Add Veggies, Subtract Calories

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I cook a lot of dinners at home. I don't consider myself to be a great chef, because I've never been one to throw some ingredients together to create a meal. I feel most comfortable when I don't have to deviate from a recipe, which is why I'm always on the lookout for good cookbooks. I like cookbooks that have simple, healthy recipes. I don't want meals that are loaded with sodium and saturated fat, especially since I'm cooking for my 4 and 2-year old.

I've had a lot of success with cookbooks like The Sneaky Chef or Deceptively Delicious, not because they try to hide vegetables in the food, but because the recipes are generally healthy and something standard that my kids will try. I like to be very upfront with my kids about what they are eating. If my daughter asks "What's in this?" I never lie. Even if there are things in it I know she doesn't like, I'll tell her anyway. Most of the time she'll still try it, because she knows I'm not trying to fool her into eating something she won't want.

I know adding more vegetables to my family's diet is good for their overall health. New research shows that adding hidden vegetables to foods can also help cut calories. The small study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included men and women who ate in a laboratory once a week for three weeks. "Unknown to the diners, back in the kitchen cooks were slipping in vegetables that had been steamed and then pureed -- cauliflower, squash or carrots, depending on the entree -- to some of the main dishes. The result was a helping of food that was either 15 percent or 25 percent vegetable by weight, although it looked, tasted and otherwise resembled the original."

Some diners were given entrees that did not include the extra vegetables. Both groups ate about the same amount, but the group eating more vegetables reduced their daily intake by as much as 360 calories- and also got the added veggie boost at the same time. Only a few of the participants said they could actually taste the extra vegetables.

Cutting 360 calories per day out of your diet can help you lose almost a pound per week. So if you're not a fan of vegetables but you're trying to lose weight, this could be a strategy to try.

What do you think? Have you ever tried making dishes from cookbooks like these? Have you had success?

