by Karl Mincin, Nutritionist
My number one recommendation to improve one’s overall health is – eat more vegetables!
For decades, I’ve advised patients to eat at least ten servings of produce, and that twenty is not too much. What’s a serving? One half cup for most veggies such as carrots, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, peppers, squash, etc. For lettuce and leafy greens it is one cup. It’s easy to get four or more servings in a big salad.
The more vegetables you eat, the more they “grow” on you. Taste preferences can and do change. All we are saying is give peas a chance – even a third or fourth chance! Personally, I haven’t always liked broccoli, but I now get cravings for it.
Put a rainbow on your plate! Green is great, but don’t stop there! Research shows that all of the healing and medicinal phyto-nutrients in food are associated with different color pigments, it is vital to eat from the entire spectrum of color. At the end of the day, ask yourself how many of the primary colors you consumed. At the end of the week, how many colors from the rainbow?
Try these simple suggestions to “veg” it up: Think veggies – The transition to healthier eating begins not only at the store and on your plate, but in your mind. Plan ahead and be creative about sneaking in more produce. Make it a practice to enlarge your usual portion of veggies.
Frozen is fine – If fresh isn’t realistic, frozen is the next best thing. Get acquainted with the wide variety of frozen vegetables. Add them to canned soups or a frozen entree, mix them with rice or other starchy foods, or serve them as an additional side with a main meal.
Savor the flavor – Moderate use of sauces and condiments can make all the difference. Stir-fry, teriyaki, peanut, and curry sauces instantly transform “boring” into mouth-watering.
Taste organic – There is a flavor and nutritional difference. Try a taste test with celery for example, and see for yourself.
Balance – Pair your favorite starchy foods with vegetables. Eat the tortilla chips with a side of carrots, peppers, and avocado. Mac & Cheese goes great with broccoli.
Snack on produce – Some of my favorite quick combos are: carrots and hazelnut butter; celery with tahini and miso spread; colorful bell peppers with hummus. Try different cutting and cooking methods too!
Keep it simple – Sauté or microwave mixed frozen veggies with a little butter or olive oil and thyme or other favorite herbal seasoning.
Make it last – Rejuvenate older, perhaps softened produce by steaming them back to life or making soup.
Appetizers – Rather than nibbling on what you’re putting into the main meal, have prepared veggies ready to eat while you cook. Onions count – If you’re an onion lover, sauté several large onions to supplement other dishes.
PB & G – Trade off high sugar fruit toppings for high nutrient density veggies. Instead of jelly, try steamed greens (spinach is my favorite), crunchy mixed bean and pea sprouts, or grated carrot on your peanut butter sandwich. A little peanut sauce and onions with the spinach makes a nice variation.
The best medicine – Eating vegetables is an economical preventive medicine – it is cheaper than disease care.
Karl Mincin is a consulting clinical nutritionist in practice locally for 30 years. He offers phone and telenutrition services. Find him at nutrition-testing.com, facebook.com/karlmincin or 360.336.2616.