By Kac Young PhD, ND, DCH
Even though nutritionists recommend that we eat three to five servings of vegetables each day, only 21% of men are meeting that goal. The average woman isn’t doing much better—just 31% consume that many veggies in their daily diets, and that’s largely because women tend to eat more salads (mostly lettuce) than men do (1).
But, if you don’t eat a minimum daily requirement of vegetables, you are depriving yourself of proven health-promoting nutrients that help fight everything from heart disease and diabetes to cancer.
Americans are traditionally meat eaters with vegetables thrown in on the side. Some just don’t like the taste of vegetables. However, there is hope. We can retrain ourselves when we make up our minds to enhance our health and increase our longevity. The one thing you can do is:
Yep. That’s exactly what I mean. I hated vegetables growing up because I was given mushy blobs of green and yellow stuff on my plate that was tasteless and not very much fun. You, too?
You can “beef up” your vegetable intake no matter how you feel about them. Vegetables are essential to your health. So get over yourself and add them to your meals. Here are some ideas that will take your veggies to a new level of enjoyment.
Steam, don’t boil them. Steaming brings out the natural flavor of fresh vegetables and gives them the kind of crunch and texture that greatly increases your enjoyment.
Roast or grill them. (See Preparation Tips below.) When you roast or grill your veggies, their natural sugars caramelize, which kicks up the flavor. Before you roast them, toss them with an aromatic oil such as pumpkin, tangerine, garlic or basil oil. You can roast: carrots, leeks, onions, butternut squash, acorn squash, potatoes, peppers, turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, tomatoes, eggplant, beans, snap peas, beets, Brussels sprouts, corn and other vine-grown veggies.
Preparation Tips: Chop 2-4 cups of vegetables into chunks and mix with one tablespoon of flavored cooking oil such as pumpkin, garlic, basil, citrus or other spicy, herbed flavors. Place veggies on cookie sheets or racks lined with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. For heavier vegetables, roast at 400°F for about 40 to 45 minutes, turning with a spatula at the halfway point. During the last five to 10 minutes, add the lighter and more fragile vegetables, such as asparagus or cherry tomatoes.
If you choose grilling, invest in a veggie grill basket or wrap vegetables in foil packets. Check after four to five minutes of direct heat. Add additional cooking minutes as needed.
Some Like it Hot!
If that’s you, feel free to add your spiciest hot pepper sauces to the mix. If you’re a tamer sort then you can add fresh herbs to add flavor, appeal and taste. Rosemary, cilantro, tarragon, basil, thyme, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, horseradish and garlic are great picker uppers for vegetables. Plus, you get some added nutrients and disease-fighting weapons all in one meal.
Train yourself to like vegetables just like you would train a puppy. Be kind and gentle, take it one step at a time, and praise yourself for making better health choices not only for you, but for your family as well. Check into: www.HeartEasy.com for more ideas about your heart and healthy eating. Now, go cook a veggie!
– Guest Author, Kac Young PhD, ND, DCH
(1) Susan Mitchell, PhD, RD, a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist