones about to expire.
2. Juice It
Vegetable juices can provide you with a big boost to your daily intake in a quick and easy way. To get it past the kids start with some extra fruit or sweeter vegetables such as carrots or capsicum, but be careful it doesn’t become a fruit juice. Fruit is best eaten whole as you retain the beneficial fibre that is often lost in juicing.
Spinach, powdered greens, mint, carrots, kale, watercress and broccoli are full of nutrients and blend beautifully. Another great alternative is a powdered greens drink which will usually contain the equivalent of three or four servings of fruits and vegetables. I often slip a tablespoon of powdered greens into my kids chocolate smoothie in the afternoons and they don’t even notice.
3. Supercharge Your Dinners
Update a traditional recipe by tossing as many extra veggies as you can into soups and sauces. Most extra veggies added towards the end of the cooking process won’t change the taste of a dish, so add with abandon. Throw them into a recipe that doesn’t usually include them. For example, add broccoli, green beans and cauliflower to a chicken curry or grated zucchini and carrots to spaghetti sauce.
If your kids are really veggie avoiders I use my food processor to chop them really small (the veggies not the kids) and mix them into sauces or pasta where they can’t be picked out and don’t have such as strong taste.
4. Be PREPared
After shopping, wash and chop your just-bought raw or frozen veggies and store them in the fridge, preferably in glass or BPA-free containers. When it’s time to put a meal together you’ll be able to just grab your pre-prepped, salad-bar style veggies and throw them right into whatever you’re cooking. If you are especially time poor then consider buying the ready-prepped veggies from the salad section in your supermarket.
5. Snack Away
If you’re kids are anything like mine they will be STARVING when you pick them up from school or arrive home. Mine are apparently so famished that they can’t even wait to get home and insist I bring an afternoon snack with me for them to eat in the car. I then work this to my advantage and bring veggie sticks and dips or veggie muffins with me in the car so my captive audience has no choice but to eat what’s in front of them.
Have veggie’s prepped and ready on the counter when they get home or on the table whilst they are doing homework and you’ll be surprised how they end up crunching away without any fuss. Hummus, salsa, yogurt & cucumber or tzatziki are all great dip options.
6. Mix It Up
With summer on the way salad season has begun. But lettuce can lose its appeal really quickly and many people find eating salad boring. However there are many ways of mixing up your salads to keep them tasty and interesting and they don’t always need to include lettuce or leaves of any kind. Try a chopped veggie salad with nuts and seeds or coleslaw with herbs and aioli.
Cooking your veggies different ways and with some herbs and spices can really change their taste and texture. Roasted veggies such as capsicum, red onion, sweet potato and cauliflower taste great with a little olive oil and cumin. Stir frying veggies is a great way to use up the ones in the back of the veggie drawer, add a dressing made with a little soy sauce, fish sauce and lime juice and you have a quick and tasty dinner.
7. Sweeten The Deal
Sometimes the only way to get kids to eat extra veggies is to sneak them into some sweet treats. My favourite go to recipes are zucchini brownies, pumpkin cupcakes, carrot cake and avocado chocolate mousse. I promise you they will never even notice the veggies and if they do they won’t care cos these recipes taste so good!
Jennifer Moulin is a degree qualified Nutritionist. She has a Bachelor Health Science (Nutritional Medicine) from Endeavour College of Natural Health. She offers nutrition consultations through Proactive Nutrition based in Sydney. She enjoys sharing her passion for a delicious food and a healthy lifestyle with all people from all walks of life.