In a recent report published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, researchers estimated that nearly 8 million premature deaths per year could be avoided if we ate 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. Fruit’s easy—but vegetables? Most of us struggle to eat even a couple of servings each day.
If you’re sick of salads and sautéed greens, try these 30 delicious tips—some sneaky, some fancy—and boost your veggies all month long.
Make it super stealthy: combine 1 cup frozen cherries, 1 cup baby spinach or frozen spinach, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1 cup milk of your choice. Purée until smooth, and sweeten to taste with honey or agave. Or freeze in popsicle molds for a super-nutritious frozen treat.
Play it small: finely chop florets so the aggressive flavor blends better with other ingredients. Process 1 cup of florets in a food processor until very finely chopped, then add to hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf, or veggie burgers before cooking. Add other finely chopped herbs, shredded carrots, or ground flax seed for even more nutrition.
Play off its mild flavor and pale color: steam florets till soft, then purée with milk of your choice to make a thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper, combine with shredded cheese, and cook over medium heat till melted and smooth. Use as a sauce for mac and cheese, or pour over cooked vegetables.
4. Butternut Squash
Use your noodle: invest in a spiralizer and turn butternut squash into udon. Cook in vegetable broth till tender, season with Chinese five spice, and top with sautéed mushrooms, shredded spinach, chopped green onions, and roasted peanuts. Or steam in water, then smother with pesto or tomato sauce and top with shaved Parmesan cheese.
5. Collard Greens
Wrap them up: remove stems, blanch whole leaves in boiling water for two minutes, and pat dry. Spread one leaf on a flat surface and stuff with cooked beans and rice or parsnip cous cous (see No. 11), roll up, and drizzle with roasted red pepper sauce (see No. 8).
Fry them up: combine grated carrots with eggs, flour, chopped green onions, and herbs, and fry as fritters. Add grated zucchini, parsnips, or chopped kale for even more nutrition. Serve with roasted red pepper sauce or arugula pesto.
7. Sweet Potatoes
Capitalize on their sweet, creamy texture: steam or bake until soft, then purée until smooth (with or without skins). Add purée to pizza, pasta, or roasted red pepper sauces. Make extra sweet potato purée, and freeze 1-cup portions for easy, last-minute additions to soups, cookies, and even smoothies.
8. Red Peppers
Get saucy: roast whole peppers over an open flame, or broil on a baking sheet until charred on all sides. Cool briefly; remove skin, stem, and seeds; and purée flesh with olive oil and garlic until smooth. Use as a simmer sauce for chicken or meatballs, or pour over pasta or spiralized vegetable noodles.
Layer it up: cut large zucchini lengthwise into thin strips, sprinkle with salt to remove excess water, let stand for 15 minutes, then pat dry and use instead of lasagna noodles. Or roll zucchini strips around meat, cheese, or vegan filling, arrange in a casserole, smother with red pepper sauce, and bake until bubbly.
Celebrate the brilliant color: purée cooked fresh peas or thawed frozen peas with olive oil to make a thick paste, then stir into guacamole to add vitamins, fiber, and a bright emerald hue. Other uses: add to pesto, stir into soups, or spread on toast.
Turn them into cous cous or rice: chop parsnips into chunks and process in a food processor until they resemble grains of rice. Combine with chopped tomatoes, diced cucumbers, black olives, and vinaigrette for a cool salad, or sauté in coconut oil with onions and curry powder for an easy side dish.
Let them eat (red velvet) cake: steam beets until soft, purée them with a little milk of your choice until smooth, then add to your favorite chocolate cake mix. Bake, cool, and frost with cream cheese frosting or, for a vegan version, whipped vanilla coconut milk.
Turn it into soup: coarsely chop Romaine or other lettuce, combine with chopped potatoes, onions, and broth, and cook until tender. Purée until smooth, and garnish with crème fraîche, puréed peas, or goat cheese croutons.
Show off its spiciness: in a blender, combine baby arugula leaves with olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, or chopped cashews, and a squeeze of lemon. (Cut the spiciness with basil, spinach, or parsley, if desired.) Purée until smooth, and drizzle over pasta, or add vinegar for a zesty vinaigrette.
