What if I told you that your mother held the secret to the ultimate healthy eating plan. She has been telling you since childhood the key to reducing risk for cancer, heart disease and stroke. It is a simple strategy for helping you achieve higher energy and a healthy weight. Eat your veggies.
It sounds so simple it often gets lost behind all the high tech dietary hype we see and hear today. Isn’t it nice to finally read about something that you should add to your diet instead of cut out. As simple as it sounds, only 1/3 of Canadians get the recommended 5 to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables despite knowing they should.
That means almost 70% of us are missing out on this powerful instrument for achieving health and longevity. I find fruit is easier for most people to include in the diet. For some reason vegetables seem to linger longer in our refrigerators. I wonder if some of us harbor a deep rooted resentment for being nagged to “eat our broccoli” when we were kids. Or perhaps it is simply the perceived time and effort it takes to wash and prepare vegetables.
In many families the dinner meal is the main time and maybe the only time vegetables are consumed. Even if you eat a whole cup of broccoli at dinner that only equates to 2 servings of veggies. As a general rule you should aim to cover half of your dinner plate with vegetables. I recommend adults aim for at least 4 servings of vegetables or 2 cups every day. To spread them out, plan to eat at least 1 cup of veggies during the day and at least 1 cup with dinner. You may already struggle to pack a lunch let alone take the time to peel and chop some vegetables. If that’s the case, try packing a knife in with your lunch and then throw in a whole pepper, raw green beans, snow peas, sweet peas or even radishes.
Another strategy is to always prepare extra veggies with dinner. Pack leftover salad, cooked greens, blanched broccoli or stir fries in small containers that you can easily grab for the next days lunch. Vegetables have got to be accessible, tasty and “in your face” if you are going to eat them.
Try this experiment. Instead of packing away your vegetables in the deep recesses of your vegetable crisper, prepare them as a salad or with a dip and put them in a see-through container on the top shelf. If you keep them visible you are more likely to eat them. Vegetable trays always disappear. If you are short on time indulge at your grocery counter and buy the most expensive veggie tray you can find. I guarantee you won’t let it spoil.
Think about how much money we spend on coffee and other convenience foods. Why not apply that same convenience mentality to vegetables. If you already buy the pre-washed salads, the pre-cut stir fry mixes and frozen veggies then good for you. Do whatever it takes to get those powerful greens, oranges and yellows on your plate. Dark green leafy vegetables in particular are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. One of my favorite fast veggie recipes uses spinach as the base.
Grab these ingredients next time you are at the grocery store and keep them on hand for a fast salad anytime.
Speedy Spinach Salad :
Combine pre-washed baby spinach with pine nuts, dried cranberries and crumbled goats cheese. If you have time, toast the pine nuts by heating them in a non-stick pan on medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes.
Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until they begin to brown and remove from heat. Top off the salad with a drizzle of flax seed oil (or any other oil) and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
For more recipes and information check my website and the national website www.5to10aday.com The message that fruits and vegetables are good for you certainly is nothing new however a few new recipes and a little reminder from someone other than your mom never hurts.
Heidi Smith is a Registered Dietitian from the Health and Performance Centre. For more healthy recipes visit her website at www.heidismithnutrition.com.