If there’s ever a time to try to eat more vegetables, it’s now. It’s summer, that long-awaited time when we relax a bit more and venture a bit farther. This is also the time when gardens thrive and farmers markets open. It brings me pleasure knowing I am eating locally fresh produce.
After all, we are aware of the many benefits of eating vegetables: Improving our heart health, reducing our cancer risk, aiding digestive health and supporting our weight-loss efforts. For some people, though, vegetables are not that appealing.
Fruits and vegetables should take up half of your plate, according to the My Plate model of eating promoted by the Department of Agriculture as well as the American Diabetes Association and other national health organizations. This ensures a meal rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Some of my favorite ways to eat vegetables are listed below. I hope you relax a bit and venture out of your usual routine and select some new ways to consume more fruits and vegetables.
- Spritz asparagus with olive oil spray and set on a piece of foil and grill. Turn occasionally. (Or roast in the oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes arranged on a sheet pan.) Sprinkle with fresh garden herbs like mint, oregano or basil before serving. This can be done with skewered Brussels sprouts and eggplant slices. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar also adds a nice finishing touch.
- Add a green vegetable to your basic garden salad for more flavor and nutrition like frozen peas, fresh snap peas or blanched green beans.
- Marinate cucumbers, diced red onion or thin-sliced radish in one part water, one part apple cider vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar. Leave in the refrigerator and enjoy throughout the day. Experiment with other fresh vegetables, too, like green beans and peppers!
- Make a gazpacho with fresh tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, onions and garlic for a refreshing dish. Add fresh chopped herbs, lemon, juice and vinegar.
- Try making a ratatouille with all the extra summer squashes, tomatoes and fresh basil. You can’t go wrong with any recipe.
- Create a summer slaw with a mixture of various types of cabbage (try Savoy or red for a change), peppers, green onions, fennel, kohlrabi, carrots or even add a cup of fresh cooked corn kernels. Stir in a lite vinaigrette and add chopped herbs of your choice like cilantro, parsley or mint. It lasts in your refrigerator for days.
- Use a fresh pepper as a container for your tuna, egg or chicken salad you pack for lunch.
Mary Noon is a registered dietician and nutritionist at Hartford Hospital. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call Hartford Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Counseling at 860.972.2604.