More Veggies Please!

Leaves are falling, temperatures dropping, and things are slowing down in Walla Walla. Without the demands of weekend catering and preparing meals for others, I have time to focus on my own family’s needs. A leisurely visit to the farmers market last week was a rude awakening and realization that my own children need my nutritional counseling and planning.

It all started with an innocent stop at the WIC booth, where they were promoting healthy eating and sampling butternut squash soup. Wanting to support the cause, I took a sample and encouraged my kids to do the same. Nope. Okay, how about just a bite of mine. No thank you. I begged and pleaded, asking them to be good role models and show how much nutrition knowledge and appreciation they had. Still no.

Inspired to give it another shot and prove to them(and myself) that they would like squash if given a chance and a good recipe, I prepared delicious roasted delicata rings for dinner. My husband gobbled them down, my son ate a few, but I had to do my best persuading to get my daughter to eat a measly two pieces.

Normally I can get them to eat vegetables and they do like most vegetables, but I have gotten out of the habit of preparing them beyond the mandatory lunch carrots, evening unthawed frozen veg, and occasional salad. I realized that if I, a trained chef and educated nutritionist is having a hard time serving enough fresh vegetables in my house, imagine how the rest of the nation is doing. I figured it was time I address this situation and get back into preparing more fresh vegetables in my home.

So why even bother? Does it really matter if we skip the vegetables at mealtime? Yes! It does matter! Let’s take a look at a typical day of meals in our household, without the vegetables. Oatmeal and orange juice for breakfast, peanut butter + jelly and apple for lunch, chicken and rice for dinner. With a diet like this, we exceed the recommended daily allowance for carbohydrates, but get less than a quarter of the necessary vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A, E, Calcium, Potassium, and Niacin, and very little antioxidants. Adding a handful of carrots at lunch, a small spinach salad and some yams at dinner fills the nutritional gap easily with little fuss. The vegetables add more color, variety, and flavor to the meal and supply essential dietary fiber and protective antioxidants.

Having spent two years studying nutrition, I know the importance of a balanced diet based on whole foods. I understand we need whole grains for their dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals. We need fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant power, to protect our cells from damage by free radicals, their fiber for proper digestion, and vitamins and minerals for regulating body function and maximizing cell production . I know each different colored vegetable offers a different nutritional profile and we should eat a variety of colors each day. Knowing all this, I’m making this change one of my top priorities in this downtime from work. Keeping my family healthy is as simple as spending a little extra time planning and chopping vegetables.

Here’s my plan: Write a menu on Sunday for the following week. Buy all necessary dry foods and vegetables, including kids in choosing veggies of the week. Prep carrot, cucumber, red pepper sticks for lunches; add a little water to avoid drying out and cover. For nights I work late, prep meat and vegetable, label and place in fridge. Write menu and any cooking notes on fridge door, for myself and husband. Have a backup bag of frozen veg and frozen cheese pizza, for emergency. Have chopped veggies ready to add to emergency pizza, if needed. Include and enjoy as much local fresh produce as possible, while it’s still available.

For more information on vegetables and their nutritional profiles, check out: http://www.producepedia.com

To compare your diet to your recommended dietary intake, check out the USDA’s My Pyramid Tracker:

http://www.mypyramidtracker.gov

or to analyze an individual food, USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory:

http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

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Roasted Delicata Squash Rings

Delicata are cylindrical squash with yellow skin and green stripes. Their skin in thin, so there is no need to peel before cooking. They are high in Vitamin A and Vitamin C, and are a good source of fiber.

2-3 delicata squash

olive oil

salt and pepper

garlic, optional

Cut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and discard. Lay cut-side down and cut into half-moon rings, about a half inch thick. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and optional garlic and bake in oven at 350 for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

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Common Excuses Why We Don’t Eat More Vegetables

There are a million excuses people use to explain why they don’t serve more vegetables at mealtimes . For some of the most common excuses out there, I have a solution. It’s not convenient. Keep ready-to-eat vegetables in the front of your fridge, packed and ready to go when you are. I don’t like them. Many folks expect that vegetables will be bland or taste bad. Try new options or add vegetables to the foods you already know you enjoy, like chili, stews, pasta, pizza and so on. And make sure not to overcook them or they will be unappealing! I don’t know how to serve them. Buy some new cookbooks that focus on vegetables or borrow some from the library. Ask friends for ideas or check with your local farmer his favorite way to prepare his produce. Fresh produce spoils too quickly. Buy in small quantities and use within the week. Prep some vegetables so they are ready to be used without much fuss. Keep a list on the front of the fridge what’s inside. Consider buying frozen vegetables, as they last much longer. Other snacks are more convenient. Try single serving veggie packs or cut up vegetable sticks yourself and wrap for on-the-go snacks. They cost too much. Buy produce in season and on sale. Buy frozen. Shop around; some stores may have one-stop shopping, but not necessarily the best prices. Buy a little bit at a time to avoid costly waste.

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Categories: around walla walla, food with kids, nutrition

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8 Comments on “More Veggies Please!”

  1. Steve
    October 27, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    Great practical information!

  2. October 27, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    Try a smoothies in the morinv or for lunch or dinner. I prepare a smoothies every morning for me, 3 kids and my hubs. I make sure to keep these items on on for the week: carrots, celery, berries of any kind, bananas, oranges, apples, etc. Throw a few items in the blender, 3-4 combo, and usually a handful, soy milk some juice, and……sneak in something u know they’ll grumble about. Heeee hee, they won’t know! Enjoy with a carb….waffle, etc.

    • melissadavisfood
      October 28, 2011 at 8:35 am #

      Great ways to include veggies into breakfast, Stefanie! Thanks for stopping by and adding your ideas:) Besitos y abrazos!

    • Angela Grizzle
      October 28, 2011 at 10:06 am #

      Hi Stef – Even better: add a handful of dark green leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard, romaine, dandelion greens) into your smoothies. Makes the color come out funny (usually green) but you won’t taste the greens with all that fruit in there. Start with spinach as it has the least amount of flavor. We all know how important GREENS are and most of us don’t get enough. Adding them to fruit smoothies is a great way to incorportate.

  3. October 28, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    Good information. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • melissadavisfood
      October 28, 2011 at 8:43 am #

      Thanks for stopping by Lavae!! Glad you found the info useful:)

  4. Dalia Villegas
    November 1, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    Since my son is a VERY picky eater, I have to hide vegies in the meal. He loves mashed potatoes so I add pureed cauliflower in them. works everytime.

    • melissadavisfood
      November 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

      Yum! Mashed potatoes with cauliflower!! Thanks for the tip Dalia!

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