Enjoying more fruits and vegetables each day is one of the single best things we can do to improve our health. I’ve pulled together my favorite produce hacks that will hopefully help you do just that.
Hacks To Elevate Your Meals With Produce
Elevate those easy salad kits by adding one or two more plant ingredients! For example, add a sliced pear and some blue cheese or roasted almonds to a Pear Gorgonzola Salad kit. Add diced avocado and black beans to your Southwest Chopped Salad Kit and add fresh berries and toasted walnuts to a Sweet Kale Salad Kit.
Certain fruits and vegetables make great edible vessels for appetizers and entrees! Mini sweet bell peppers cut in half work great as edible containers for appetizers, bell peppers can hold stews, casseroles, or other mixtures. Tuna or chicken salad can be served in an avocado half. Appetizers can be served on dried or fresh apricot halves, kiwi or apple slices, cooked mushroom caps or potato slices and more!
Start your day the veggie way! Be inspired by the foreign countries that serve vegetables at breakfast. For example, every time you enjoy an egg dish, automatically add some veggies to it, choose from tomatoes, onions, peppers, avocados, spinach or kale, broccoli, zucchini and mushrooms! Spinach works really well in smoothies because it has a mild flavor but you might want to avoid adding it to deep blue/red colored smoothies because Green + Blue/Red = Brown. Berries are the #1 cause of brown smoothies.
Fruit makes every breakfast better in taste, color and nutrition! Choose from fresh, frozen or dried fruit for your oatmeal or overnight oats, yogurt and chia pudding, smoothies, toast and cereal.
Discover the mushroom blend trend! Elevate the moisture and umami in your ground meat dishes by blending ground meat with finely chopped mushrooms. Mushrooms compliment the flavor of meat and extend the servings!
Elevate grilled cheese sandwiches by adding fruits and vegetables like apple and pear slices, sauteed spinach, kale or mushrooms, tomato slices, avocado or blackberries or strawberries.
Cheeseboard-friendly fruits and vegetables add crunch, color, flavor and nutrients and add a wonderful compliment to cheese, deli meat and crackers.
Use fruits and veggies as “dippers” for your favorite dips and fondue. Consider carrot coins, sliced apples, zucchini and cucumbers, jicama and bell pepper pieces for the veggies.
Add veggies and fruit to your meat or seafood kabobs to add flavor, color and nutrients and it will extend the amount of servings you get from a pound of Meat/Seafood too!
Take your mac & cheese up a nutritional notch by stirring in some veggies. Homemade or from a box, mac & cheese pairs perfectly with sauteed spinach or kale, lightly cooked broccoli or cauliflower florets or roasted zucchini or butternut squash.
Pump up your Pizza with produce! Add pizza–friendly produce like mushrooms, peppers, zucchini, spinach or kale, artichoke hearts, cherry tomatoes, broccoli, eggplant, red onions, arugula, olives or pineapple to your pizza to compliment or replace any meat toppings.
Skin in the game! Keep the skin on certain fruits and veggies because that’s where lots of the fiber and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are. So, when you can, enjoy the skin on apples, pears, potatoes/sweet potatoes, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers, etc.… and leave the skin on when using these fruits and veggies in recipes!
Make smoother mashed potatoes with the skin! Avoid those annoying large pieces of potato skin when making smashed potatoes with the skin by coarsely dicing the potatoes then micro-cook them in a covered dish until tender. Put the hot potato pieces in a mixing bowl along with some milk and seasonings and blend away!
Substitute cauliflower for half of the potatoes in your mashed potatoes. This is a great way to pair two awesome veggies and lower the carbs. You can use cooked riced cauliflower or cook cauliflower florets in the microwave and mash them with a potato masher or mixer.
Substitute all or half of the noodles in your lasagna with layers of sliced veggies. Zucchini, yams, butternut squash and eggplant all work well! The veggies will add nutrients and flavor and will reduce the carbohydrates compared to the pasta noodles.
Kill 2 birds with one stone (fruit) in your baking! Fruit puree (and canned pumpkin) adds natural sweetness and can substitute for some of the fat in the recipe! Replace up to half of the fat called for in a recipe with an equal amount of the fruit puree. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed mandarin oranges or prunes, and canned pumpkin all work really well! To make prune puree for baking, place 1 cup of pitted prunes and 1/3 cup warm water in a food processor and puree until smooth!
No egg? No problem! In some baking recipes, 1/4 cup of pureed fruit can serve as a substitute for one egg in cakes, muffins, brownies, and quick breads. Unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana, and pumpkin may work well depending on the recipe, as well as prunes or dates soaked in boiling water then pureed.
