Gobble the Garden
In honor of MyPlate’s first birthday celebration, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D. is sharing useful and easy tips to make sure you never get bored with the veggies on your plate.
MyPlate, the government’s latest and, in my opinion, best symbol for healthy eating, just marked its first birthday. MyPlate stresses balanced meals and snacks using easy-to-understand themes, like the major message to “make half your plate fruits and vegetables.”
Fruits and vegetables supply similar nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, vitamins A, C and K, and folate, but most vegetables are lower in carbohydrates and calories than fruits. Vegetables are particularly nutrient-rich because they provide lots of good nutrition for relatively few calories.
How many vegetables for you?
While MyPlate puts fruits and vegetables on equal footing, it’s often more challenging to include the vegetables you need every day.
Health experts base suggestions for fruit and vegetable intake on calorie requirements.
Generally speaking, adults and teens need about five servings of fruits and vegetables a day while younger children should eat between two and three. One cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or two cups of raw leafy greens.
Amount matters, but it’s also important to vary vegetables to maximize nutrition; all vegetables are healthy, but they are not created equal. Here are some examples of the benefits vegetables have to offer:
- Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle. One serving of mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light provide close to two-thirds of your Daily Value for vitamin D.
- Beans and peas are rich in protein, which most vegetables lack. They supply iron and zinc in amounts similar to seafood, meat, and poultry.
- Tomatoes are tops for vitamin C and for lycopene, a powerful cell-protector that also provides tomatoes with their deep red hue.
- Sweet potatoes and carrots are packed with beta-carotene, a potent antioxidant that helps ward off cell damage and serves as the raw material for making vitamin A.
Delicious, Easy Vegetable Tips
You know why you should eat more vegetables, but you may not always get what you need. Or, you may not like how vegetables taste. There’s no need to eat plain produce in the name of good health. Add some healthy fats, such as olive and canola oils, a sprinkle of good-quality grated cheese, hummus, or even peanut butter to make vegetables more appealing.
Here are some suggestions for ways to include tasty vegetables:
- Plan meals around vegetables, such as a vegetable and beef or chicken stir-fry or chili. Substitute beans or mushrooms for half the meat in your favorite recipes.
- Grill portabella mushrooms for burgers instead of beef and turkey. Top with 1 ounce sharp cheddar cheese, lettuce, and tomato, and serve on a whole grain bun.
- Sip 100% no-salt added vegetable juice with a meal or as a snack.
- Choose no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, and low-sodium canned vegetables, including tomato products.
- Place a container of cut-up vegetables in a see-through container in the refrigerator with low-fat dips, such as Ranch dressing, on hand for dipping.
- Get kids involved with vegetable choices. When shopping, allow them to pick a vegetable to have at home.
- Make veggie pizzas at home using chopped red bell pepper, mushrooms, onions, and artichokes. When ordering pizza, ask for extra vegetables.
- Add chopped vegetables, such as green and red bell pepper, onions, and mushrooms to prepared pasta sauce or to your favorite lasagna recipe.
- Roast vegetables, such as chopped broccoli and cauliflower, and thickly-sliced carrots. Toss with olive oil and the herbs of your choice and roast at 400˚F for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Grill vegetables, such as asparagus, eggplant and mushrooms. Brush each piece with olive oil before setting directly on the grill.