Sneaky ways to pack veggies into your meals

Over the years, the governmental dietary guidelines on how we should eat have changed quite a bit, from the Food Guide Pyramid, to My Plate and several others dating even further back in history. While the recommendations may vary, the one thing that hasn't changed is that we should be filing our plates and bellies with lots of fresh and colorful veggies.

While this is something we all know, we often fail in the execution. I'm the kind of person who loves sweeter breakfasts, so I'm not going to be too excited about sautéing kale first thing in the morning just to ensure I'm getting in some veggies at breakfast.

The good news is, in this day in age so many people are playing around in the kitchen and coming up with some awesomely sneaky ways to add more veggies into meals we already know and love!

Berry cauliflower smoothie

One of my personal favorite breakfasts is a smoothie, regardless of the season or temperature outside. Smoothies are a great way to pack in a bunch of nutrients in a small space, often without even noticing they're there. There are so many great smoothie add-ins like greens, protein powders, nut butters, maca root, cacao powder, acai powder, fruit, and other veggies, like cauliflower. Yes, cauliflower!

Cauliflower is packed with nutritional benefits, like boosting heart and brain health, making it a great vegetable to have on hand! Many grocery stores even carry a frozen riced variety which is perfect for adding to your smoothies. This will make the smoothie so thick and creamy, and in this berry cauliflower smoothie, you won't even taste it!

Double chocolate veggie muffins

If you have a picky eater in the house, whether it's yourself, your significant other, or your kid, then veggies can be a big struggle and point of argument. But if there's one thing that nearly every person won't turn down, it's chocolate.

These chocolate muffins are packed with a couple different kinds of veggies, which we're sure won't be detectable to your picky eater within all of that dark chocolate goodness. Plus, since they're packed with the nutrients of veggies, you don't need to feel guilty about making this your breakfast!

Mac and cheese

I think it's pretty safe to say that macaroni and cheese is a major crowd pleaser. One of my favorite broke college student hacks back in the day was to cook up my favorite boxed variety, add in some frozen veggies during the last few minutes of cooking the noodles, and then stir in a can of tuna after adding the sauce. It was cheap, easy, one-pot and gave me a few dinners.

While you could always give that a try, we all know boxed macaroni and cheese isn't always the most nutritionally packed food source. Instead, I would make this one-pot vegan mac and cheese, which suggests using a chickpea based pasta and carrot puree for the sauce. If you want some extra veggies, you could stir them in or cook them up separately to serve on the side.

Zucchini noodle shrimp scampi

Zucchini noodles, often referred to as "zoodles," have been gaining popularity; there are even devices you can buy for your kitchen to assist in turning your zucchini or other vegetables, like sweet potato, carrots, and cucumbers, into a noodle-like shape.

From there, you can use the noodles for any of your favorite pasta dishes, from spaghetti and meatballs, pad thai, or even shrimp scampi. While you may not be fooling anyone that you're actually eating a carb-packed pasta dish, you may be surprised to find that you don't miss those normal pasta noodles after all!

Meatloaf

One of our go-to dinners growing up was meatloaf. I'm sure my parents loved it because not only could we could get a few meals for the family from one loaf, but they could also load it up with extra veggies that my sister and I would likely not even know were there, especially under a layer of ketchup.

This healthy hidden veggie meatloaf is perfect as it's packed with spinach, broccoli, and zucchini.

Lentil taco filling

It's pretty safe to say that people love tacos! Whether it's "Taco Tuesday" or any other day that ends in "y," we will all happily take any excuse to load up our plates with a few of our favorite tacos.

While I love adding sautéed veggies, tomatoes, and lettuce to my tacos, there has to be another way to sneak some extra nutrients into our tacos, especially for the picky eaters who are going to refuse any sign of healthy stuff in their dinner. I love this lentil taco meat recipe, which is not only perfect for a "Meatless Monday" taco night, but also has beans, lentils, and pureed carrots hiding inside.

Cauliflower bread buns

Whether you're vegetarian, pescetarian, or a happy meat-eater, some form of burger makes a great dinner option, especially during those warmer months when you can pop open the grill to cook dinner. While I've had plenty of lettuce burgers in my life and do enjoy them, there's nothing like having your burger, whether veggie, fish, turkey or beef, on a bun. If you want a healthy alternative to a bun, but want something a little more hefty than lettuce, you can make your own buns using cauliflower as the base!

Healthy shamrock shake

Every year when March rolls around, we all know it's Shamrock Shake season. We didn't often get fast food growing up, but when this time of year came around, we definitely splurged a few times to ensure we got our fix of this minty chocolate goodness before waiting another year.

With the rise of green smoothies also came the new trend of the healthy shamrock shake. There are several varieties out there, many using avocado, spinach, or kale to achieve the desired green color, mint extract, frozen bananas and a variety of milk options. I promise you, they are so good, and so much better for you than the ice cream packed variety. This way, you can enjoy them year round, knowing you're eating up tons of nutritious veggies.

Kale brownies

I love a treat from time to time, especially one that is sweet and filled with chocolate, like brownies. While I don't often make myself sweet treats, I love the idea of being able to up their nutritional value when I do. These kale brownies seem like the perfect option!

Between the cocoa powder and dark chocolate chips, you could get away without telling anyone that there's a nutritional bonus hiding in their dessert!

Which will you try first?

With so many options to sneak a few more veggies into your day, the constant slew of excuses for why you're not getting enough vegetables should be long gone. The only question that remains is, which recipe will you try first?