How to Make Tastier Veggies

To help boost your chances for good health, nutritionists recommend eating more fruits and vegetables. Eating two to four cups of fruit and three to five servings vegetables a day may lower your risk for heart disease and some cancers, and bolster your immune system.

Adding more fruit to our diet is easy for most of us. It's the vegetables that hang up many people. Think Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and other strong-tasting vegetables.

It's common for people to turn up their nose at vegetables. Experts report that all of us are born with a sweet tooth that can turn us away from vegetables.

Sensitive to strong taste

Many of us also have a "bitter tooth"—a chemical sensitivity to the sulfurous compound found in strong-tasting veggies. The compound, called Phenylthiocarbamide or PTC, may leave a bitter taste in those who are sensitive to it.

It's one thing to have a lifetime aversion to vegetables. But many people start losing their taste for vegetables around age 55, when we start to lose our sense of smell. The result? If you can't smell that sweet corn, you can't taste it either.

Veggies are still good enough for you that, even if it requires a dab of maple syrup on your asparagus to make it go down easier, it's worth it, experts say.

If despite all your efforts, vegetables still leave you gagging, try fruit instead. Just remember that fruits offer roughly the same nutritional benefit as vegetables but usually have more sugar and calories.

Here are five vegetable-friendly tips that might convince you to take another look at this vital part of a complete diet:

Try a sneak attack

Use shredded zucchini instead of bread crumbs to bind a meatloaf. Add chopped vegetables to spaghetti sauce, taco filling, and macaroni and cheese. Add mixed vegetables to canned vegetable soup, and you'll have several tasty servings.

Look for unexpected opportunities

Take leftovers from the previous day, pack into a pita pocket and cover with low-fat ranch dressing. Have peeled baby carrots as a snack.

Find vegetables in the form you like

That could mean fresh, frozen, or canned. Many people who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s may actually prefer canned vegetables. Rinse canned vegetables prior to cooking them to lower the salt content.

Don't be overwhelmed

Five servings a day? Don't panic. Remember, a serving is only 1/2 cup of chopped cooked or raw vegetables, 3/4 cup of vegetable or fruit juice, or one cup of leafy greens. Remember a large salad with several vegetables counts as more than one serving.

Make it convenient

Keep frozen vegetables in resealable bags. Frozen veggies often keep longer than fresh and may be in better condition.

Five vitamin-packed veggies

Which five vegetables pack the best vitamin wallop? We asked several nutrition experts, and here's what they say:

  • Broccoli. A 1/2 cup of broccoli packs more than the entire recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C, half your RDA of vitamin A, and respectable quantities of calcium and iron—all at about 20 calories.

  • Carrots. Rich in beta-carotene, which becomes vitamin A in the body, a single carrot provides more than twice the RDA of vitamin A we need. Beta-carotene in food also may protect against cancer.

  • Kale. One cup of cooked kale contains all the vitamin C you need in a day, most of the vitamin A, plus healthy amounts of B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, calcium, and even iron, which one of the more difficult nutrients to get in adequate quantities.

  • Tomatoes. OK, so it's really a fruit. But fruit or veggie, a medium-sized, deep red tomato gives you half of your RDA for vitamin C, a fourth of your RDA for vitamin A, and a good dose of potassium, which is critical for healthy muscles.

  • Kidney beans. A 1/2 cup of cooked kidney beans provides generous amounts of B vitamins and 26 percent of the RDA of iron, with only 100 calories and a very low price tag.