Eating more vegetables is essential to a healthy diet and weight control - but it's time to think outside the broccoli steam bag! There's gotta be a way to make vegetables taste better without smothering them in butter or loading them with salt (or loading them with bacon or cheese), right? Before you get bored out of your mind and skip eating your greens altogether, it's time to get creative and start enjoying your vegetables; and here's how to do it. (Click the images to try some recipes that utilize each method).
Roasting vegetables is a favorite cold-weather past time of mine. What better (and healthier!) way to warm up the kitchen and make the house smell fabulous? While most vegetables will work, some vegetables especially benefit from roasting, such as onions, potatoes, carrots, and other hearty root vegetables.
Simply preheat the oven to 450 degrees (you want a high temperature so that the vegetables caramelize on the outside and the taste of the natural sugars come out).
For quick clean up, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toss veggies in vegetable oil, add your choice of seasoning (garlic powder, Italian seasoning, or simply salt and pepper) and pop them in them in the oven for 25-40 minutes or until tender.
View Better Homes and Garden’s chart for vegetable roasting times.
Try combining different colors and textures of vegetables. Try broccoli and bell peppers, onions and snap peas, or beets and cauliflower (warning/bonus! – beets turn everything around them a beautiful purple-red!)
Not a huge vegetable fan, but love fruit? Try making a fruit and vegetable salad. Here is a quick recipe:
Combine equal parts of thinly sliced carrots, chopped asparagus, and sliced strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle oil and vinegar and toss. Optional: add sprinkle of toasted nuts or feta cheese.
Not only is this salad delicious and nutritious, it will add a rainbow of color to any meal!
Instead of cheese sauces or butter, lighten up your vegetables with a squeeze of lemon.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends a great alternate to sauce that has just 22 calories per serving and utilizes only 3 simple ingredients: lemon juice, olive oil and garlic.
Lemon juice also adds vitamin C in the form of ascorbic acid, which is a natural way to prevent discoloration of the flesh of fruits and vegetables that otherwise oxidize quickly when exposed to oxygen in the air (common examples include browning of apples and bananas).
The bottom line: Adding lemon juice to steamed vegetables helps to keep colors bright and also enhances flavor.
Add some tang to your veggies with a splash of red or white vinegar to turn a boring vegetable dish into a quick-and-easy vegetable salad! Dark, leafy greens are also a good sources of calcium. So, adding a few splashes of vinegar or a tangy vinaigrette to some greens may very well increase the absorption of bone-fortifying calcium - bonus!
After steaming vegetables, drizzle on your favorite vinegar (rice vinegar is a personal favorite) instead of using butter or salt.
You can jazz up uncooked veggies too. Just clean and chop up whatever vegetables you have on hand, then toss them into a bowl with vinegar, herbs, and a dash of olive oil and let them sit for at least an hour of until you are ready for them. Keep chopped marinated veggies in a bowl in your refrigerator to grab when hunger strikes.
Have you ever had cucumber chips? Roughly peel and slice cucumbers in rounds, add a ½ teaspoon seasoned rice vinegar and have a tasty, crunchy snack that satisfies you for less than 50 calories! Or try the cucumber recipe at the right.
Fresh or dried, herbs will brighten any vegetable dish. One of my favorites, Italian Seasoning, can be added to homemade salad dressing, sautéed veggies, or roasted vegetables. Here are a few other classic pairings:
However you choose to eat your vegetables, we can all agree that eating more will improve your health, decrease your waistline and add color and variety to your diet! So ditch the boring "rabbit food diet" and start loving (dare we say, craving) your veggies! Healthy food CAN taste great; and when it does, you can stick to your habits and reach your goals. Here are some great places to find yummy recipes to try:
Author: Kristen Ciuba
Kristen is a Nutritionist at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. She tries to “practice what she preaches” by fitting in healthy foods and cooking, challenging exercise, and quality time with family and friends every day!