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It’s an all-too-familiar cycle: You stock up on loads of tasty-looking veggies at the store—only to have them wilt, rot, or go soggy by the end of the week. Regardless of your best intentions, they don’t seem to make it to your table.
And you’re not alone there. More than 90% of folks in the US don’t eat enough of them, according to the CDC. That’s a problem, since produce brings lots of flavor to your plate and serious benefits to your body. “Vegetables are incredibly nutrient-dense,” Jessie Shafer, RDN, a Denver-based registered dietitian, tells SELF. “They’re important for our health because they have high amounts of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.”
The good news is that you can take tons of tiny steps to gradually start eating more of them—and no, you don’t need to channel your inner Martha Stewart to get it done. We’ve rounded up a bunch of simple and delicious ideas that’ll make clearing out your crisper a breeze.
1. Focus on adding veggies into one meal at a time.
Take it slow: You don’t want to go overboard trying to force them into breakfast, lunch, and dinner from the get-go. So start with just one instead, and why not make it your morning meal? Front-load veggies first thing so you can spend the rest of your day knowing you got some greens in.
2. Blend them in your morning smoothie.
Speaking of veggie-filled breakfasts: If you choose your produce wisely, you may not even taste it in your shakes.“Frozen cauliflower and spinach are two of the most common veggies used in smoothies for a reason: Their mild flavor gets masked very quickly with any fruit, nut butter, or nutritional powder,” Shafer says.
3. Chop them into a breakfast hash.
Cube your go-to root veggies, like sweet potatoes, carrots, or parsnips, and sauté them until tender with other tasty mix-ins, like onions and peppers. Then throw in more delicious add-ons, like a fried egg, sausage crumbles, or spicy salsa, to level up your hash even more.
4. Bake your veggies into bite-size egg muffins.
This meal prep-friendly hack will help you eat practically any veggie in the morning. Grab a muffin pan and spray with nonstick oil, add your precooked produce (like peppers, spinach, plantain, or tomatoes), and pour egg batter on top before baking, Shafer says. They reheat super well for breakfast on the go.
5. Make a mighty side salad you’ll want to eat.
“Adding a small daily salad to lunch or dinner is a great habit to get more antioxidant-rich leafy greens,” Shafer says. It all starts with finding your go-to base: If you prefer less bitter greens, reach for lettuce or spinach; if you gravitate toward bolder flavors, snag some arugula or radicchio, she explains. Swap in new dressings or crumbly cheeses to save your side from getting stale.
6. Experiment with new-to-you veggies.
You may just find an option you actually love, which beats forcing yourself to eat ones that just don’t appeal to you. Take root vegetables: If beets or radishes have always given you the ick, try out a different variety, like jicama or cassava. There are tons of different kinds, and each has its unique flavor and texture, Shafer says. Challenge yourself to test a new kind each month so you can find the right one for your palate.
7. Spiralize them for your favorite pasta recipe.
Buy a spiralizer ($17, Amazon) and transform zucchini, sweet potatoes, and beets into noodles. Top it off with your favorite sauces, like a bolognese or pesto, and don’t forget the buttery garlic bread to really make the meal complete.
8. Try a farmers market instead of a chain store.
There’s nothing tastier than in-season heirloom tomatoes, colorful Swiss chard, or fresh basil, and no better way to get them when they’re at their best than at a farmers market. An added bonus? You might leave with some delicious recipe recs from the growers who know the veggies best.
9. Bake them in a savory pastry.
Sauté some plantain, tomatoes, or spinach and fill them into a flaky empanada—no need to spend time making the dough yourself, since the kind from the freezer section works just fine. Stuff it with other ingredients, like hearty black beans or cheese, to add even more flavor and heartiness.
10. Purée legumes into a hummus.
You probably have cans of beans or chickpeas collecting dust in your cabinet. Use them up! Blend with veggies like roasted sweet potatoes or bell peppers to make a hummus. “[Dips] can enhance and make any meal a little bit more fun without breaking the bank,” Rhyan Geiger, RDN, a Phoenix-based registered dietitian and founder of Phoenix Vegan Dietitian, tells SELF.
11. Save time by snagging prewashed and chopped veggies.
Sure, they may cost a little more, but having them at the ready can make you more likely to actually reach for them for dinner or snack time, Shafer says. Toss chopped lettuce in a burrito bowl, shaved Brussels sprouts in a stir-fry, or pre-washed spinach into a dip.
12. Hide them in your juice.
Make your veggies even more hydrating by turning them into a homemade beverage. Try some refreshing combos like mango and celery or apple and ginger, and prep a big enough batch to keep in your fridge for an easy-access nutrient-rich juice.
13. Stew harder-to-chew veggies into soups or curries.
If you’re not a fan of overly crunchy produce like cabbages or Brussels sprouts, try using them in recipes that’ll soften their texture, Shafer says. For example, add green beans or collard greens into a stew or curry so they cook down and don’t need much chewing.
14. Level up those canned soups sitting in your pantry.
A can of soup is an easy weekday lunch, but some can be a little…skimpy. Add heartiness (and extra veggies) by tossing in broccoli or cabbage and letting it simmer to soften; that way, you can have a more filling lunch on the table stat, Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, an NYC-based registered dietitian, tells SELF.
15. Add them to your favorite handheld.
Burgers or burritos are perfect vessels for extra produce. “These dishes typically include flavorful spices and proteins that work together [with veggies] for well-balanced bites and a variety of textures,” Shafer says. Make tasty, nutrient-packed tacos or wraps by folding in sautéed zucchini, spinach, tomatoes, leeks, Swiss chard, or peppers into your ground beef or turkey.
16. Turn them into pesto.
Blend veggies like spinach or peas with cheese, olive oil, and nuts—pine are classic, but you can also try almonds for a cheaper route—to make a delicious pesto. Slather it on grilled meats and fish or pour over pasta to add flavor, Shafer says.
17. Rice your favorite veggies.
Use a food processor to turn cauliflower or broccoli into rice. It mimics the texture of the grain, making it the perfect side for your meals. Stuff it into a burrito packed with hearty fillings or plate it alongside some grilled chicken.
18. Cut them up into bite-size snacks.
Spend some free time chopping veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and jicama into sticks, and store them in some meal-prep containers in the fridge for whenever you need an easy snack. Dunk them in a creamy hummus or onion dip for a little boost.
19. Bake them in a nostalgic and cozy casserole.
Casseroles soften hearty produce, like sweet potatoes or squash, since they require a long time in the oven, says Shafer. Pick a recipe your family swears by—you already know it’ll be a hit—and up the veggie quota even more by adding in a few scoops of frozen carrots or peas too.
20. Give plant-based dishes a shot.
Yep, even if you’re not a vegetarian or trying to eat vegan: Starting small with meatless Mondays can be a great way to build a habit of eating more veggies. Try swapping out steak for mushrooms, which have a similar meatier texture and flavor, or add cauliflower or eggplant to recipes like curries or stir-fries instead of a protein. Then, you can gradually increase the number of vegetable-based dishes you dig into each week until it becomes a consistent habit.
21. Mix them into the batter of your favorite baked goods.
Your mind might automatically go the savory route when you think about eating more veggies, but produce can help improve the texture of your favorite baked goods, too. Try grating zucchini into your muffin batter for a moist pastry or add eggplant to your brownie mix to make it fudgier.
22. Just douse them in your favorite sauce.
No, you’re not taking the easy way out by turning to dressings or dips. Cheese sauce or ranch simply makes veggies come alive, and if that makes you enjoy eating them, then do it up! Anything that stops those greens from going bad in your fridge is a win in our books.
Originally Appeared on SELF