6 Great Ways to Get 5 Servings of Veggies a Day

We all know that maintaining a healthy diet is important, however not every adult or child in your family may be willing to eat the minimum of 5 different vegetables recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If that’s the case, some clever ways to hide common vegetables may be necessary. And while you’re at it, think about adding some veggies to your pup’s food, or switching to peeled carrots for a low calorie “treat” instead of tossing them “no-idea-what’s-in-it” snacks with additives.

Seemingly a bit devious, but a recent Penn State University study discovered that vamping up the veggies resulted in children consuming twice as much of the good stuff—with 115 fewer calories. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition yielded nearly the same results for adults. Below are a few ideas if you’re hoping to make your meals more healthful:

 

Lettuce roll-ups: Skip the calories in bread and make roll-ups using lettuce instead. You’ll need a broad-leaf type of lettuce such as Iceberg or Romaine, add your fillings and condiments and then roll-up. Lettuce wraps are easy to make and children will enjoy helping you prepare them, and have lots of fun eating this tasty finger food.

Make a Popeye: Kids will love this green, yummy drink with the silly name…as long as you don’t tell them that spinach is a main ingredient! This smoothie calls for 1 ripe banana, 1 teaspoon of flax, 1¼ cups of soymilk and 2 cups of spinach. Add enough ice to make the drink nice and icy and then blend until smooth. While this drink will have a green color from the spinach, the only thing your family will taste is the banana. Adults may want to add some protein powder to give this drink some extra “oomph.”

Vegetable Lasagna: Take advantage of the fact that most adults and kids love lasagna by adding in plenty of veggies. Zucchini, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms and broccoli are just a few that work well in this traditional Italian dish however you can blend the vegetables in with the marinara sauce if you have fussy foodies in your family.

Zucchini or Carrot Cake: Zucchini and carrot cake are both colorful and delicious treats that let you sneak in some vegetables under the radar. Both blend in nicely to make a moist and healthful snack food or dessert. As an added plus, most zucchini and carrot cake recipes call for 2 full cups of grated vegetables. A number of recipes for zucchini and carrot cake can be found online or in cookbooks. You can even add in some extra nutrients by pureeing zucchini or carrots into the frosting!

Puree your vegetables: One of the fastest and simplest ways to conceal vegetables is simply to puree them and then add in to various soups and stews. Vegetables can also be pureed to a creamy consistency, flavored and then used as a colorful topping for pasta or other vegetables.

A note about what constitutes a serving: Five servings of vegetables per day may seem like a lot but based on the USDA’s former Food Pyramid recommendation (recently revamped as the My Plate program) a serving of cooked or raw cut-up fruits are vegetables has been set at ½ cup. If possible, try to switch to the My Plate recommendations (myplate.gov), which suggest dividing the food plate so that one quarter is filled with vegetables while grains, proteins and fruits each comprise one quarter of the plate.

While some parents may feel that surreptitiously sneaking in a few extra vegetables is akin to dishonesty, Penn State nutrition researcher Barbara Rolls disagrees. “…Some people argue hiding vegetables in foods is deceptive and that doing so suggests that whole vegetables are not acceptable,” she said. “But I don’t agree. Parents modify recipes all the time. For example, it is well accepted that applesauce can be used to replace oil in cake batter,” she explained. With the expert’s blessing, good luck sneaking in those healthy veggies!

Photo credits: Mexicali CousCous Lettuce Wraps by norwichnuts/flickr; Carrot Cake by marnalbano/flickr.

About the Author

Tricia Stevens contributes to several mom sites. She says don’t forget Fido – small peeled carrots are a great treat for your pups and without all the calories and additives! And just for fun, check out this list of new family pet names at Moms Who Think Dog Names, and an endearing recount of fictional dog names from Wikipedia.