We've all heard that eating plenty of vegetables is essential when you're trying to eat right and be healthy. Vegetables provide countless vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, soluble fiber, insoluble fiber, and the list goes on. Studies demonstrating the considerable health benefits of veggies are too numerous to count. In addition to their incomparable nutrient density, most veggies are also extremely low in calories. Therefore, you can eat your fill without having to be too stingy with your portion.
However, although we all know how fundamental this food group is, we don't always meet our daily requirements of at least 3-5 (or more!) servings every day. I hear all kinds of comments: "they're boring", "they just don't taste good", "they take too long to prepare", "they lack flavor", "I don't know how to make them", etc. Here are a few simple, tasty and calorie-friendly strategies to add flavor and depth to your veggies. Be adventurous! Choose a variety of veggies in a rainbow of colors. You may find that with some creative adjustments, it's easy to meet your daily goals after all.
1. Sauteed Vegetables with Garlic and Oil:
This quick and easy recipe works well with any combination of raw veggies (such as spinach, mushrooms, onions, shallots, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, kale, etc.) or lightly-steamed veggies (such as asparagus, green beans, broccoli or cauliflower, etc.) Of note, each teaspoon of oil adds 33 calories, so just make sure you're not too heavy-handed.
Saute a few cloves of minced garlic in one or two teaspoons of healthy oil (extra virgin olive, canola, peanut, walnut or grape seed are all great options) for a few minutes. Add raw or lightly-steamed veggies and saute for a several minutes more, until soft. Sprinkle with ground black pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh-squeezed lemon juice or chopped fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, parsley, etc.) to kick it up a notch.
2. Asian-Inspired Vegetables:
Saute a few teaspoons of minced fresh ginger and garlic or shallot in one to two teaspoons of a healthy oil (as above). Add vegetables (as above) and saute for several minutes more, until soft. Remove from heat and season with a few drops of sesame oil (a little goes a long way!) and a dash of reduced-sodium soy sauce.
3. Roasted Herbed Vegetables:
This is a great recipe for root vegetables such as onions, turnips, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, fennel, and rutabagas. Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and winter squash varieties also work well.
Mix any combination of sliced or chopped vegetables in a large bowl. Whisk together a few teaspoons each of olive oil and Balsamic vinegar in a small bowl and add to vegetables, tossing well. Add chopped fresh or dried herbs (such as rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, or marjoram) to mixture. Spread into roasting pan. Roast at 450 degrees, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, or until veggies are soft.
4. Grilled Vegetables:
This works well with summer veggies, including bell peppers, onions, eggplant, portabella mushrooms, zucchini or summer squash and asparagus.
Cut large vegetables into 1/2 inch slices. Whisk 1-2 teaspoons each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Brush oil mixture onto vegetables. Spray grill with nonstick spray. Grill veggies over medium-high heat until slightly charred in spots, turning occasionally. Remove from grill. Enjoy as is or sprinkle with any combination of spices, such as chili powder, cumin, cayenne, black pepper, garlic powder or paprika.
As always, I love hearing comments or other feedback, so feel free to let me know what you think!