The latest research from the National Health Survey (1) showed that men in particular are slipping down the scale when it comes to vegetable consumption in New Zealand.
The survey found that only one in two New Zealand males (56%) consumed the recommended number of serves of vegetables per day, dropping from 63% since the last survey approximately 4 years ago. Currently, the New Zealand Ministry of Health (2) recommends the consumption of at least 3 serves of vegetables per day if not more, so these statistics don’t paint a good picture of kiwi males’ dietary habits. For more information on what is a serve of vegetables, see the box below.
If this sounds like the man in your life be it father, husband, partner, or son, it is worthwhile informing them about the nutritional powerhouses that vegetables are. Packed with important nutrients including fibre, essential vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals (natural plant chemicals) including important antioxidants, they are also naturally low in fat, sugar, and salt – a unique combination which confirms their importance in everyone’s diet.
Different coloured vegetables contain different vitamins and minerals, and various types of phytochemicals, some of which are responsible for giving each vegetable their unique colour. (3) If your dinner plate or lunch bag usually contains foods that vary between shades of brown to beige, try and add different coloured vegetables from each colour group to ensure you are getting the range of nutrients required for good health.
Most of us know that eating diets high in vegetables will benefit our health, however including them in a meal can bring down the cost by making it stretch that bit further. Adding an onion to a casserole, grating a carrot into Spaghetti Bolognese, or adding some chopped green beans to a curry are all easy ways to improve the nutrition of a meal and make it go that bit further. Choosing vegetables that are in season will be the most cost effective and ensure variety in your meals.
Why men in particular are falling behind in the vegetable consumption stakes is difficult to determine. Whether it is because some tend to be creatures of habit – many will list the humble potato as their favourite vegetable more often than not, or perhaps it is simply due to a lack of knowledge or skills when it comes to different vegetables. After all, most of us know how to boil a spud however it takes a bit more expertise to sauté a leek or stir fry a zucchini!
To help you or the man in your life, up your vegetable intake, try some of the tips below. • Adding new vegetables to old favourites may encourage the trial of new foods. e.g. adding capsicum to their favourite pizza, or adding chopped mushrooms to Spaghetti Bolognese.
• Men are very competitive so use this if you have to! Set it up as a challenge once a week to try something new, often the mere suggestion of a contest will be more than they can resist!
• Head to Maggi.co.nz to find out all about the latest vegetable that’s in-season and get delicious recipes which will inspire you to try different ways to prepare your favourite vegetables and hopefully some new ones aswell.
• Don’t forget frozen vegetables which are a great standby and easy to add to meals when you need to boost the vegetable content.
• Variety – if someone really doesn’t like steamed broccoli, try preparing it in a different way such as adding it to a stir fry or having it raw in a salad.
• The addition of a low fat sauce or dressing such as MAGGI Sweet & Sour Sauce Mix drizzled over the top may help if you are cooking for someone who is a nervous vegetable eater.
• Canned tomatoes count towards the vegetable content of a meal so add a can or two to a casserole or pasta dish. Tomatoes contain the antioxidant Lycopene which may have a protective effect against some cancers.
• Hide ‘n’ Seek - if all else fails, vegetables can be cleverly hidden in meals by mashing, grating or dicing very finely. Try grating zucchini into a frittata, add parsnip into your mashed potato or try a combination with mashed pumpkin if feeling adventurous. If you don’t specifically mention a vegetable is in a meal you might find it is eaten up in a flash without your man even noticing it was there.
1. Ministry of Health. 2008. A Portrait of Health. Key Results of the 2006/07 New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington. Ministry of Health. 2. Ministry of Health. 2003. Food & Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Adults: A background paper. Wellington, Ministry of Health. 3. www.vegetables.co.nz