Mom was right…you do need to eat your veggies. They are the crown jewels of a plant-based diet—the scientifically proven prescription for better health and longevity. Of course, not everyone likes the taste of certain vegetables. But fortunately, you can get your veggies and enjoy the flavor of your foods by camouflaging the veggie taste that’s off-putting to you or members of your family. Clever ways to “mask” the taste and texture of your veggies… 

• Add canned pumpkin…to pancakes, chili or almost anything. Pumpkin tastes mild (so it’s easily masked) and is naturally orange in color, which means that it contains large amounts of vitamin A to sustain sharp eyesight…the antioxidant beta-carotene to help fight cancer…and vitamin C to maintain a healthy immune system.

• Hide veggies in a casserole. To add flavor, color and nutrition, get out your vegetable grater when cooking a casserole. Mixing just about any vegetable, such as carrots, celery, asparagus or mushrooms, with a classic cheese sauce and topping with bread crumbs and Parmesan (and perhaps a toasted nut topping) creates a family-pleasing casserole that’s a snap to fix and bake. 

• Go for chocolate. Try puréeing sweet potato, beets or zucchini and add it to your brownies. Or sneak some spinach into your favorite chocolate cake batter. Defrost frozen spinach, squeeze out any excess moisture and put it in a food processor. Add two teaspoons of vanilla and two eggs and purée until very smooth. Add this “wet” mixture to the typical dry ingredients and bake as usual.

• Make creamy pasta sauce. Skip the high-fat cream and butter in most alfredo and vodka sauces. Instead, try pumpkin, butternut squash or cauliflower puréed with white beans for a delicious, low-calorie pasta sauce without the veggie taste. Don’t believe it? Try my nutrient-packed pasta sauce recipe below… 

Creamy Pumpkin Pasta Sauce

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin purée
½ 15-ounce can cannellini beans
1 Tablespoon oregano (or mixture of Italian spices)
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 15-ounce can low-sodium vegetable broth

Directions: In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat, and cook the shallots until soft and translucent (for about 10 minutes). In a blender, add the cooked shallots and the rest of the ingredients in the recipe. Blend the sauce until it is a smooth purée. Makes eight servings (one-half cup each).

Nutrition information per serving: Calories, 50…fat, 1 g…cholesterol, 0 mg…carbohydrates, 10 g…fiber, 3 g…protein, 2 g…sodium, 180 mg.