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How to get more veggies into your diet

Aunt Toby is NOT here today to flog y’all with the ‘you ought to eat more green stuff’ message.

We all know it. It’s like flossing your teeth. And we don’t do it and we don’t do it and we feel guilty and then we go to the doctor and the doctor tells us we need to eat more fruits and veggies and we go round and round and do that dance and in the end… it’s still burgers and fries, right?

Right. And if we have kids in the house, it’s even worse.

So, here’s the deal — let’s start with what works, especially if you have kids.

First Principals: If you have kids at home and you don’t eat veggies, they will not eat veggies. If you have babies at home, then you have your best shot at getting them to eat veggies by feeding them veggies off your plate. Mommy and Daddy eat veggies – it’s safe for YOU to eat veggies.

Second Principal: If you have kids at home and no one eats veggies, then the job has to be more sneaky. I know a lot of people despise the whole ‘hiding veggies in stuff kids like to eat already’ scenario, but I have to tell you: It really is more important to get the good food into them rather than turn mealtime into a battle of wits and guilt. Later, you can separate out the carrots and onions and broccoli; for now, just get the good stuff into the family.

So, where to start?

Start with what they will eat. If you have a kid who will only eat mac n’ cheese out of a box (and goodness I think there are millions of those kids), chop up some broccoli really fine, ‘nuke’ it in the microwave with a little water, drain it and mix it into the mac n’ cheese and serve it up. Yes, the first time, you will get a dubious look and a ‘What’s this?” from Buffy and Junior. The answer: It’s parsley for decoration – can’t taste a thing but it makes it pretty. Eat it up!” Pretty soon, you can turn that into a broccoli n’ cheese on top of baked potatoes and then broccoli and cheese as a side dish and then good old broccoli by itself and then use it in other things like Chinese food and off we go.

So, let’s start with breakfast. Now, getting family members to eat a decent breakfast is almost like splitting the atom on the kitchen counter. If you can get people to grab something as they race out the door for work or the school bus, it’s almost a miracle. Here’s something easy, quick and fast. Literally, they can have this eaten and be wiping their mouths before they get on the bus:

Breakfast roll-ups:
What you’ll need: chopped up left over veggies from last night’s dinner. If you don’t have any, make it your business to zap some the night before and put them in the fridge.
Grated cheese – anything will do – cheddar, Mozarella, whatever.
Something to wrap it up in – aluminum foil, plastic bag, whatever.

How To:
Scramble up an egg per person.
Lay out a tortilla, put in veggies, scrambled eggs and some cheese.
Roll up and nuke for 1 minute. Wrap and hand to the child or person running out the door with a napkin.

If you want to do this for a lunch, add a big handful of rinsed spinach or other greens to the tortilla (get a big bag of mixed greens at the grocery store, immediately rinse the whole thing well when you get it home and put into a big plastic bag – all ready to use).

How about dinner? Now, dinner requires more organization. I cannot emphasize enough that it’s worth doing things on the weekend to save you time during the week. No one wants to get home from work at 5:30 (or 6:30 or 7:00) and stare into the fridge and try to come up with something. Even getting veggies chopped and put into plastic bags will save you oodles of time on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. But, here are some time-saving, veggie-ful ideas:

Pizza (and by the way, the photo at the top is of the prepped veggies that I put onto a pizza crust for a fast dinner along with some tomato sauce and cheese): If your family eats frozen pizzas (and I’m not going to get into the whole judgement thing on this, ok?), then cut up more peppers, onions, and mushrooms and throw those on top with more cheese and bake per the directions. If your family will eat a ‘make your own pizza’ with home made or commercial ‘out of the dairy case’ crust, so much the better. More color means more veggies.

Spaghetti (or other pasta) with tomato sauce: Chop up onions, carrots, celery, broccoli in weeny chunks and cook through in the tomato sauce. Trust me: kids will eat this up.

Chinese stir fry: Peppers, onions, broccoli, carrots, celery, finely shredded cabbage. All good and kids will eat that up. Want to really surprise them? Make pot stickers full of veggies and serve with a dipping sauce by using egg roll wrappers.

Salad: I love bagged greens. I can’t say enough that I think bagged mixed greens in the produce section of the grocery store is great stuff. Buy a bag of that, some tomatoes, cucumber, and peppers. Rinse the greens well and drain, add the other veggies. Be adventurous and throw in a chunked up washed apple or an orange. Serve salad at every dinner. No exceptions even if you are serving other veggies.

We’re all busy – and sometimes it seems that it’s all we can do to put anything on a plate for a meal, which makes it very easy to get into the convenience food rut. But it’s worth putting a little prep time to put more veggies on the plate with everything else your family is getting.

You know you want to.

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  1. Shiphrah says:

    To make the bagged greens last longer, line the bag with paper (or waffle weave cloth) towels. They soak up the excess water and keep the greens from turning into slime as fast as otherwise. Actually, I use this trick on all pre-cut veggies.

  2. Toby Wollin says:

    Shiphrah – I KNEW I should have said something about that. We ‘hoover’ up greens so fast that I usually don’t have the issue, but you are definitely correct. Thank you for mentioning.

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