With today’s focus on eating less, it can be refreshing to be encouraged to eat more of a food group. Vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals and have many other plant properties that help prevent disease. They are very low in calories with an average of about 25 calories per one-half cup to one cup and are very filling because of the fiber and water content. In addition to all their health benefits, they provide more flavor and color to your meals, for example the savory essence of sautéed mushrooms and onions, the refreshing taste of cucumbers in a yogurt mint sauce or crisp salad, or the sweetnessof sliced red pepper and baby carrots. Strive toward 5 or more servings a day. Most of us get less than half that amount and this often includes French fries. Try to choose as many colors of the rainbow a day as possible. Here are a few of my favorite ways to get more vegetables:
1. Cut up salads and other vegetables ahead of time so you can add them when you crave them. Add to pasta, rice or other grains, soups or snacks. Put in clear containers so you won’t forget about them. Write a note on your fridge what is ready to go.
2. Some of my favorite veggie choices don’t need any additional preparation such as baby carrots and grape tomatoes.
3. Ways to sneak veggies in for picky eaters: try adding chopped broccoli, sliced mushrooms and onions in spaghetti sauce or chopped bell peppers, celery and carrots in chili. These blend well in these recipes and taste great.
4. Take a low sodium tomato or vegetable juice with you for a quick afternoon “pick me up”.
5. Try salsas and sauces that incorporate more vegetables to top a main dish. For example make a fresh salsa with tomato, pepper, onion, garlic, cilantro and lime juice and add over a piece of grilled chicken, tofu or fish. Add a spinach and cheese sauce over rice.
6. Shop local farmers market to support your local economy and to get the freshest and most delicious choices. They are just starting to open with young tender veggies. A new cookbook new on my bookshelf is: The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Mollie Katzen for more inspiration, you can also check out her website at: www.molliekatzen.com