How to eat more vegetables is something I think about, because I regularly teach cooking classes at Rancho La Puerta (here’s when I’ll be there next), a heaven-on-earth resort where, without being strictly vegetarian, they serve a lot of delicious vegetables. Students often ask my advice for bringing that healthy habit home.
Here’s what I tell them.
1. Take a knife skills class.
This is my number one piece of advice for eating more vegetables even though it’s not about vegetables per se. I recommend it because, relative to most other foods, vegetables tend to need be dealt with before you cook them. In other words, they need chopping and cutting—and lots of it.
So the more comfortable you are with a knife, the more likely you’ll be to make and enjoy vegetables. Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots with Oregano and Lemon (pictured), perhaps.
2. Know how to use salt.
Another possibly funny thing to recommend for eating more vegetables. But relative to other foods, vegetables really need salt to taste good.
I know, I know. You’re sick of cooks telling you to add more salt to your food. But salt makes a difference—it’s what coaxes all your ingredients into contributing all they can to your dish. And vegetables tend to need more coaxing.
3. Make roasted vegetables.
I think of roasted vegetables as the gateway drug for vegetables. Why? Because roasting adds caramelization and browning. And those sweet and savory flavors make almost everything more delicious to almost everybody.
Roasting is also one of the simplest and easiest ways to prepare vegetables—another thing that makes it an easy hook.
4. Add cheese or cream.
Cheesy, creamy textures and flavors are also very compelling, so adding those qualities to your vegetable dishes is another way to make them more appealing. Cheese and cream also add fat, and fat is a flavor enhancer—so like salt, it’s another way to make your veggies more full-flavored.
It could be as simple as adding cheese to a salad or a bowlful of roasted veggies. Or as “fancy” as making a cheesy or creamy vegetable casserole or pasta dish.
Here’s a creamy vegetable gratin I created for Bon Appétit magazine.
5. Eat more salads.
This is a no-brainer, as salads are a veggie-centric food almost everyone enjoys and knows how to make without a recipe.
But in order to eat more vegetables, think of salads as meals versus side dishes. Add grains, legumes, and/or nuts to make them heartier. Or add proteins like shredded chicken or sliced steak—and you’re still likely eating a bigger proportion of vegetables to meat than if you had a chicken breast with a side salad.
Also remember that a salad doesn’t have to be about lettuce. Make veggie-heavy bean and grain salads too.
6. Eat more soup.
Soup is a great way to eat, essentially, a bowl of vegetables. It’s also a great way to feel full because of the high liquid content. Even starting a meal with soup will help you eat less of the non-vegetable parts of the meal to come.
And making soup is easy. Perhaps even better, your homemade soup, devoid of added flavors and colors and thickeners, will be a zillion times better than canned.
Eating the same thing all the time, no matter how good or good for you, gets boring. Luckily, there are dozens of different vegetables to explore and enjoy.
Never tried rutabagas? Buy some. Never had broccoli rabe or bok choy? Throw some in your shopping cart. You might discover a new favorite and, in the process, you’ll have some kitchen playtime.
A magazine editor once assigned me a piece on parsnips. I barely knew what they were! But I ended up falling in love with them, and creating some really yummy recipes along the way, including the aforementioned gratin.
So there you go.
You’re unlikely to become a voracious vegetable eater overnight, if that’s even your goal. But more is something you can do. Imagine the difference it’d make if we all just ate a little more vegetables—the difference in both our own health as well as that of the planet.
Last but not least, I can’t help recommending a visit to Rancho La Puerta. It’s very inspiring in many ways, just one of which is all the delicious ways they serve vegetables.
Recipes for eating more vegetables now and into spring:
Spinach Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
Mixed Greens with Pears, Bacon, Gruyère, and Warm Mustard Vinaigrette
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad with Arugula, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese
Wild Rice, Pear, and Sweetpotato Salad
Simple, Satisfying Minestrone Soup
Easy Artichoke Soup with Spring Herbs and Yogurt
Colorful Vegetable and Lentil Soup
Mushroom Sherry Soup
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Potatoes with Lemon and Rosemary
Roasted Cauliflower and Shallots with Oregano and Lemon
Spring Vegetable and Prosciutto Tart
Carrot Risotto with Scallions and Goat Cheese