18 Ways Nutritionists Sneak More Vegetables Into Their Diet

Updated: Jun. 10, 2024

For anyone who needs a little inspired flair to get their ruffage, healthy eating experts share their own simple, exciting (really!) secrets to eat more vegetables.

zucchini muffins in a pam
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Here’s how many servings of vegetables should you eat in a day

“I recommend a minimum of five per day,” advises Julia Zumpano, RD, LD, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition. This recommendation aligns with the American Heart Association’s guidance to aim for four to five servings of both fruits and vegetables daily, based on a 2,000 calorie-per-day diet.

For reference, this translates to about two to three cups of vegetables each day.

Sherri Flynt, RD, a registered dietitian and regional outpatient nutrition manager at the AdventHealth Diabetes Institute, adds, “Of the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, you should aim for at least three of them to be non-starchy vegetables.” Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, peppers, and broccoli, are emphasized because they are lower in calories and higher in essential nutrients and fiber than starchy vegetables like peas, corn, and potatoes.

Here’s what happens to your body when you start eating more vegetables

Scientific evidence continues to grow on the positive impacts of eating more vegetables. Emily Haller, RD, a registered dietitian and manager for diabetes education at AdventHealth, highlights a key benefit: “Eating more vegetables will increase your fiber intake, which helps slow the rate at which food empties out of your stomach.” This leads to a steadier energy supply, keeping your levels up until your next meal or snack.

Another significant benefit relates to gut health. Our gut houses trillions of microorganisms that are crucial to overall health. “Eating more vegetables provides these microorganisms with beneficial carbohydrates, phytochemicals, and fiber, keeping them happy and healthy,” notes Haller.

Vegetables also contribute to better skin health. While we often hear about sunscreen and lotions for protecting our skin from the outside, vegetables help keep our skin healthy from the inside due to their anti-inflammatory properties. “While eating more vegetables may not make wrinkles disappear, they can help minimize skin damage (inflammation) caused by smoking, too much sun, stress, and not getting enough sleep,” says Haller. Additionally, vegetables are a good source of water, aiding in hydration, which is essential for skin health.

Research indicates that eating vegetables may positively impact sleep. “One of the reasons may be the magnesium found in vegetables, as this has been associated with a calming effect which may help improve sleep. It may also be the calcium. Calcium is known to help the brain use tryptophan to produce melatonin, and melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate sleep-wake cycles,” explains Haller.

Ahead, we’ve consulted with nutritionists who’ve shared their top strategies for integrating more vegetables into meals, offering both on-the-go and creative solutions that you may not have considered before. (Because we love a good salad…but you can only eat so many of them each week, right?)

100% Lamb -Greek Meatball Platter with veggies mixed in
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How to eat more vegetables

Mix vegetables into meatballs or meatloaf

Meat lovers, we’ve got you. For anyone who’d find veggies more appealing if they were added to some good, filling animal protein, Zumpano has a suggestion: Puree vegetables or mince them finely and blend them into your meatball or meatloaf recipes. Some clever Italian parents add shredded carrot, zucchini or spinach to their beef for meatballs, which is a sneaky and delicious way to get little ones to eat their greens.

Zumpano offers additional ideas like mushroom and peppers, while cauliflower rice can work beautifully, too.

green spinach cake in a pan
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Bake a cake

You read that right—but our experts suggest you think of it like a vegetable torte instead of a cake. Pureeing green beans and blending them with onion, olive oil and egg is a deliciously decadent side, just as spinach pie combined with garlic, onion, and an egg folds nicely between simple dough.

Another take on this is a simple veggie-loaded quiche poured easily into pie crust. Tomato, mushroom, eggplant, broccoli, or zucchini all bring lots of flavor and fullness.

Green spinach smoothie
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Add veggies to a smoothie

Smoothies aren’t just for breakfast, and blending a frothy fruit smoothie for dessert can convince even a grownup to get some healthy end-of-day nutrients. Flynt suggests “a handful of baby spinach” can easily enhance your smoothie experience, loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Incorporating vegetables like frozen zucchini, carrots, or beets into your smoothie recipes can offer a significant nutritional upgrade for those eager to explore other options. These veggies mix well with fruits and protein bases, disguising their taste while turning your smoothie into a powerhouse of dietary fiber and essential nutrients.

Healthy vegan wraps on a plate on white background
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Tuck vegetables into sandwiches and wraps

Enhance your sandwiches and wraps by layering in more greens. “The darker the greens, the more valuable nutrients,” Flynt points out. If you’re wondering which greens to select, consider spinach, kale, arugula, red-leaf lettuce, or romaine as they offer more nutritional benefits than iceberg lettuce.

Also, many experts consider watercress the healthiest vegetable you can eat.

