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By: Sarah Schlichter, MPH, RDN 

It seems that the intake of fruits and vegetables increases in the summer. Maybe it’s because people crave colorful summer salads or because there are so many light and flavorful summer vegetable options in season like tomatoes, eggplants, carrots, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini. While these vegetables can absolutely be tasty on their own, they can also enhance other dishes and be used in more creative ways.

Here are 5 fun ways to make vegetables more exciting.

Spiralize Them

Some veggies are perfect for spiralizing, like beets, cucumbers, carrots and zucchini. Spiralizing veggies can yield more food, too. While one small vegetable may produce one cup of food, spiralizing a vegetable can yield several cups of fluffy vegetables that make great additions to salads, sandwiches and pastas.

Serving them in a new shape or in pasta form can also be a fun way to introduce vegetables to kids and adults alike!

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Add Them to Sauces

While it’s typical to add meats to pasta sauces, consider adding some freshly chopped vegetables to augment the nutrients and texture. Chopped veggies can bring a bland sauce from good to great.

Mushrooms, onions, carrots, tomatoes, peppers and peas can all be great options for sauces. Additionally, you could throw some veggies in homemade hummus to use as an addition to sandwiches or plain old snacking. Roasted radish, beets and tomatoes are all great additions to the typical hummus recipe. Just mix your choice of vegetable in with olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, chickpeas and other spices of your choosing.

exciting ways to use veggies

Change Their Texture

Have you ever tried baking or grilling a vegetable, rather than eating it raw or boiling it? Just the simple act of preparing it differently can change the taste significantly!

Dry heat cooking, either through roasting or frying, can help release natural sugars in vegetables and add a sweeter taste. Try roasting your carrots with some olive oil and notice the difference. Or throw them on the grill with a seasoning or marinade mixture to help accentuate their flavor profile.

RELATED: 10 Best Superfoods for Summer

Grow Your Own

Just like children are more likely to show an interest in a food they’ve picked out or helped prepare, we’re more likely to utilize ingredients that we nurture and grow ourselves. Growing your own seasonal vegetables and/or spices can help inspire you to incorporate them into your typical summer meal rotation.

Adding tomatoes straight off the vine to a salad or sandwich can make a world of difference. Or utilizing fresh basil in a pasta dish or mozzarella salad can make it pop.

Visit the Farmers Market

Supporting local farmers is a great way to promote sustainability and small, local businesses, while also buying the freshest produce options made locally without a long shelf life. Ask the farmers about their favorite recipes and how they would serve the vegetables. You’ll leave with so many new ideas!