What Are Innovative Ways to Encourage More Vegetable Intake?


    What Are Innovative Ways to Encourage More Vegetable Intake?

    Seeking fresh strategies to help clients embrace a plant-rich diet, we turned to ten nutrition experts, including Registered Dietitians and Wellness Coaches, for their most innovative methods. From creative veggie-infused meal ideas to client-driven vegetable incorporation strategies, these professionals share their top tips for making vegetables a delicious and integral part of daily eating habits.

    • Creative Veggie-Infused Meal Ideas
    • Kitchen Creativity Boosts Veggie Intake
    • Make Vegetables the Main Attraction
    • Enhance Meals with Extra Veggies
    • Incorporate Veggies into Favorite Meals
    • Embrace the 'Hidden-Vegetable' Challenge
    • Personalize Vegetable Variety and Preparation
    • Try Easy Ways to Enjoy More Vegetables
    • Raw and Simple Vegetable Enjoyment
    • Client-Driven Vegetable Incorporation Strategies

    Creative Veggie-Infused Meal Ideas

    Vegetables are full of fiber and nutrients, which are important for motility and maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Some great ways to increase vegetable intake include turning sandwiches into salads or lettuce wraps, substituting rice with cauliflower rice, and adding veggies to smoothies. Additionally, I like to garnish with a purpose. Instead of croutons, try using roasted chickpeas. Most vegetables are very nutrient-dense, so don't be afraid to pile on the veggies!

    Dahlia Marin
    Dahlia MarinRegistered Dietitian, Married to Health

    Kitchen Creativity Boosts Veggie Intake

    Boost your nutrient intake with a dash of creativity in the kitchen! Stir-frying is a fantastic method that keeps veggies crisp and bursting with nutrients. Swap out carbs for veggies with zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice, or spaghetti squash—they're not only delicious but also packed with essential vitamins and fiber. Dive into the world of soups—whip up tomato, mushroom, broccoli cheddar, or butternut squash varieties for a flavorful and nourishing meal that's a breeze to prepare.

    Lisa Young
    Lisa YoungNutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, Dr. Lisa Young Nutrition

    Make Vegetables the Main Attraction

    As a registered dietitian and chef, I've found that one innovative way to encourage clients to incorporate more vegetables into their diets is by utilizing "vegetable-forward" cooking techniques. This involves making vegetables the star of the dish rather than just a side or afterthought. For example, I create hearty vegetable-based dishes like stuffed bell peppers with quinoa and black beans, cauliflower "steaks" with chimichurri sauce, or vegetable stir-fries with a variety of colorful veggies and flavorful sauces. By showcasing vegetables in delicious and satisfying meals, clients are more likely to enjoy them and incorporate them into their diets on a regular basis.

    Ashley Sobel
    Ashley SobelRegistered Dietitian and Chef, Ashley Sobel Nutrition LLC

    Enhance Meals with Extra Veggies

    First, cook vegetables deliciously; for example, roast them or cook them in a frying pan, adding seasonings like garlic and black pepper. Second, add more veggies to the dishes you're already cooking. Sauté onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, and garlic (or any combination you have on hand) and add it to rice or quinoa. Even more simply, toss in extra frozen vegetables: frozen chopped spinach goes great with anything tomato-based, add corn to chili, or even add broccoli to roasted potatoes (that was a new one in my house the other day!). You never know what fun combinations you'll come up with. And don't be shy with the spices.

    Samantha Holmgren
    Samantha HolmgrenDietitian & Wellness Coach, Anti-Inflammatory Path to Wellness

    Incorporate Veggies into Favorite Meals

    Aim to sneak produce into meals that you already enjoy. In a morning smoothie with berries and bananas, you can hide the taste of spinach and cucumber. In a large pasta dish, try to blend extra veggies into the sauce. In a sandwich or a wrap, try to add extra leafy greens. If you enjoy home baking, there are many recipes that include veggies, like zucchini bread and muffins.

    Jenna Stedman
    Jenna StedmanCognitive Performance Dietitian, Master Nutrition Lab

    Embrace the 'Hidden-Vegetable' Challenge

    One innovative way I've motivated clients to eat more vegetables is through a 'hidden-vegetable' challenge. I challenge them to find creative ways to incorporate extra vegetables into common dishes without overtly changing the taste, texture, or appearance.

    This gets them thinking outside the box. For example, adding puréed spinach to spaghetti sauce, carrots to meatloaf, zucchini to muffins or lasagna, and cauliflower to mashed potatoes. I've even seen clients add kale to smoothies or juice blends for an extra nutrient boost.

    The goal is to make sneaking in vegetables fun, so clients view it as a game rather than a restriction. This challenge not only gets them eating more veggies but also helps them expand their cooking creativity in the kitchen long-term. The possibilities are endless, and clients often realize just how many vegetable 'hiding spots' they had been overlooking in their regular meal prep.

    Huma Shaikh
    Huma ShaikhFounder and Dietitian

    Personalize Vegetable Variety and Preparation

    With the amazing diversity vegetables have to offer, finding enjoyable options is the key to consuming more. Start with a list of the top ten favorites and rotate six to seven of them on each week's grocery list. Choose some options that can be cut and eaten fresh, as well as others that may need more preparation. Getting enough vegetables in a day requires a diligent effort for some of my clients. Since an individualized plan will be more effective long-term, we discuss strategies for success. For some, they choose to double up on the vegetable servings of a single choice, and for others, they opt for two or more different selections. With any increase in vegetable intake, the added fiber, phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals will provide countless health benefits.