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GEORGE815 10/24/2017
To help my veggie count I have been including vegetables in my daily scramble. Great way to start the day. Report
Yes I have and my elderly parents loved the last one I made. I made the black bean brownies.. they were great, yes I altered the recipe and really it was due to an accident in the ingredients, however they came out awesome and were like a fudgey brownie.. :D Report
I actually really like vegetables, so I never really thought about "sneaking" them in. That's not to say I won't try it though! I think adding purees is a good idea, and I think I'll try it just to change things up and experiment with texture. Report
I will try Sneaky Chef. I like vegetables but always looking out for different ideas to increase intake Report
I like to make homemade chicken noodle soup whenever I have a carcass to make stock. To thicken the soup, I add a small grated potato the last ten min or so. Adds the veggie, cooks up and thickens at the same time. Report
I add spinach to my smoothies and it does not change the flavor at all. I have started to add Kale in small amounts because the taste is discernible but I believe our palates can change and if you don't love vegetables, you can acquire a taste for them as you add them to your diet. Thanks for this post. I plan to take a look at these cookbooks. Report
I don't use purees to sneak veggies in, but because I just don't like many veggies. I use the purees in the Sneaky Chef books. I find it's a great way to add vitamins and fiber to my diet without adding many calories. They are a great way to add value to baked goods, the Sneaky Chef books have lots of ideas on now to do this. Whether you are sneaking them in or not, purees are a great idea. Report
I have taken to adding 3-4 servings of vegetables, and cut the meat in half for my dinners.. saved me hundreds of calories Report
Loved this one! Will try soon! Report
I tried some recipes from Deceptively Delicious and like them. My kids liked the muffin recipes, but trying to sneak veggies into main dished did not fool them at all. Report
I don't need to sneak veggies in but, as someone who must be on a high-fiber diet I need the veggies. This would be a great way to incorporate them into my meals - thanks! Report
I've discovered vegetables go well with a half peanut butter sandwich and a cup of milk. I don't add butter instead I add spice with salt. It makes lunch more interesting and tasty. Report
I know that many times hiding veggies is meant to help kids with eating veggies, and people disagree with it. But in my household it's not my DD who is the picky eater... it's me. And I have to admit, that when veggies are hidden and unknown to me then I will eat them far easier than having the actual vegetable sitting on my dish. Report
I haven't used any of those cookbooks. However, I recently had some leftover soup (roasted carrot & chile) that I knew my 13 yo wouldn't ever try - but I mixed it into the chili and it was eaten without complaint. The next time I made chili, I stirred in a jar of baby food pureed carrots that I'd originally purchased to test a carrot cake recipe. Now I understand the appeal of hiding veggie purees in other dishes... Report
When I fix my husband potatoes for breakfast, I measure out his portion, add leftover cauliflower, and some white mushrooms, let them brown a bit, add some onion if I want, and he thinks it's all potatoes. I don't puree anything, too much trouble, too much dish washing, noise, for a little bit of pooh pooh stuff. Either I toss it in with the rest of the food, and it cooks down a bit, or I let you see the veggie in all it's glory. Our family doesn't "do" beans of any color well, I don't care if I put lipstick on it, it won't make the grade. Report
I've definitely done this with soups and also gravy. For soups, I'll cook the veggies a bit with the meat, then take the veggies out and puree them then mix it back into the soup. And for gravies, I use canned white beans and I puree it and add it to steak or chicken that I've sauteed with onions and peppers, it makes for a really nice brown gravy (no flour!). it's so delicious! Report
I have always tried to add veggies to dishes. My kids loved vegetable soufles. They always knew what was in the dish. I have many cookbooks but check magazines and online also for dishes that are healthy. I don't get cookbooks now that don't have the information on calories, etc. Report
I have a library of cook books but find myself going on line more than the books.
I'm not really sure it's a good idea to "hide" vegetables in entrees. Part of a healthy lifestyle is reorienting your taste buds to enjoy healthy things, not pretend they're something they're not. I grew up eating a very legume- and vegetable-heavy diet -- partly because my parents are hippies, partly also because they couldn't afford a lot of meat when we kids were small -- and the result of that is that I still love vegetables and legumes. Report
My Mom taught to always have a green vegetable with your meals and I've adopted that habit with my family as well. The more veggies, the better! My grandson is a veggie eater and living in a fast food society, I am so thankful for my Mom and Dad's' wisdom. Thanx Report
It is certainly worth a try! Report
I am a supertaster also, but I do remember from the last days I ever dealt with Weight Watchers (and their recipes) - back in the '70s - mid-'80s: never underestimate the power of reducing tomato juice in a saucepan. Yes, it won't taste like tomato sauce ... but it's the closest thing to "fooling" the likes of me ... Report
I can afford to decrease my caloric intake and always get more veggies in. I will try this more and share this with my family and friends.
Thanks! Report
thanks Report
My favorite ways of adding veggies to food involve pureeing vegetables as a thickening agent for soups, stews, casseroles, gravies, Chinese-style foods, etc.; wherever you might normally have used cornstarch or flour. White beans and cauliflower work well, but you can use almost any veggie if you like the way the flavor and color enhance your dish. You can keep cooked white beans in the fridge ready for use; canned is easiest to use, but has extra sodium. Also beans can be pureed and substituted for a portion of the flour when baking. Great for healthier high fiber muffins. Black beans can be pureed and used in brownies, chocolate cookies, pretty much anything chocolate, although cakes can be too tricky, you can actually feed your kids beans! My easiest way of sneaking in veggies, is adding some V-8 into broth, rice, etc. Report
I began mixing vegetables in my son's food when he first began eating solid food. He didn't like vegetables so I would put them in everything. Even on the back of the spoon behind fruit. I think mixing in vegetables they don't like "trains" the tastebuds. My son now eats any vegetables and is a very adventurous eater. I used Deceptively Delicious just to get ideas and have found some of our favorite foods. Report
This is great for most people, but it doesn't work for supertasters like me. One time, in college, I had a smoothie with energy booster and found it tasted like meat because of the taurine. I can pick up the most minute things in food. I am not going to try putting vegetables I don't like in things. ...Hmm, carrots and spinach, though... Report
I will look for these cookbooks at the library and give the recipes a try. Report
I am not big on recipes or meals from scratch. Being a newby on SP, I am beginning to search way to fulfill my veggie requirements. Thanks for sharing. Report
I've heard of hiding veggies in foods before and I'm aware of the cookbooks, I just never gave it much credit because I didn't think it would make a difference and I figured my veggie-sensitive kids/husband would notice the change. This makes me want to give it a shot.

