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Eat Your Veggies!

Vegetables Judging by the classic motherly admonishment to "Eat your veggies," it seems that some people have an aversion to them. Not me. I love vegetables -- can't live without them actually. For example, if I am traveling and have to go even one day without my fill of colorful veggies, something inside just doesn't feel "quite right." That may not be the case for you, but there are lots of reasons why you should eat your veggies even if you don't love them (but I bet they'll grow on you if you give them a fair shake). Vegetables come in all kinds of colors, forms, shapes and sizes. Technically, a fruit is the seed-containing ovary or womb of a plant. That means fruits contain seeds. (There are few exceptions, like bananas.) Vegetables are pretty much all the rest of the plant: the stems, leaves, seeds, flowers and roots. So some foods we usually think of as veggies are actually fruit: tomatoes, cucumbers and squash, to name a few. But for our purposes, we aren't getting technical - "vegetables" here means all of the common (and not so common) vegetables you find in our produce departments. Buddha\I know you've heard that we need to eat more vegetables and here's why. Vegetables, in general, provide us with vitamins, minerals, fiber, trace minerals and plenty of disease-fighting antioxidants. In fact, it's well established that people who eat vegetables daily, as part of an overall healthy diet, are likely to reduce their risk of many chronic illnesses. According to the USDA, if we indulge in a diet rich in vegetables, we may be able to reduce our risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and more. And because many different vegetables are plentiful sources of potassium, eating more may keep bones strong. If you are one of those people who only eats a few veggies - maybe green beans, lettuce and an occasional carrot - we'll provide some ideas for how to get more of the good stuff. If you are not used to eating plenty of veggies, start slow, but definitely start. Begin by making a commitment to try one new vegetable a week. If that's a stretch, try one new vegetable every other week. Choose colorful vegetables and look for what's in season to get the best tasting veggies at their peak of flavor. Your first week, you might try a new orange vegetable, like orange bell peppers or butternut squash. Next, add a new type of leaf to your salad, like arugula or watercress. Then, add something purple, maybe purple cabbage, a purple potato or an eggplant. Tofu DipI'm always asked about using fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. While I prefer fresh, seasonal vegetables for flavor and texture, frozen and canned vegetables are also convenient, especially in the winter. It is definitely better to eat frozen or canned vegetables than none at all! Frozen vegetables, since they are generally frozen immediately upon harvesting, are thought to have similar nutrient levels as fresh. There is a wide variety of frozen produce available, from basic green beans and mixed veggies to edamame (shelled soy beans). The best canned veggies are beans, such as garbanzo, black and pinto, and tomatoes, pumpkin, artichoke hearts and vegetable soups. I am not a fan of canned non-starchy veggies such as green beans, asparagus, spinach and the like. Here are some ideas to make it easy to get more vegetables into your daily diet:
  • Include fruits and vegetables every time you eat - both at meals and snacks. Try salsa with breakfast eggs and carrot sticks with nut butter for a snack.
  • Keep carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks and sliced bell peppers in the refrigerator for a quick, healthy snack. With hummus or a little ranch dressing… delicious!
  • Make combination salads with raw veggies (lettuce, celery, tomatoes) and cooked veggies (broccoli, chickpeas, green beans).
  • Add color to your salad: red, yellow, orange or green peppers, dark arugula, watercress, baby spinach, red radish and purple cabbage. Top with avocado slices and chunky vegetable salsa.
  • Think of ways to add veggies to standard meals, such as a tomato slice on a sandwich or grated carrot in a meatloaf.
  • When preparing a specific recipe, add more veggies than are called for in soups, stews, omelets, quiches, pasta salads and green salads.
  • Thinly slice zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers and cabbage. Add to sandwiches.
  • Marinate and grill hearty vegetables such as peppers, eggplant and large mushrooms. A simple good marinade is tamari, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper.
  • Dice or shred vegetables such as summer or winter squash, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Add them to pasta sauce and cook until just tender.
  • Make zucchini bread. Add yellow squash and grated carrots, too!
  • Spanish Portabello Pepper
  • Marinate fruit and vegetables, then skewer and grill. Examples: peppers, pineapple, mushrooms, tomatoes, plums and peaches.
  • Crock pots are great time saving devices - perfect for stews with lots of vegetables and beans.
  • When eating out, order the meal that gives you the most vegetables. Add a side salad when you can.
There are endless varieties of vegetables that change with each new season and, of course, we have plenty of recipes to help you navigate your way. Here are some easy recipes you might enjoy: Carrot, Red Onion and Cilantro Salad Creamy Spring Asparagus Soup Sesame and Lemon Broccoli Green Beans with Shallots and Almonds Do you have a favorite vegetable or vegetable recipe? What about creative ways to get more vegetables into your meals? I'd love to hear!

