Most people know that eating a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables is key to attaining well-balanced nutrition and maintaining a healthy body. But for many people, following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which means "filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables" at each meal, can be difficult, particularly when it comes to the veggie part of the equation. While fruits are an inviting mealtime option thanks to their fresh sweetness and ability to be eaten with little to no preparation, veggies don't often hold the same allure.
The more nuanced flavors of many vegetables often require a more developed palate and, as with most things, practice makes perfect for anyone who is trying to feel the love for peas and carrots. According to a study published in Appetite, a research journal that focuses on topics relating to behavioral nutrition, repeated taste exposure increases children's affinity for vegetables that they had previously classified as "less-liked". If you're a big kid or an adult who struggles to meet your daily veggie requirements, a study conducted by Patricia Pliner indicates that repeat exposure may be one of the best ways to train your taste buds to get excited about fresh vegetables, too. One way to start getting acquainted with a variety of veggies is to sneak them into foods you already crave. While it's easy to amp up the veggie content of a spaghetti sauce or a casserole, a less expected and more delicious place to start is dessert!
As strange as it sounds, it can be incredibly easy to incorporate veggies into sweet snacks, which can allow anyone, from veggie haters to veggie fanatics, to increase their daily veggie intake and gently expose their taste buds to new flavors. Here are some tips for boosting the amounts of fiber, vitamins, and nutrients your body gets by sneaking veggies into your desserts!
Bake in the Goodness
Adding veggies to baked goods is one of the easiest ways to add vegetables to your desserts. Zucchini breads and carrot cakes are classics, but don't feel limited by what's already been done. Bakers everywhere are pushing the boundaries of ways to bring veggies into their baked goods and have created some incredibly unique, beautiful, and scrumptious treats along the way. If you're trying to avoid dairy and gluten, 84th & 3rd's Cinnamon Cauliflower Coffee Cake with Caramel Sauce will take your taste buds out on a joy ride, while Vanilla Garlic's Sweet Pea Cupcakes with Sour Cream Frosting offer a decadent way to please your palate with peas. Got tons of leftover squash or root veggies in the fridge? Turn them into a tantalizing Leftover Veg & Orange Cake!
The Power of the Puree
If you want to see the wholesome goodness in your dessert, feel free to leave your veggies grated or roughly chopped when adding them to baked goods, but if maximum stealth is the name of the game, then pureeing is the path to success. Veggie purees are one of the simplest ways to get the nutrients and fiber of fresh veggies, while adding a soft, moist texture to your desserts. You can puree a variety a vegetables ahead of time and keep them in pre-portioned airtight containers in your freezer to thaw and add to dessert recipes whenever you want. Deliciously Ella blew minds with her Sweet Potato Brownies, while Ricki Heller's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies with eggplant puree raised eyebrows, but satisfied taste testers. Don't have the time or space to puree? Simply pick up a handful of jars of baby food to mix into fresh brownie batters and cookie dough.
Blend with Fruit
If you're really trying to ease your way into to the wonderful world of vegetables, try blending your veggies with fruit to add a touch of all natural sweetness. This works especially well in cobblers or pies that typically have fruit fillings, in which veggies can easily be tucked. Strawberry Rhubarb Pie is a classic dessert that offers a dose of hearty greens, while The Philosophie's Persimmon Pumpkin Pie is a refreshing twist on a traditional holiday treat.
Add Cream to the Crop
Ice creams in unusual flavors are becoming increasingly popular and many gourmands are debuting cold and creamy creations that showcase the fresh flavors of veggies. Saveur recently featured a recipe for Sweet Corn and Black Raspberry Ice Cream that made many want to run out and buy an ice cream maker, while Julie Morris combined a sweet indulgence with energizing Peruvian maca root when she created her Maple Maca Ice Cream. Even Haagen-Dazs has jumped on the bandwagon according to the LA Times, which featured an article about the Japanese launch of the ice cream icon's new veggie flavors line.
When in Doubt, Add Chocolate
Is there anything that isn't made better by the addition of chocolate? If your answer is a resounding, "No!", then you might want to take part in the chocolate covered veggie trend. The Minimalist Baker details how to make Dark Chocolate Sweet Potato Chips that are absolutely gorgeous, and if you are feeling truly bold, go ahead and try your hand at Sarah Kagan's Chocolate Beet Truffles, a rich mixture of nuts, dates, and beet pulp with a generous helping of chocolaty cocoa powder.
Photo courtesy of the author
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