Eating more veggies

I know with the ongoing news about E. coli and romaine lettuce that you aren’t going to go out and buy romaine lettuce and make salads. I am not either – I’m just eating other dark green leafy veggies. There are so many other possibilities when it comes to greens for salads and that may be another column. For now, I just want to share information about preparing, cooking, and eating veggies. Somehow we have to figure out a way to get as excited about preparing vegetables in creative ways and then eating them as everyone is about eating rich fatty desserts and sweets. I know I like them too, but everything needs to be eaten in moderation.

Some veggies are best when fresh and locally grown like sweet corn and tomatoes. There are many veggies that are best when we buy them in the frozen food section – yes, I wrote in the frozen food section. There are many variables: the time of year, the amount of preparation and cooking time available, money, the amount you are cooking, and other possibilities. The produce industry has done (and will continue to do) a great job at making fruits and vegetables more available so the food is ready to eat and easier to prepare. You will however pay more because of the labor involved to prepare the food for you.

I know it is not always easy to find or afford what you want in the grocery produce section. There are many choices and colors. An additional challenge is that we have good intentions and we purchase all this good food only to find that we didn’t plan to get it prepared and it spoils. Only about 1 in 10 Americans consume the daily recommended amount of veggies. That is 2 ½ cups for women and 3 ½ cups for men. We all need to eat more veggies! One way that I do this is by using frozen veggies. Being frozen reduces the preparation time, sometimes the cooking time, and the amount of waste compared to fresh veggies.

There are a greater number of inventive new frozen vegetables available at the supermarket. I encourage you to plan some time and look at the frozen vegetables. There are mashed, riced, roasted, and spiraled, as well as some mixed with grains, beans, and pasta. There is also a cost factor to look at. Data from the Department of Agriculture shows typically higher than average prices for fresh produce. Some items like cauliflower are significantly more economical in frozen form.

You also need to read the label and watch the sodium. In many packages there is way too much sodium. I am also not that big on the added grains, pasta, or beans. I would rather cook them separately then add them. Recent research shows when it comes to frozen vegetables they are often more nutritious than fresh veggies. I know that it is believed that fresh veggies are best, but that is not always true.

The most popular vegetable right now is cauliflower. When you’re in the fresh produce aisle you will see the lovely cream color, but now there is also orange and purple cauliflower which both keep their color when steamed. In the frozen section you will find many more forms of cauliflower. Cauliflower has become the de rigueur at trendy restaurants. Plus, there are lots of wonderful new creative recipes that you are able to make. Cauliflower that is riced is the hottest trend followed by broccoli, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables. The healthiest idea is to buy the veggies and rice yourself so that way you can control the amount of salt. This however takes more time.

The other big trend is spiral veggies- a low carb substitute for pasta and also big news in the frozen food section. Try as much as possible to eat vegetables in their original form. The snack foods called vegetable sticks, the vegetable flavored crackers, and all the other processed food items are not the same as eating vegetables. Plan or do whatever you need to in order to buy, prepare, and eat more vegetables. It might be eating the small colorful sweet peppers as they are or eating carrots in any form as a snack. Veggies are full of nutrition and contain water and fiber which are all items that your body needs. So until next week, start eating more vegetables! Here is to good health from eating what your body needs verses what your taste buds want.

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