How to sneak more vegetables into all your favorite foods from desserts to pizza to pasta (without tasting them)

This amazing guest post was written by Sarah Baker, a certified plant-based nutrition and health coach! You can check out her website here!

You’ve tried them all – adding more salads to your lunch time meetings, guzzling down green smoothies in the morning, but you still aren’t quite satisfied. I get it. Trying to lead a more plant-based lifestyle can be downright hard if you don’t know all the possibilities when it comes to easy and delicious recipes!

My entire food philosophy is based around sneaky substitutions. No one wants to diet, or cut out their favorite flavors. Listen, your favorite “foods” are really just the flavor that you love. Once you realize that you can get similar if not almost exactly the same flavors from straight up vegan recipes, your eyes will open up to a whole new world. So, to help you sneak plant based ingredients into your diet, I rounded up 11 ways to do just that. Enjoy!

1. Avocado Brownies

avocado-brownies

I love the idea of using avocado as a substitution for oil or butter in a brownie recipe!  Loaded with vitamins (K,B,C & E), potassium and folate, the mild taste of avocado combined with cacao powder and vegan chocolate chips lends to the creamy taste and texture of brownies. You’ll never know there is avocado in this vegan brownie recipe and it’s baked without  processed flour and traditional sugar.  You can enjoy this special treat without sabotaging your healthy eating.

Ingredients

  • 1 can unsalted black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1/2 medium sized avocado

  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar

  • 2 teaspoon coconut oil

  • 1 flax egg (or if you eat eggs, 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites)

  • 2/3 cup organic cacao powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/3 cup vegan dark chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a baking dish with 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  2. Place the black beans, avocado, flax egg, coconut sugar, and coconut oil in a food processor and puree until well mixed

  3. Blend in the baking powder, baking soda, cacao powder and blend for another 3-4 minutes

  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and pour the mixture into the baking dish

  5. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes

  6. After 25 minutes, place a knife in the mixture and if it is done it should pierce the brownie and come out with no residue.

  7. Cut into 15 bars and sprinkle with more chocolate chips

[Recipe: Healthy Avocado Black Bean Flourless Brownies]

2. Create Lettuce Wraps instead of Bread

Not only are most bread brands highly processed, eating refined carbs can make your blood sugar skyrocket. Instead of packing carb heavy sandwiches for lunch, swap out bread for lettuce instead!

[Recipe: Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps]

3. Cauliflower Rice

Recipe testing for rice substitutions led me to the realization that cauliflower is a great way to enjoy a low carb diet while enjoying the taste and texture of this surprisingly grain-like substitution for rice.  Not only is cauliflower lower in calories, it has a slew of nutritional benefits: anti-cancer phytochemicals, large amounts of the vitamin B-complex group, excellent source of Vitamin C and is a good source of fiber.  I love adding ghee butter, garlic and nutritional yeast for flavoring along with liquid aminos rather than traditional high sodium soy sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 head of cauliflower or 1 bag of finely chopped cauliflower

  • 2 garlic cloves minced

  • 1 shallot

  • 2 tablespoon vegan butter (or ghee if you’re not vegan)

  • 2-3 teaspoon powdered turmeric (you can add more for taste later)

  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast

  • 2 teaspoon powdered ginger or 1/2 inch of fresh ginger grated

  • Pinch of Himalayan salt + pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. If you can’t find pre-minced cauliflower, loosely chop and then pulse the head of cauliflower in a food processor.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegan butter in a skillet

  3. Heat the shallot and garlic until translucent about 4 minutes

  4. Add the cauliflower and cook for about 3 minutes

  5. Add the turmeric, nutritional yeast, the additional tbsp of vegan butter, and powdered ginger. Sautee for about 5 minutes or until tender yet crisp.

