By Becca Janda, registered dietitian at CHOC
Including more vegetables in our diet can have loads of health benefits. They are packed with vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and offer more micronutrients per calorie than any other food group. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends getting in 2.5 -3 cups per day. Here are a few creative ways to add more servings of veggies to your weekly routine—you may not even notice they are there!
Rice is a staple ingredient in American home cooking and countless other ethnic cuisines. A new product you may be seeing in the produce or frozen section of your local grocery store is cauliflower “rice.” It is created from shredding or processing cauliflower into small little “rice-size” pieces that closely resemble white rice using a food processor or even a hand cheese grater. This “rice” can be substituted in place of real rice OR in combination with real rice as a nutritious addition to many of the recipes you currently make at home. Just by swapping out 1 cup of white rice with 1 cup of cauliflower rice you increase the fiber content of your dish from 0.5g to 3g per cup. You’ll also eliminate 100 calories considering just one cup of white rice contains almost 150 calories whereas cauliflower rice has only 33! Cauliflower rice has been making headlines in cooking magazines & health food blogs alike. Just one search on Pinterest will bring up numerous recipe options including cauliflower fried rice, cauliflower pizza crust, even cauliflower hashbrowns—the list goes on. One tip to remember when you start using it in place of rice—the goal is to keep the texture slightly firm to ensure it maintains the mouth-feel of rice. To do this, make sure to add it at the end of cooking, just to warm it up and slightly soften it.
Dark leafy greens are packed full of nutrients crucial to our health and wellbeing. They are high in calcium, iron, potassium, Vitamin A and other phytonutrients which act as antioxidants. Many of us feel stumped on how to include them in our diets: we cook them in soups, eat them in our salads, and some of us avoid them altogether because we don’t like the taste. One delicious way to include them in one more meal of the day is to enjoy them in a smoothie! Next time you’re making yourself a smoothie with blueberries and other fruit, try throwing in a cup of spinach or other mild flavored green. Once blended, you may not even notice it’s there! You can also add shredded carrots to your tropical smoothies: just throw a handful in your blender with some frozen banana, mango, and pineapple. They are delicious and packed with fiber and beta-carotene, which helps maintain healthy skin and boost eye health.
Butternut squash “cheese” sauce
Most of us can admit to craving cheesy comfort-food staples like macaroni and cheese or cheesy baked potatoes at one point or another. Next time the craving hits you, consider using this butternut squash “cheese sauce” recipe to boost your veggie intake while indulging your craving. Butternut squash is a great source of fiber, potassium, and vitamins A & C. Its beta-carotene content gives it the look of orange cheddar cheese which makes it a perfect vegetable to sneak into those cheese-heavy recipes. The sauce consists of cooked butternut squash pureed with onion, garlic, chicken stock, seasoning and a little bit of butter. When you’re ready to use it in your recipes, heat it up until warm enough to melt cheese into it and add a small amount of milk. Poor it over baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, or bake it into some elbow macaroni pasta. And there you have it, comfort food remodeled with some hidden veggies! See recipe below.
Recipe for butternut squash cheese sauce:
2 ½ cups butternut squash, cubed
½ yellow or white onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 ½ cup chicken stock (or broth)
1 Tbls Butter or olive oil
2 Tbls all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
1 ½ – 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in pan on medium heat, add onions and cook until translucent. Add butternut squash, garlic, and chicken stock; bring to a boil and cook until squash is softened, about 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully transfer ingredients to standing blender or use an immersion blender to puree ingredients until smooth and creamy. Return to pan and reheat on low-medium. Add milk. Coat the shredded cheese with flour before stirring it into sauce small handfuls at a time until fully melted. Use more milk or chicken stock to get sauce to a desired consistency. Season to taste.
Recipe adapted from All Recipes.