The Anti-Diet Guide to Enjoying Vegetables

For every person touting the benefits of green smoothies, there’s a kid out there —  the last at the dinner table — forcing themselves to eat sad, steamed cruciferous vegetables. 

Maybe you eat salads because you were told to. Or you begrudgingly tell yourself you actually like vegetables as you choke down another bite of bok choy. 

Maybe you never imagined it could be any different. 

Imagine…

…Rummaging through the fridge in search of arugula.

…Sliding your knife through a roasted cabbage coated with tahini, decorated with parsley and pomegranate aerils. 

…Folding grated, summer fresh zucchini into a chocolate to make a loaf cake. 

…Enjoying a bowl of oatmeal, mixed with carrots, raisins, ginger, brown sugar, and cinnamon. 

Though I spent my early days as a nutritionist handing out vegetable prescriptions the way my grandmother might candy, I’ve since drastically changed my approach. 

Intuitive eating, body positive, flexible eating, anti-diet, health at every size, anti-diet movement, balanced diet, holistic nutrition, toronto nutritionist, ways to eat vegetables, creative vegetable recipes. The anti-diet guide to enjoying vegetables.

 

After running through the same routine ad nauseum, I couldn’t help but wonder: what if I simply encouraged people to experiment with and derive more satisfaction from vegetables, as opposed to guilting them into filling their plates with kale salads and cooked cabbage?

What if I taught them how to make vegetables taste delicious instead of infantilizing them with arbitrary guidelines?

What if I encouraged people to consume vegetables as a relevant, meaningful part of the meal, as opposed to a side dish rendered necessary by threats of heart disease, high cholesterol, and impending doom? 

Because vegetables are sold to us as virtuous little gems of nutrition that we simply must be eating if we care at all about our health, they really run the show in the diet world. Eat all the raw vegetables you want! Celery is a zero calorie food!

When you allow your senses to dictate your food choices (and prioritize the satisfaction factor), vegetables can prove as delicious and fulfilling as a bowl of salt and vinegar potato chips. Let me show you the way. 

1 | Drizzle a sauce, dressing, or vinaigrette over top. 

Who says you’ve gotta eat those veggies plain? There’s so many delicious sauces out there to help your veg-lovin’ cause. 

Some of my favourites include: 

  • Peanut sauce (or sub another nut, such as macadamia or almond), especially over spaghetti squash, with broccoli, and in a Thai-style salad. Peanut sauce also makes an excellent accompaniment to summer rolls filled with fresh vegetables. 
  • Vinaigrettes of all kinds. I like mine very acidic, so I tend to go higher on the vinegar or citrus juice. These work well with steamed, grilled, or boiled vegetables (think potato salads, grilled peppers, streamed broccoli, boiled green beans), but are really good on…anything. This is a quick and relatively economical way to really brighten a simple vegetable dish.  
  • Pesto. Think pasta with pesto tossed with sautéed vegetables, scrambled eggs with pesto and spinach, or as a dip for raw vegetables. 
  • Ranch, caesar, and other creamy dressings. There’s dairy-based and vegan versions - I’ve yet to meet one I haven’t liked. I love dipping raw vegetables into a great dip, biting into a fantastically crispy bowl of caesar salad, or trying a delicious creamy dressing flecked with dill and other herbs. 
  • Hummus is one of my staples. In fact, I always know it’s time to head out for groceries when I’m out. There’s so many varieties to choose from; I’m personally a big fan of anything olive or spicy. Awesome with cooked or raw vegetables, as a topping to a roasted sweet potato, or added to ‘bowl meals’ (see below.)

Recipes:

Spaghetti squash noodle bowl with lime peanut sauce via The First Mess. 

Tofu and broccoli salad with peanut dressing via The Kitchn.

Roasted vegetables with tahini sauce via The Healthy Maven. 

Veggie noodle bowl with teriyaki sauce via Oh She Glows.

Vegetables with Balinese Gado Gado via My New Roots. 