  6. Add to serving bowls, top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and enjoy!

[Recipe: Turmeric Cauliflower Rice]

4. Using Mushrooms as Meat Alternatives

Enjoy the meatballs without the meat sweats. When mixed with Worcester sauce and nutritional yeast, mushrooms can make a great meat alternative. This recipe for mushroom meatballs will definitely fool you.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages of cremini mushrooms

  • 3 cloves of garlic

  • 1 white onion

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • 1/4 cup almond meal

  • 1 cup lentils

  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa

  • 1 1/2 tsp Worcester sauce

  • 1/4 cup flaxseed

  • Pinch of: sage, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, cayenne

Instructions

  1. Pre-cook the quinoa and lentils

  2. pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F

  3. chop the mushrooms, onions, and garlic

  4. place the mushrooms, onion, garlic, quinoa, and lentils in a high-speed food processor (or blender etc)

  5. sprinkle in all of the seasonings, almond meal, flaxseed, nutritional yeast, Worcester sauce, and some red wine (optional) in the processor, and continue blending.

  6. *You do not need to blend until everything is smooth, the mixture can be slightly choppy so that it will have a nice texture when it’s consumed.

  7. Take a handful of the mixture (wash your hands!) and roll it into a ball. continue with the rest of the mixture.

  8. Place the balls on a coated cooking sheet, and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.

  9. After 15 minutes, the outside of the ball should be darkened and slightly crispy, while the inside should still be moist.

  10. If you want it to be a tad bit more “crispy,” you can bake for an extra 10 minutes.

  11. Serve on a platter, and enjoy!

[Recipe: Mushroom “Meat Balls”]

5. Healthy Pizza Alternatives

Most of us have a love affair with pizza. Alas most of us also have “morning-after” guilt associated with loading up on calories, carbs, fat, and dairy.   I’m a firm believer in balance when it comes to enjoying our favorite meals without the guilt.  By choosing a few creative alternatives or add-ons to pizza, we can feel better about indulging. Try adding portobello mushrooms to the sauce; finding a great recipe for a cauliflower crust; switching up pita for crust; or when ordering out for pizza consider having one-half of it covered in extra crispy veggies only.

[More: 7 Healthy Alternative to Satisfy Your Pizza Craving]

6. Spaghetti Squash Pasta

If you want to try a nutrient dense substitute for spaghetti pasta without the excessive calories and carbs, then what better way to go then with a healthier version using spaghetti squash!  The major stars in this veggie are important for helping convert food into energy and helping the body metabolize fats and proteins, by including vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as manganese to keep your metabolism working properly.

Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash

  • 1 cup of passata sauce

  • 1 can of diced tomatoes – no salt added

  • 1 yellow onion

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1 teaspoon oregano

  • salt and pepper for seasoning

  • 1 teaspoon basil

  • 1/2 tablespoon coconut oil

  • Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, and steam in a pot of water (do not cover with water) until tender

  2. In a sauteeing pan, saute the onion and garlic (dice both), until translucent, and add the Passata sauce and diced tomatoes.

  3. Add the cooked spaghetti squash and the seasonings, and cook for another 6 minutes

  4. Serve and enjoy!

[Recipe: Plant-Based Spaghetti Squash]

7. Sweet Potato Chips

Who doesn’t crave potato chips! When I’m craving a perfect snack for movie night or entertaining, my go-to recipe is crispy sweet potato chips. Sweet potatoes are loaded with the immune boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits of vitamins A and C, as well as the major antioxidant, anthocyanin, which research shows may help prevent the dangers of oxygen radicals and heavy metals in our system.

Ingredients

  • 4 sweet potatoes cut into thin slices horizontally

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

  • Seasonings

  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon zesty vegetable seasoning like (try Ludo Lefebvre or Williams Sonoma vegetable blend)

  • Sprinkle of Himalayan salt and pepper for tasting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and cover with a thin film of coconut oil

  3. Slice the sweet potatoes and place them onto the baking sheet

  4. Sprinkle both sides of the slices with seasonings

  5. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, flip the slices over with a spatula, and bake another 10-15 minutes or until golden and crispy

 [Recipe: Crispy Sweet Potato Chips]

8. Using Chickpeas Instead of Eggs

Want to go dairy free? Try using chickpea flour for your next omelette instead of eggs. Chickpea flour is packed with protein and will hold together all your plant-powered omelette ingredients for a whole food focused breakfast.