Thanks for the info! Report
Great post!I'm like you I always tell my girls what they are eating. I'm glad that I do not have trouble getting them to eat fruit and vegetables because they are used to getting that stuff for snacks and everything else. Pretty much the only time they get junk food is when they are at my parents house or if my parents bring something here and even then thye get it that night and then it pretty sits on the counter till I throw it away. Report
Really great idea on the pureed vegetables. Normally I just grater/chop and add my vegetables to meals, however my husband and son are still picky veggie eaters. This way I can be sure to hide alot more. Thanks. Report
Thanks for sharing. Report
Simple and elegant... who would have "thunk" it?? I love veggies, but adding even more in a way that doesn't change the meals normal look, and texture so much is brilliant! Love it! Thanks! Report
In the past year I've really started to eat my veggies. I crave them. My husband is more of a carnivore than I am, so I try to add lots of veggies to my cooking for both our sakes. Report
Great idea but done it for years to sneak in veggies for the kids Report
I am not a great fan of veggies.
However, I may just have to pureed the food, since 2/3 kids are not fans of veggies either.
We as a family have been changing our lifestyles to become more a more healthier family.
Thank you so much for the great suggestions.
Blessings to you all! Report
Good one, thanks. Report
My children ate veggies with no problem. I'd put them in the frig with a sign that read "MOM'S DIET FOOD - DO NOT EAT!!" and they would munch them down. Report
Thanks for the tip! Good to know :) Report
I just purchased a copy of "The Sneaky Chef" and am looking forward to trying the recipes. Report
i absolutely hate vegetables in their natural state so i've been trying to find new ways to incorporate them into my diet. I've recently made 2 recipes involving blended broccoli and cauliflower and also added spinach to one of my fruit smoothies. Much to my surprise and happiness, all 3 tasted awesome! I'm so happy I started doing this! Report
Check out Hungry Girl on the web to see her methods of adding Veggies to our diet. Report
When my sister & I were kids, Mom used to not-quite-hide the chopped carrots she would add to the spaghetti sauce she made for supper, and I always hated seeing them in there. I'd eat them, but I would grumble, as would my sister. A couple decades later, she has 2 kids, and when she was faced with adding veggies to their meals, she started to use Mom's ideas, with one major difference -- she pureed the veggies. Her children love vegetables now, even at 6 & 4. After seeing how well her kids took to the pureed veggies, I just had to try it myself. So far, I've enjoyed adding pureed cauliflower to any pasta dish I make, and it has helped to eat less pasta and more veggies!

Spark on! Report
My husband and I rarely eat meat, so we are always looking for ways to substitute veggies into recipes. We only buy meat once a month or six weeks, and even then it is only chicken breasts and lean ground turkey. It's a great way to limit your calorie intake and also save lots of $$$. Report
I think the cookbooks give interesting ideas. Besides you don't actually have to hide anything. You can have your kids cook with you so they know exactly what is going into it, and then when they try it they will be amazed! If you start young enough, they won't even think it's weird to throw say, zucchini in a brownie! Report
Good reminder about the importance of veggies in diet. Advice I got from one nutritionist was to have your ( small ) plate at least half vegetables and the other half of portion for meal divided between your protein and complex carbohydrate. My two kids are out on their own but I remember how picky kids can be. I was also pleased to see that my son has developed tastes for things he used to turn up his nose when he was younger. Report
This is a great idea - I don't have kids - but the truth is - there are some veggies that are only appealing to me if they have cheese sauce or oodles of butter - this might be a good alternative to help me get more veggies and less calories!

Thanks! Report
I recommend cookbooks like the Sneaky Chef or Deceptively Delicious to parents looking for ways to get their children to enjoy veggies. I think too many kids have the notion that if it's a veggie, it must taste awful. Admittedly tastes do change as we age. there are foods I hated when I was a kid, but love now. If we introduce our children to a variety of foods, they might be less picky. Of course, when I was growing up, I didn't have much of a choice. If it was on the plate, I was expected to eat it whether I liked it or not.

Personally, I think I would have eaten more veggies if my mom had a cook book like the Sneaky Chef. Their recipes are extremely creative.
Although I know it's deceptive, if I don't "sneak in" pureed veggies into many of our meals, my son would DEFINITELY NOT eat them! He's a teenager .... I figure he'll be more forgiving when when he's older, LOL! Right now, I'm more concerned with his health! Report
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