2 | Roast away, baby. 

Roasting concentrates the sugars, and lends natural sweetness and complexity to vegetables. I personally find winter vegetables are best roasted (think cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage, root vegetables like beets and carrots, and winter squash like acorn or butternut), but peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and others are delicious here, too. Bonus: add a sauce to your roasted vegetables for over-the-top flavour. 

Recipes:

Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Skhug via My New Roots. 

20 Recipes for Roasted Vegetables via The Kitchn.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup via The Healthy Maven. 

The Best Roasted Vegetables Ever via The Wednesday Chef. 

Roasted Carrots with Sweet Tahini Drizzle via Nutrition Stripped. 

3 | Try “bowl food.”

I feel as though bowl food was first (officially) popularized by Sara Forte of The Sprouted Kitchen. I’m a big fan of meals served in bowls. For one thing, bowl food has that instant comfort food factor by virtue of being served in a comforting vessel (you know, the one that also holds ice cream, soup, and stews.) It also gives you the opportunity to mix several flavours, textures, and sauces, and to use up any leftovers or remaining ingredients before grocery shopping. 

Recipes:

Lemongrass Tofu Bowls via The Sprouted Kitchen. 

Bean Bowl with Poached Eggs via The Sprouted Kitchen. 

How to Build a Better Meal in a Bowl via Food52 and Sara Forte. 

Chickpea Taco Bowl via Food52. 

Chickpea Vegetable Bowl with Peanut Dressing via Food52. 

4 | Turn them into fun shapes.

While the spiralizer is commonly referred to as an ‘orthorexic tool’ by some members of the intuitive eating community, I’m personally a big fan. For one thing, spiralizers are amazingly fun — and a big part of restoring your intuitive eater instincts encourages bringing play into mealtime. Secondly, spiralizers make vegetable preparation a cinch. I enjoy a salad made by spiralized cucumber and jicama, tossed with thinly sliced mango and dressed with lime juice, salt, and chili powder. 

Recipes:

Sweet Potato Pad Thai via The Healthy Maven. 

Cucumber Noodle Salad with Avocado Dill Dressing via The Healthy Maven. 

7 Things You Can Make with a Spiralizer via Prevention. 

Crispy Baked Curly Fries via The Healthy Maven. 

Chicken Pho with Zucchini Noodles via The Healthy Maven. 

Spiralizer Greek Salad via A Pinch of Healthy. 

5 | Top with cheese and butter. 

I’ve heard so many clients mention how they would eat more vegetables…if only they could slather them in butter and cheese. There’s nothing wrong with this! Butter (and cheese, for that matter) actually help to improve absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K ) and some minerals like calcium. 

Recipes:

Mixed Vegetables in Cheese Sauce via Taste

Cheesy Vegetable Bake via Simply Delicious. 

Autumn Root Vegetable Gratin via Food52. 

6 | Transform into a sauce.

Sauces are one of my favourite ways to include vegetables. They're easy to whip up and tend to add a lot of flavour to foods. 

Recipes:

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese via Gena Hamshaw for Food52. 

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce via Nutrition Stripped. 

Thick and chunky tomato sauce (technically a fruit, but y'know) via Oh She Glows. 

7 | Stuff 'em. 

I love stuffed vegetables -- especially come summer when the market overflows with peppers and zucchini. They're usually filling, immensely satisfying, and filled with nutrition (which does matter, even if taste takes precedence in my books!) Here's a few options, though the sky really is the limit in this area. 

Recipes:

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers via Taste of Home. 

66 Savory Stuffed Vegetable Recipes via Oh My Veggies. 

9 Veggie Boats via Greatist.

Vegetable Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms via Taste Love Nourish.  

Zucchini Pizza Boats via Food Hero. 

What's your favourite way to enjoy vegetables? Are you looking forward to making any of the above? Share with us in the comments below!

Sarah Berneche

Sarah Berneche, 14 Denison Square, Toronto, ON, M5T 1K8