[Recipe: Chickpea Flour Omelette]

9. Zucchini Biscuits

Zucchini is one of those veggie staples found in abundance during the summer months. It’s low in calories (about 20 per cup) and high in vitamin and mineral content including calcium, folate, protein and omega 3 & 6.  Not only is this recipe a healthy substitute for the traditional biscuit, but it’s also gluten-free and you get the added beauty benefits of skin, hair, and nails that are supple, shiny and strong!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of gluten-free oat flour

  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan salt

  • 4 zucchinis grated

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

  • 2 tablespoon Earth Balance dairy-free butter spread

  • 1/3 cup Nutritional Yeast

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon minced onions

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F

  2. Place all dry ingredients + zucchini in a large bowl and mix together

  3. Add the olive oil and dairy-free butter spread to the bowl and mix together until well blended

  4. Take spoonfuls of the mixture and place them in a muffin tray

  5. Bake for about 35 minutes until the tops are golden brown

  6. You can eat them right away or store them for weekday snacks. Sometimes if I make a large batch I’ll freeze about six so that they can carry over to the next week

[Recipe: Vegan-Gluten-Free-Zucchini Biscuits]

11. Zucchini Spaghetti Alfredo

For those plant-based newbies or long-time believers, substituting zucchini noodles for grain flour pasta is a healthy alternative worth trying! What better way to take advantage of the superb beauty-boosting nutrients found in zucchini.  This delicious alternative recipe teams up with a cauliflower and cashew dairy-free sauce to make a yummy entree which will be sure to satisfy your craving for a warm and filling meal.

Ingredients

For the Sauce

  • 2 cups of cauliflower

  • 1 cup of cashews (soak in water for 3 hours)

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 1/4 cup oat flour

  • 1 lemon

  • 3 tablespoon olive oil

  • 4 cloves of garlic minced

  • 1 white onion chopped

  • 1 1/4 cup almond milk

  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast

  • Blend of Italian herbs (oregano, parsley)

For the Pasta

  • 4 zucchinis

Instructions

    1. Place the cauliflower in a large pot. Bring the pot of water to a boil and them simmer until the cauliflower is tender.

    2. In a food processor, combine the cauliflower, cashews, garlic and onion and blend for 2-3 minutes.

    3. Add the nutritional yeast, herbs, and flour. Blend for another 2 minutes.

    4. Add the almond milk, juice from the 1 lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil and apple cider vinegar and blend again for 3 minutes or until creamy and smooth. If the mixture is thick, you can add some water to thin it out.

    5. With a spiralizer (or if you don’t have one, you can use a vegetable shaver), spiralize the four zucchinis.

    6. In a pan, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil and saute the zucchini for about 4 minutes.

    7. Add the sauce with the zucchini and cook for another 3 minutes.

    8. Transfer to a bowl and enjoy!

[Recipe: Vegan Plant-Based Spaghetti Alfredo]

If you enjoyed those delicious recipes, try these out: Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili, Vegan Chocolate Mousse, and Beet Hummus!

Sarah Baker

Sarah Baker

Founder at Balanced Babe
Sarah Baker is a certified plant-based nutrition and health coach, certified business consultant with a focus on holistic brand strategy, and founder of BalancedBabe.com. In between working with clients and growing her wellness brand, she spends most of her time as a media and TV personality advocating an approachable and fun holistic lifestyle. You can find Sarah on morning shows such as WCIU’s You & Me This Morning, Fox’s Good Day Chicago, WGN Midday News, and 101.9 THE MIX’s Finnegan's Finds, and has her own episode on Jewel Osco's series, Something Fresh. She can also be found in publications such as Glossed & Found, PureWow Chicago, RedEye Chicago, Refinery29, MindBodyGreen.com, Chicago Sun-Times Splash,Revia Magazine, and a plethora of lifestyle blogs.
Sarah Baker

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