Out of sight, out of mind…Set easy-to-eat fruit and raw veggies out on the kitchen counter or dinner table when you are preparing dinner. The hungry troops (and you) will magically get some extra fruit and vegetable servings in.
Portable produce you can take with you. Certain fruits and veggies lend themselves to being grab and go options. They are self-contained and easy to eat when you are ready like mandarin oranges, apples, oranges, and bananas or fill a sealable bag with celery sticks and carrot coins.
Frozen banana soft serve in seconds! Store peeled ripe bananas in a sealable bag in the freezer then add them to a food processor or blender, along with cocoa powder, peanut butter or coconut milk to make banana soft serve in a variety of fun flavors.
Hacks To Make Produce More Fun!
Use edible stickers to add a fun twist to fruits and vegetables. Kids can even help put the stickers on themselves or parents can surprise them by putting fruits and veggies with fun stickers in their lunchbox! StickyLickits, for example, teamed up with Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World to create super fun stickers that are free from sugar, soy, dairy, nuts, gluten and artificial ingredients! The stickers work great on fruits and veggies like cut kiwi, apples, melon, bananas, zucchini and cucumbers as well as carrots, bell peppers, strawberries and oranges!
Cookie cutters are not just for cookies! Many fruits and veggies can be cut into fun shapes using mini or small cookie cutters. Melon or fruits like kiwi and apples and veggies like squash, and cooked potatoes/sweet potatoes can be sliced than press the cookie cutters onto the slices to make the shapes.
Cheese or cheese sauce makes everything more fun! Turn a mound of broccoli or cauliflower into a cheesy food adventure simply by sprinkling cheese on top or drizzling with a cheese sauce.
Fruits & veggies are more fun when the kiddos help pick them out! Have your kids help pick out fruits and vegetables they want to try or include in their meals on your shopping trip! Tasting and enjoying fruits and veggies can be a fun learning and tasting adventure. Consider produce with a surprising color or texture inside like tiger figs, kiwi, dragon fruit, purple potatoes, jackfruit, persimmon, Romanesco broccoli, etc.
Fruit + dark chocolate + nuts = flavor and nutrition harmony! There is something about this combination that delights the taste buds and brings wonderful plant compounds together in one delicious treat. Try this with mandarin orange segments, strawberries, apple, pear and kiwi slices.
Puree fruit to make mocktails or spa water! About 1/4 cup of pureed fruit works well with a cup water or sparkling water.
Food Prep/Shortcut Hacks
Got a chopstick? Then you can easily pit your cherries! Place a cherry sideways on the opening of a beverage bottle (the cherry is sit nicely on top. Take the pointy end of the chopstick and push the cherry pit through to the other side so the pit drops down into the bottom of the empty bottle. A sturdy straw will also work!
When preparing melon, cut them into wedges including the rind so people can hold onto it when eating it and it will save time during prep too!
Apple slicers are easy to use and work with pears too! They also work great on onions where you need chunks for kebobs or skewers.
Save water and water-soluble vitamins from leaching into water by micro-cooking your veggies instead of boiling them. This works especially well for all types of potatoes and artichokes. For potatoes, pierce them a couple of times each with a fork and for artichokes, cut them in half from the stem to the tip, then micro-cook halves in a covered container with 1/4 cup of water until tender.
Cut potatoes into cubes before micro-cooking for potato salad, because then you don’t have to cut them when they are hot and tender.
If you have more fruit smoothie than you need, pour it into an ice cube tray or popsicle molds and enjoy it later as a fancy ice cube in a seltzer water or mocktail or as a creamy popsicle.
Buy triple washed bags of spinach and dark leafy greens and use it uncooked throughout the week in salads and sandwiches and add it to soups, stews, casseroles, and sauté to add to pasta, eggs, and more.
Buy a container of sliced mushrooms and when you bring it home and while you are putting your groceries away, sauté them in some extra virgin olive oil with some salt free seasoning then store it in the refrigerator and use it in the next few days on burgers, sandwiches, eggs, casseroles, and quesadillas.
Keep avocado or guacamole from turning brown by covering any exposed surface with lime juice, olive oil or vodka, then cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Roasted veggies are the gift that keeps on giving! Roasting vegetables with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and herbs takes the flavor of veggies to a new level. Make a batch with your biggest sheet pan and they’ll be available to add to sandwiches, casseroles, egg dishes quesadillas and more for the next 4 days!
Grab a couple of Salad Kits at each shopping trip to use them as an easy fill-in for lunches or dinners through the week. There are lots of options to choose from featuring dark leafy greens