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Why we are told to eat our vegetables

When I was younger, my best friend and I were practically sisters. We did sports together, school together, and vacations together - we were so close that we even knew where the floors creaked in each other's homes! With this tight knit bond, it will come as no surprise that we frequently had dinners together. Little did I know that from these dinners I would learn a valuable tip that would live rent-free in my mind for the rest of my life!


This tip is simple, yet effective, and it often got me to eat the vegetables I persistently avoided as a child - this tip is called the "no thank you helping." Whenever my friend's mom would serve us dinner, we were welcome to eat whatever we like; however, we always had to have one "no thank you helping." This meant a helping of those crock pot green beans, Brussels sprouts, or any food that didn't make the first cut on my plate... we didn't have to like it, we simply had to give it a fair chance and try it.


Speaking of green beans and Brussels sprouts, let's get to the topic of this blog and uncover why we grew up always being told we needed to eat our vegetables. Maybe some of you were told it was because you wouldn't grow if you didn't have them, or in order for you to have strong muscles you needed to have spinach like Popeye. I can attest that I heard these, and many other reasons, as to why vegetables are vital; but, were these persuasions truthful? Did anyone really know why you should eat vegetables besides "they're good for you?"


I can confirm that even though these reasons were probably something parents came up with on the spot, they do have validity. Nutritionally speaking, when someone consumes a variety of vegetables, they are consuming vitamins and minerals that aid in developing strong bones, increased muscle function, good eye sight, improved blood circulation, and more.


There is a wide variety of vegetables; but, for simplicity, they can be broken down into six groups: leafy greens, cruciferous, marrow, root, edible plant stem, and allium (betterhealth.vic.gov). Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • "Leafy green – lettuce, spinach and silverbeet

  • Cruciferous – cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts and broccoli [kale]

  • Marrow – pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini

  • Root – potato, sweet potato and yam [carrot]

  • Edible plant stem – celery and asparagus

  • Allium – onion, garlic and shallot."

(betterhealth.vic.gov)


Keep in mind that vegetables help protect your body by naturally fighting against the things your body doesn't want inside it, such as "bad cholesterol (LDL)," sickness, disease, and more. They are full of fiber and low in caloric value which helps the consumer feel full, keep their digestive track in check, and aid in weightloss.


With all these benefits who wouldn't want to indulge in some vegetables?? You may be thinking, "well just because they are good for you doesn't mean they taste good." To help overcome this obstacle, I've listed are some easy and practical recipes below to bring out the best in your veggies.


If all else fails, I encourage you to have a "no thank you helping" with every meal.


Roasted Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 10 baby carrots (or 3 peeled large carrots)

  • 1/2 head of broccoli

  • 1/4 head of cauliflower

  • 1 small potato (slice thin, about 1/4”)

  • 1/2 bell pepper

  • 1/2 onion

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • Seasoning of choice (I like Weber Roasted Garlic and Herb)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425° (I personally roast them on 470° because I like them crispy!)

  • Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil (this step is not necessary, but makes for an easy clean up)

  • Spray the aluminum with non-stick spray

  • Cut up vegetables and disperse on baking sheet (I cut baby carrots in half)

  • Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle seasonings

  • Thoroughly hand mix until all vegetables are covered

  • Roast for 25-30min.

Nutritional Value:

Calories 344

Total Fat 14.7g

Cholesterol 0

Sodium 281mg

Total Carbs 50.6g

Dietary Fiber 11g

Total Sugars 13.6g

Protein 7.5g


Steamed Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of frozen vegetables (California medley is pictured)

  • Seasoning to taste (I like garlic salt)

Directions:

  • Prepare per bag’s instructions

  • Pour in a bowl and mix in seasoning

Nutritional Value:

Calories 105

Total Fat

Cholesterol 0

Sodium 100mg

Total Carbs 21g

Dietary Fiber 8.1g

Total Sugars 8.3g

Protein 4.3


Sautéed Vegetables

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 head broccoli

  • 1/2 onion

  • 1/2 cup of cut up mushrooms

  • 1 tbsp oil

  • Pinch of salt/seasonings of choice

Directions:

  • Carefully cut up vegetables

  • Pour oil into a skillet

  • Put skillet on medium-high heat

  • Put vegetables in skillet and add salt/seasonings of choice

  • Sauté until vegetables brown

Nutritional Value:

Calories 181

Total Fat 14.5g

Cholesterol 0mg

Sodium 189mg

Total Carbs 12.3g

Dietary Fiber 3.9g

Total Sugars 4.5g

Protein 4.3g


Toss Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups chopped lettuce of choice (iceberg, romaine, kale, spinach, etc.)

  • 1 cup of roasted vegetables (this is a perk to leftovers)

  • 4 oz of shedded chicken

  • 1/4 avocado

  • 1/2 apple roughly chopped

  • 1 tbsp raisins

  • 1 tbsp dressing of choice

  • 1 tbsp tortilla strips

Directions:

  • Rinse lettuce and chop

  • Add lettuce to a large bowl

  • Top with roasted vegetables, chicken, avocado, apple, raisins, and tortilla strips

  • Drizzle dressing

  • Mix and enjoy!

Feel free to experiment with different seasonings, vegetables, dressings, etc. for all the above! The key is to make the vegetables taste good to you - the better it tastes the higher probability that you'll consume more veggies. The "goal" is to have close to 5 servings a day (ars.usda.gov). A serving of vegetables is usually half a cup to a cup.


Sources

“Fruit and Vegetables.” Fruit and Vegetables - Better Health Channel, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/fruit-and-vegetables.


Pyramid Servings Data (on-Line) - Ars Home : USDA Ars. https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400530/pdf/Pynet_94.pdf.





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