If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a handful of spinach damn well better repel telemarketers. Vegetables are a crucial part of a healthy diet, with a proven positive impact on everything from blood pressure to digestion. We all know the importance of eating our veggies; even so, it can be surprisingly tricky to eat the recommended 2.5 cups of vegetables per day, especially if you’re not wild about the taste of nature’s candy. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to sneak vegetables into everyday dishes. You might not taste them, but you’ll still reap the benefits.
Grated carrots are your friend
Grated carrots have a mild flavor that slips seamlessly into everything from meatloaf to muffins. If you like the taste, you can chuck half a cup of grated carrots onto a bulgogi bowl for an instant texture injection—but it’s also just as easy to hide the carrots in a hearty dish. No food processor? No problem. Just balance your cheese grater over a big bowl and grate the day away.
Stick veggies in a smoothie
We know, we know—this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking suggestion. But if you’re new to green smoothies, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to disguise that veggie taste in a whirlwind of fruity goodness. Try blending a handful of spinach with coconut water, then adding bananas, blueberries, and strawberries. You’ll forget the spinach is there at all.
Blend cauliflower rice with standard rice
Cauliflower gets a bad rap, probably because of its association with unfortunate diet trends. (Begone, keto!) But cauliflower rice—imitation rice made by pulsing cauliflower in a food processor—is an easy way to sneak some extra nutrients into your carb base. Try mixing your standard jasmine or basmati rice with cauliflower rice during your weekly food prep session. Chances are you’ll forget about the cauliflower altogether.
Go casserole mode
The appeal of a casserole lies in its everything-but-the-kitchen-sink nature. Mix a bunch of stuff together, throw some cheese on top, and bake for half an hour, and you’ve got a gooey conglomerate of delicious flavors. That makes it easy to add some grated carrots or shredded zucchini without changing the flavor or texture one bit.
Sneak veggies into your pizza
Yes, tomato sauce is a nice way to get in a serving of veggies—but what if you could have two servings for the price of one? Try pureeing some spinach, then spreading the spinach puree onto the pizza dough before topping with sauce. Even if you’re not wild about the flavor of spinach, you probably won’t notice it under all that sauce and cheese.
Embrace the spinach shrinkage
Spinach is notorious for shriveling up into a tiny forkful after sautéing, no matter how much you begin with. But if you’re not a fan of the taste, you can use that shrinkage to your advantage: Sauté a few handfuls of leaves in some olive oil with onion and garlic, then add the shrunken product to everything from eggs to burger patties. It’s a lot quicker and tastier than trying to down a bowl full of raw spinach leaves, and it packs the same nutritional punch.
Get freaky with your sweet potato fries
This tip comes courtesy of Takeout managing editor Marnie Shure: If you’re planning to fire up a batch of sweet potato fries, throw some peeled, quartered carrot sticks into the mix. Douse the taters and carrots in olive oil, toss them in salt and pepper, and roast. After charring the outsides and softening the insides, it’s nearly impossible to distinguish between the two.
Eat your greens for dessert
Bake your veggies into sweet breads for a devilishly nutritious after-dinner treat. Zucchini bread is a great way to use up summer veg, but you can achieve a similar effect with squash and carrots.
Sauce is a vessel for veggies
Saucy dishes like mac and cheese or spaghetti and meatballs are an excellent opportunity to get sneaky. Toss some extra veggies (spinach, mushrooms, carrots, or zucchini) into the sauce—you won’t taste a thing.
When in doubt, dump some cheese on it
Dousing veggies in cheese sauce might seem like a way to placate picky kids—but, hey, we’re not here to judge. If you’re not into the flavor of broccoli or cauliflower, adding some cheese into the mix isn’t going to compromise the nutritional value of the veggies. If it’s good enough to fool a five-year-old, it’s good enough to help you broaden your nutrient intake.