    Beth Lewis
    Beth LewisAuthor and Dietitian, Citrus Press

    Try Easy Ways to Enjoy More Vegetables

    10 Incredible and Easy Innovative Ways to Incorporate More Vegetables into Your Diet!

    1. Smash them! Cook a variety of vegetables such as zucchini, tomatoes, squash, onions, and carrots, and once they are soft, smash them! This creates a sauce that you can toss over pasta or rice, or simply add to soups.

    2. Blend them! Combine leafy greens like spinach or kale with fruits and yogurt for a nutritious and tasty smoothie.

    3. Vegetable noodles: Use a spiralizer to transform vegetables like zucchini, carrots, or sweet potatoes into noodles. Serve them with your favorite sauce or incorporate them into salads.

    4. Stuffed vegetables: Hollow out bell peppers, tomatoes, or zucchini and fill them with a mixture of quinoa, beans, ground meat, and spices. Bake until tender for a satisfying meal.

    5. Dress them up! Keep sliced vegetables such as carrots, cucumbers, or bell peppers on hand for snacking, and dip them in your favorite chip dip!

    6. Vegetable wraps: Use large lettuce leaves or collard greens as wraps in place of tortillas. Fill them with your preferred veggies, proteins, and sauces for a healthy and low-carb meal.

    7. Veggie chips: Create your own chips by thinly slicing vegetables like sweet potatoes, beets, or kale, and baking them until crispy. Season for added flavor.

    8. Vegetable toppings: Enhance your pizzas, sandwiches, or burgers with extra vegetables. Mushrooms, onions, peppers, and tomatoes are excellent choices for boosting flavor and nutrition.

    9. Vegetable-based soups: Craft hearty soups with a mix of vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and peas. Puree them for a creamy texture or leave them chunky for more texture.

    10. Have them ready! Purchase pre-washed, pre-sliced, or ready-to-go vegetables. Or, when you return home from the store, wash, cut, and store them in an accessible spot in the refrigerator. Having them prepared makes for quicker and easier meal and snack preparation!

    Be sure to consume a variety of colored veggies to obtain a broad spectrum of nutrients every day and week. The change in textures, colors, and flavors will keep you interested and satisfied with your meals. Experiment with different recipes and combinations to discover what works best for you!

    Teresa Maiorano
    Teresa MaioranoRegistered Dietitian. Fertility Nutrition Expert, Live and Love Nutrition

    Raw and Simple Vegetable Enjoyment

    Working with patients to eat more vegetables can be a bit challenging, yet I've found some good ways to do so. A very important thing to mention is that I work with my patients to find something that works for them, rather than telling each patient the same exact recommendations.

    A lot of my patients are simply daunted by the task of preparing vegetables and are unsure about how 'best' to make them. I like to encourage them to eat them raw and in a fun way because veggies don't have to be cooked! I tell them that if they want, they can just eat a whole cucumber, or eat a bell pepper like an apple, and a lot of them are interested in trying this as it's lower effort than preparing anything.

    I also offer the idea of purchasing a new vegetable each week, for those patients who aren't sure about what they like and want to incorporate vegetables into their regimen more frequently.

    For my patients that like to cook and prepare foods, I recommend blending cauliflower rice (unseasoned) into smoothies or into pasta sauces. Spinach also blends well into smoothies. Some patients really like making green juices, so I work with them to keep the pulp in and have only a small amount of fruit to keep the sugar amount low and retain the fiber.

    A lot of my clients are also open to swapping meat for beans in at least one of their meals throughout the week. Beans are technically legumes, not vegetables, but they have lots of fiber and good minerals that are important for our bodies!

    Mia Abram
    Mia AbramAdult Outpatient Dietitian

    Client-Driven Vegetable Incorporation Strategies

    One way to approach this is to meet your clients where they are. So, rather than using the bland recommendation of 'five-a-day,' it's about discovering what their current eating habits and favorite meals are and putting them in the driving seat by coming up with their own solutions.

    For example, many people in the UK enjoy sandwiches for lunch—often a bland option of cheese and ham or something similar.

    So, if this is their current habit (making a ham sandwich for lunch each day), I'll meet them where they're at and start there, as the neural circuitry is already developed in the brain. Building on this habit, rather than trying to form a new one, is going to be much easier.

    I'll say something like, 'OK, great, in this sandwich, we have a bit of protein from the ham and carbohydrate from the bread—if you were to add any vegetables or salad to this sandwich, what would that be?'

    They might say something like, 'Well, I love beetroot from the jar—I could add a few slices of those in there.'

    Often, the clients will come up with their own solutions, and because it was their idea, they're more likely to stick to it in the long run.

    Another way is to encourage the use of different cooking methods to make vegetables more appealing to people.

    Again, asking open questions to facilitate this will be more successful than simply giving them the answers. For example, 'Can you name a time when you've eaten vegetables where you really enjoyed it?'

    They might say, 'Yes, I went to a pub once, and they served roasted carrots in a mustard glaze—it was delicious.'

    Boom, there's your answer. The more we can facilitate people to come up with their own ideas, the more likely nutritionists will have a lasting impact on their clients' lives instead of being seen as the food police perpetuating the same old nonsense from Weight Watchers in the 1970s.

    Robbie Puddick Rnutr
    Robbie Puddick RnutrContent & SEO Lead - Registered Nutritionist, Second Nature Health