Carrot Oatmeal Muffins
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Veggie-packed breads and muffins

For those who enjoy a classic breakfast muffin, Zumpano offers a clever method for boosting your on-the-go meals with extra vegetables. Consider baking breads or muffins incorporating ingredients like pumpkin, carrot, or zucchini. These options add a nutritious element and bring moisture and natural sweetness to your baked goods, making them both healthier and deliciously satisfying.

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Whether or not the cartoon about adorable rat chefs is your taste, this rustic recipe will be. Don’t be intimidated by the picture-perfect images of ratatouille recipes you see online—simply coat a pan in olive oil, pile easily sliceable vegetables into it, add some onions or garlic and a jarred pasta sauce with clean ingredients. Our team’s seen kids and grownups clean their plates thanks to this dish.

mashed cauliflower with butter
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Mash them up

For those who are fans of mashed potatoes, Flynt suggests a nutritious alternative: Mashed cauliflower. To ease the transition, consider starting with a blend of half-mashed potatoes and half-mashed cauliflower.

King Trumpet Mushroom and Quinoa Pizza
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Salad pizza

We meant what we said! Whether you’re a fan of summer pizza on the grill or just a yummy cauliflower crust from the supermarket frozen aisle, elevate the experience by tossing arugula, fresh tomatoes, and cannellini beans in a clean salad dressing and topping your pizza while it’s nice and hot.

Trader Joe’s sells cans of “Greek chickpeas” that lend themselves wonderfully to this dish and provide added protein. (And if you add some extra cheese before sending your pizza into the heat, we won’t tell anyone!)

Farfalle pasta with pumpkin sauce and parmesan cheese decorated with rosemary on a black ceramic plate. Creamy cheesy vegan pumpkin pasta. Kitchen counter top.
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Add them to your favorite pasta sauce

Puree cooked broccoli or cauliflower and mix it into your favorite jarred marinara sauce for a nutritional boost. Zumpano suggests another great option: Pureeing butternut squash.

Fresh Zoodles with tomato sauce
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Veggie noodles

Looking for a pasta alternative? Flynt suggests trying out veggie noodles, such as spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, commonly known as “zoodles.” These options offer a delightful way to reduce carbs and increase your vegetable intake. As an added bonus, pair these veggie noodles with the same veggie pasta sauce mentioned earlier for a doubly nutritious and delicious meal—what a power-packed complement to any protein main.

 Grilled Veggie Kebabs
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Grilled veggie kebabs

Skewer various colorful vegetables like bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, and red onions, then grill them to perfection. This method enhances the natural flavors of the vegetables and adds a delicious smoky char. Enjoy these kebabs as a side dish, or pair them with your favorite protein.

Cauliflower rice with herbs and lemon juice in a white bowl
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Cauliflower rice

Just as you can substitute mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower, you can also replace regular rice with cauliflower rice. This veggie-filled alternative works wonderfully as a side dish or with stir-fry.

Vegetable organic chips made from potatoes, beets and carrots in a white plate for a snack, top view.
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Veggie chips

For those who enjoy snacking on potato chips, consider a healthier alternative: Making veggie chips. Zumpano suggests roasting vegetables to create delicious options like kale, okra, or turnip chips. This method allows you to satisfy your chip cravings while adding the nutritional benefits of vegetables.

Bowls of salsa with corn chips on white, marble background
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Savory vegetable dips

Elevate your snack game by preparing sauces or dips from vegetables. Zumpano recommends trying options like bruschetta, salsa, spinach hummus, or kale pesto. These dips offer a burst of flavor and pack a nutritional punch. Pair these vegetable-based dips with crunchy veggies like carrots and celery instead of traditional pita or crackers for an added health benefit.

Omelette stuffed with mushrooms , tomatoes and parsley
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Add them to omelets or frittatas

If you have leftover vegetables from the previous night’s dinner, Zumpano suggests a delicious way to repurpose them: Toss those veggies into an omelet or frittata the next morning. This minimizes food waste and enhances your breakfast with added flavor and nutrition. Bell peppers, spinach, mushrooms, and tomatoes are especially good choices that blend well in these egg-based dishes.

Raw quinoa stuffed sweet peppers in a cast iron skillet. Top view. Healthy, vegetarian food concept
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Stuffed vegetables

Hollow out vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or tomatoes and fill them with a tasty mixture of other veggies, grains, and spices. Bake until everything is beautifully melded together.

Glass of fresh beetroot juice garnish parsley on grey,Romania
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Veggie mocktails

Create refreshing mocktails using vegetable juices. Mix beet juice with ginger and apple for a zesty kick, or blend carrot juice with orange, mint, and a splash of lemon.

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