I have a confession: I’m a certified nutrition expert, and on most days, I don’t like salads. This is especially true during the colder months, when my body craves warm, grounding meals instead of a cold bowl of crunchy lettuce. This doesn’t mean, however, that I don't get my daily intake of veggies, I’ve just learned to go about it the “sneaky way.”
We all know vegetables are good for us. They are nutrient-dense powerhouses that are packed with vitamins and minerals that reduce inflammation and detoxify our bodies. They supply a healthy dose of fiber that we need to keep our digestive systems, you know … going, and they contain cancer-fighting and immune-boosting phytochemicals that also help regulate our hormones.
My goal when preparing any meal is to make sure that each ingredient is adding to my health instead of detracting from it, and this always includes adding my veggies. Some of the ways I do this are fairly common and straightforward, like topping my homemade pizza with whatever spare veggies I have in the fridge, or boosting my smoothies with frozen spinach, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, or zucchini. But there are other, less common ways to sneak these nutritional gems into your diet. My go-to trio are vegetables that I call the “Sneaky 3” — cauliflower, spinach, and zucchini. These three, I find, have the most mild flavor profile and can be added to almost any dish.
Here are a few unconventional ways to add the Sneaky 3 into your diet. The trick for any of these dishes is to make sure that the vegetables are finely chopped, diced, or “riced.” I’m a big fan of always having frozen riced cauliflower on hand in the freezer. You can also finely dice or chop the zucchini and spinach and freeze them so they are always ready to add to your meals.
I know, this sounds terrible, but trust me, you can’t taste it. You can use any type of oats you like, but I find that this works best with the texture of steel-cut or Irish oats. Simply add anywhere from two tablespoons to a quarter cup of frozen cauliflower, zucchini, or spinach to the hot, cooked oats and warm through. Add your favorite topping, like cinnamon apples and almond butter.
You can really add any or all of the Sneaky 3 into your pasta sauce, especially if you are using a bolognese sauce. They’ll be wonderfully disguised, or, in my opinion, add to the texture of the sauce. Want an extra nutritional boost? Try swapping out regular noodles with a chickpea, lentil, or brown rice-based noodles instead.
If you are using rice for the base of a meal, just mix in one or all three of the Sneaky 3. This is a great trick for days when you’re especially hungry but want to be mindful of your intake.
Scramble one or all three of the Sneaky 3 veggies with your eggs, fold into your tortilla, and top with salsa, cheese, and plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.
Again, you’ll have to trust me on this one. For brownies, I would opt for either zucchini or spinach. The zucchini will add additional moisture to make your brownies even more gooey, and spinach just tucks itself into the chocolate and makes itself inconspicuous. Why not modify some of the other ingredients to make this treat really health-boosting? Instead of enriched white flour, try whole wheat, spelt, or almond flour. Try using coconut oil or olive oil instead of butter, and choose raw cacao over regular cocoa powder for a less processed, more antioxidant-rich option. The white sugar can also be traded for maple syrup or honey, but it’s important to get the ratios right when baking.