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Victoria Walker says …

To be honest, my favorite vegetable recipe is one of yours! The veggie tofu curry WF serves at the hot food bar always hits the spot for me. And the happy hour deal makes it even sweeter ^_^

Doreen Thompson says …

One missing recommendation re veggies is the use of: fresh herbs (tarragon, basil, rosemary, etc), nuts, red onions, raisins, cranberries, sprinkling of feta cheese to add flavors and textures

Hello Veggie says …

Great article with tips on on getting more veggies in. I say, the more veggies the merrier. Purple potatoes are the newest veggies I'm looking forward to trying. The Nashville WFM was selling them the other day and I bought three. Hopefully I'll use them this weekend!

Miracle 2 Girl says …

This is a good article. I find that people think they'll hate kale but it actually is very tasty. Also winter squash tastes very good if you add a little honey or if you make a soup that has in it an onion , curry and 2 apples cut up. Thanks for the veggie reminder. Deb

Enrique says …

Bananas have seeds in them!

Vege Yum Yum says …

Don't forget to stop in at your store's juicebar! My favorite combo--> Apple, beet, cucumber, spinach and ginger... yum yum!

Haudi says …

This is from one of Lidia Bastianich's books. I've tweeked it a bit. Saute 6-8 cloves garlic, thin sliced (I use a whole head!) with 2 tspns red pepper flakes in 3 tbs olive oil(EVOO) over med heat in a lg sauce pan until cloves are just beginning to brown. Add 1 tbs tomato paste and mix until combined. Add 1 28 oz can of whole plum tomatoes (San Marzanno's), hand crushed, with liquid and raise heat to med-hi. Cook until liquid reduces by half. Lower heat to med-low and add 5-6 leaves chard (stems removed, leaves cut into 1-in strips and blanched for about 2-3 min in boiling water) and cook for about 2 min. Add 2 cans cannalini beans (drained and rinsed)and cook for 2-3 min. Remove from heat, add add'l 2 tbs EVOO, let cool a bit, add salt a pepper to taste. Makes about 6 1-cup servings. I eat it for breakfast

Carol says …

Potassium is not related to bone health -- you're thinking of phosphorous. Potassium is an electrolyte that contributes to proper nerve impulse transmission, heart function and muscle contraction. This website has great information about vitamins and minerals and their functions: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/potassium/ Otherwise, though, very helpful hints on improving intake of veggies!

Amy says …

Sometimes the tricky part is in how to keep veggies fresh. I find that Romaine lettuce stays fresh for up to two weeks if I wash the leaves in a salad spinner as soon as I bring it home. I also store the torn up lettuce leaves in the salad spinner inside the refrigerator. It provides easy access so that I can easily add lettuce to sandwiches, or make a quick salad.

jerri says …

i like to eat spinach as my main dish to get in more veggies, but not in salad form. check out my recipe for spinach patties (like crab cakes with spinach instead) at http://www.cooking4carnivores.com/2009/05/popeye-says-eat-your-spinach-kids.html