A gluten-free blog about the life of a celiac in college (and now grad school). Full of personal stories about life with celiac disease and fibromyalgia; gluten free, vegan and paleo recipes; and product and restaurant reviews. Plus, reflects on body image, dating and more with a chronic illness!
Vegetables. Everyone needs them, but few claim to like them. Before my celiac diagnosis, the only green likely to land on my plate was iceberg lettuce - more for the crunch, than the nutritional benefits!
Me with the largest zucchini ever!
Now, though, I'm a self-professed veggie groupie. (To the point of regularly buying six+ zucchinis during my weekly grocery trips. Luckily, the cashiers are too nice - or tired - to judge!). And, while I may not be able to make people fall in love with Brussels sprouts, I do have five tips to vamp up the daily veggies!
1. First, start with ninja (AKA neutral) veggies like spinach or green beans. True, most of my meals now feature vegetables as one of the stars, versus a back-up dancer. If someone has previously been eating limited greens, though, don't throw kale at them right away! Instead, like with children, "hide" neutral veggies inside typical meals.
A few of my favorite sneaky ways...
This can mean adding spinach to homemade turkey burgers (as my mom now does!), throwing green beans, squash or greens on pizza, or even using sweet potatoes as makeshift "fries" with dinner. These small changes may not seem significant at first - but embracing more neutral veggies can trigger more vegetable curiosity and diversity in the future.
2. Next, experiment with different cooking techniques. For years, I thought I hated green beans. They were too salty, too squishy, and too, just, gross! Then, I tried freshly made green beans (versus the canned kind) - and I now eat them at least once a day! The way vegetables are cooked dramatically affects the flavor, so try out different techniques before throwing out your latest produce purchase.
Veggie mac and cheese anyone?
My go-to cooking methods? Roasting is an easy way to add earthy, charred flavor to vegetables - from heartier versions like sweet potato to delicate squash. For a different texture, I also love spiralizing or cutting my veggies into strips. Saute them in chicken stock till tender, add some sauce (I love my beet greens pesto or homemade vegan cheese), and a makeshift pasta is served!
3. When in doubt, throw them in a smoothie! I'll admit I'm more adventurous in this category than others. In fact, my favorite smoothie additions are frozen slices of zucchini and squash, celery or cucumber, as well as beet for a punch of pink color.
For smoothie and veggie beginners, start out by adding increasing amounts of greens (I love spinach and chard) to your smoothie. You never know what you might try and like next! (Though my dad, who just recently joined the smoothie club, still cringes and asks what makes mine "so green." Baby steps!).
4. As I've learned, don't immediately knock the popular veggie "fads." Ever since I returned to school, my oatless oatmeal has rejoined my breakfast routine - mainly because it's a lot easier to eat in class than smoothies! I'd read about adding shredded zucchini to oatmeal for extra volume and nutrients, but figured the magazines were exaggerating that it couldn't be tasted.
And then I tried it. And realized I was oh-so-wrong! An extra dose of veggies that turns my breakfast into a fluffy never-ending bowl? I should've - and could've - jumped on that food truck ages ago! Moral of the story? Don't immediately discount a veggie tip or trick just because it's "popular." Sometimes the strangest ideas turn out the best! (Like starting this blog!)
5. Finally, if you do everything "right" - starting out slow, trying different cooking methods, and even tossing it in the blender - and you still don't like it? Don't eat it!
Adding more veggies is a way to enhance your diet, but it has to be sustainable. After a year of adopting a more vegetable-heavy diet, I can honestly say I enjoy what I eat. Do I also love chocolate and sunflower butter and cookies? Definitely! But, now that I've found the vegetables I enjoy, I crave them along with sweets.
Lots of food...and silly faces!
Despite their reputation, vegetables don't have to be dietary villains. Just like every other food group, they just need some TLC to fit the individual's flavor preferences.