Mom always said we should eat our veggies. Even the government says we need to get on the ball and eat 5 servings of vegetables every day. Easier said than done, right? Veggie lovers really do have it easy. We’ve even been known to have vegetables for breakfast. But if broccoli omelets are not your thing, you might benefit from some new ideas to get more vegetables into your diet. If you are really veggie challenged, then learning how to sneak vegetables into your meals undetected would be a blessing! Two recently published cookbooks offer innovative ideas for doing just that. Though they are intended for sneaking vegetables into your children’s meals, the tactics work just as well for grown-ups. This could be fun for veggie lovers, and easy for the rest of you. You’ll never be able to say you hate veggies again!
The Sneaky Chef cookbook, written by Missy Chase Lapine, uses simple strategies for hiding healthy foods in kids’ favorite meals. Lapine begins the book with recipes for various fruit and vegetable puree mixtures, and juice blends. You can store them in the fridge or freezer, then add them to just about every recipe from bread to lasagna to brownies! Some of the mixtures include various fruits and vegetables, and are referred to by color such as the Orange Puree or Purple Puree. She also recommends straight vegetable such as White Bean Puree or Chickpea Puree. Lapine compliments each suggestion with reasons why those added ingredients are good for us and how they can help our children in particular.
Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfield, uses the same technique but with different variations. Seinfield mainly uses straight vegetable purees without combining flavors in her purees as Lapine does. Seinfield also fills the book with tips, but instead of nutrition advice, she includes parenting tips and personal anecdotes that make the book a fun read. This book includes plenty of full page color photographs that are very appetizing!
As a whole, Americans are not eating enough vegetables. While the USDA guidelines suggest at least 5 servings of vegetables per day, only 1/3 of us can say we get at least 3 servings a day. That means 2/3 of Americans are eating only 2 servings or less each day. It’s not only disappointing, but it’s downright dangerous to our health! Vegetables are more than just garnish on our plates. They are a very valuable source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and countless micronutrients that are not available in a vitamin tablet.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has done a considerable amount of research on food and disease and have determined that we need 9 or 10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a major contributor to diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and nutrient deficiency disorders relating to birth defects, mental and physical retardation, weakened immune systems, and more. According to WHO, approximately 3 million deaths per year around the world are from diseases due to inadequate fruit and vegetable intake. If this scares you not only for your own health but for your children’s health, then maybe it’s time to something about it.
Neither of these are diet books, so don’t expect to find calorie counts for the recipes. You also won’t find artificial sweeteners or highly processed ingredients. You may need to whip out your calorie counter software or book and add up the fat and calories if you include a recipe in your diet. What you’ll really walk away with is the ability to boost the nutrition content of just about any recipe, naturally and by adding very few additional calories to your meals. You’ll feel better about your meals, and your kids will never know the difference.
Which book should you choose? Both cookbooks are remarkably similar. Both cookbooks use pureed vegetables in the recipes. Both include traditional kid-friendly foods like spaghetti, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, and brownies. The Sneaky Chef offers offers to teach us a few things about nutrition, which is a definite advantage. Personally, I prefer the recipes in Deceptively Delicious because they sound better, and they make use of lower fat and lower sodium ingredients. If you get a chance, flip through both at the bookstore, or use Amazon’s browse feature to view sample pages. You might just make the jump from veggie challenged to veggie lover!
Sample recipe from Deceptively Delicious:
Macaroni and Cheese
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
Nonstick cooking spray
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nonfat (skim) milk
1/2 cup butternut or cauliflower puree
1 1/2 cups shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese (about 8 oz.)
4 oz. (almost 1/4 cup) reduced-fat or nonfat cream cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the macaroni and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain in a colander.
While the macaroni is cooking, coat a large saucepan with cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Add the oil, then the flour, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture resembles a thick paste but has not browned, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the milk and cook, stirring every now and then, until the mixture begins to thicken, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the vegetable puree, Cheddar, cream cheese and seasonings and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth. Stir in the macaroni and serve warm.