Transform leaves into savory snacks: massage kale leaves with a mixture of almond butter, olive oil, lime juice, honey, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer, and bake at 300°F for 35 minutes, until crispy.
Get sloppy: finely chop eggplant and mushrooms in a food processor, then sauté in olive oil with onions, garlic, and jalapeño peppers; stir in ketchup, tomato sauce, or roasted red pepper sauce, and serve on buns for a veggie alternative to Sloppy Joes.
17. Brussels Sprouts
Make ’em with bacon: the smoky flavor is the perfect foil for their pungent taste. Cook bacon, turkey bacon, or vegan bacon until crispy. Transfer to a plate. Add shredded Brussels sprouts, chopped onions, and garlic to the same pan, and cook until lightly browned, 8–10 minutes. Top with bacon, and serve.
Pair it with a bean-y dip: the creamy texture of this often-overlooked crucifer blends beautifully with hummus and bean dips. Roast a rutabaga, purée with white beans, olive oil, and garlic, and garnish with parsley. Or combine with chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, and lemon, and purée for an antioxidant-packed hummus.
Make a refreshing mocktail: peel cucumbers and purée in a blender until smooth, then strain. Mix cucumber juice with lime juice, honey or agave, and sparkling water, and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Freeze them: tomatoes have a natural sweetness and lovely color that makes them perfect for a refreshing sorbet. Simmer chopped tomatoes with tomato juice, unrefined cane sugar, and a few sprigs of basil for 30 minutes; purée, strain, chill overnight, then process in an ice cream maker.
Turn them into tacos: chop a variety of mushrooms and sauté in olive oil
with red onions, garlic, jalapeño peppers, and cumin. Stir in cilantro, stuff mixture into taco shells, and top with Cotija or vegan cheese, salsa, guacamole, and slaw.
Butter them up: lightly cooking in butter softens their aggressive flavor and brings out the natural sweetness. Halve small radishes and sauté in melted butter until tender; toss with thyme leaves and coarse sea salt, and serve hot.
23. Yellow Squash
Stuff it: slice a yellow summer squash lengthwise, scoop out the flesh, sauté with tomatoes, chopped greens, olives, and herbs, then stuff filling back into the shell. Top with cheese, and bake until tender and melty.
Turn it into a treat: add shredded celery, grated apples, raisins, and cinnamon to a basic sugar cookie recipe. Or make a sorbet: purée celery, lime, and agave until smooth, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, and freeze in an ice cream maker (if you have a juicer, start with celery juice for easier prep).
25. Green Beans
Bundle them up: green beans are much more fun when they’re served in little packets. Trim and steam green beans; during the last minute of cooking, add one bunch of green onions, green tops only. Tie one softened green onion around a bundle of 8–10 green beans; arrange bundles on a platter; and drizzle with melted butter, pesto, or roasted red pepper sauce.
Make it a milkshake: in a blender, combine pumpkin purée with ice cream of your choice, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg, and a pinch of clove. Purée until smooth and creamy; serve in tall glasses, and top with whipped cream or a drizzle of caramel sauce.
Sweeten them up: cube small, young turnips (they’re milder in flavor), and sauté in melted butter or coconut oil until just beginning to soften, then add maple syrup, salt, and black pepper; cover and steam until tender, and serve with toasted walnuts.
28. Red Cabbage
Pickle it: shred red cabbage and pack in a wide-mouth pint jar. Combine ½ cup water, ½ cup apple cider vinegar, and 3–4 tablespoons sugar or honey in a small pot; heat and stir until sugar or honey are dissolved; then pour over red cabbage. Refrigerate overnight, and serve with tacos, burgers, or salads.
29. Swiss Chard
Bake it up in a pie: it's a riff on tourte de blettes, a classic French tart popular in Nice. Steam a large bunch of Swiss chard leaves until they’re just wilted; chop and combine with golden raisins soaked in brandy, pine nuts, cubed apples, sugar, a couple of eggs, and some mild cheese. Pour into a pastry crust, top with another crust, and bake till golden.
Shave it: using a sharp vegetable peeler, shave thick asparagus stalks into long strips. Toss with minced shallots, red wine vinegar, and olive oil, then add crumbled ricotta salata or feta cheese. Top with edible flowers for an elegant touch.