Do your love or hate your veggies? How can we make veggies more enjoyable? I think the answer is: Go for flavour!
Are you eating enough veggies?
I am certainly convinced that most of us would benefit from eating more veggies. And that's not just for the omnivores among us: in our wholefood shop we get to serve a lot of vegetarians and vegans, and it's surprising how many say that they 'don't like vegetables'. An NHS report published in 2019 found that, in the UK, on average, only 29% of adults eat the recommended 5 portions a day. At the same time, the veg wars are raging among experts: Is 5 a day enough? Should it be 10 a day, or even 30 a day?
No wonder it gets very confusing very quickly for most of us. Let's simplify things a bit - here's my take on it:
We should all eat more plants - while remembering that 'plants' are not the same as 'plant based' foods, which are almost always mass-produced and hyper-processed.
Variety is more important than quantity: Every plant and fruit has its own unique combination of nutrients, 'super food' phytochemicals and fibre, and the more of a mix we can get, the better for us. Variety in plant intake is especially important for our gut flora: each type of bug has their own favourite food, and the more different types we feed, the healthier the balance of our internal environment will be.
'Eat the rainbow' is a great concept to keep in mind when choosing foods. And if you have kids, you could even turn this into a fun game with a chart on the wall: who can eat the most colours in a day?
Still, the problem with this whole conversation is that the 'eat your veg' prescription implies a chore, something unpleasant that must be done, rather than something we want to do because it's enjoyable. So we should really be asking a different question: How can we make veggies more enjoyable? How to love your veg?
And I think the answer is this: Go for flavour!
Having grown up in Greece, in a culture where veggies are not a mere 'side dish' but the main event on the table more often than not, I automatically think 'veggies first' when cooking. A pile of colourful veggies on the plate is what I'm aiming for first. Sometimes I add meat/fish to the pot or on the side, but quite often the pile of veg is quite tasty enough!
My top tips for flavour-packed veggies:
Do not boil! (except potatoes maybe). Boiling is causing nutrients and flavour to leach into the cooking water which then gets thrown away. A crime against taste! (Even steaming causes leaching of flavour and nutrients to some degree.)
Stir fry, sauté, roast, stew or soup your veggies (ideally with plenty of high quality olive oil). All these methods intensify the flavours rather than dilute them.
Keep adding to your pot. A handful of this and that. Use up what you have. You can't go wrong here: the more different veggies, herbs and spices you add, the tastier and healthier your meal will be.
If you or your family dislike 'all these bits' in your meal put it through a blender: everything will magically disappear into a super tasty sauce, soup or curry base.
Roasting veggies intensifies their flavours: a tray of roasted veggies (with or without added extras) is a one of my favourite simple meals of all time.
Roasting is also a great treatment for a glut of watery or overripe tomatoes - the roasted tomatoes can be kept in a jar in the fridge covered in olive oil, and are a really handy (and flavour packed) base for a quick sauce, soup or topping.
And now over to you:
Do you have any favourite veggie tips to share? Come on, share your veggie secrets!