Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: 7 Ways to Add More Veggies to Your Diet

Now is a great time to enjoy fresh vegetables.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, my cabin won the healthy challenge at 4-H camp,” my 12-year-old daughter noted rather matter-of-factly one day. She was unpacking her suitcase.

In the Healthy Challenge at the North Dakota 4-H Camp in Washburn, the campers also kept track of eating fruits and vegetables, brushing their teeth, drinking water, wearing sunscreen and getting physical activity in a fun environment.

“So you ate plenty of fruits and vegetables and got enough sleep?” I asked.

“Yes, I did. The food on the salad bar was really good!” she replied.

Salad bar? Eating a lot of veggies? Was this really my child, the “selective eater”? I was appreciating positive peer influence more by the minute.

I was very familiar with the Healthy 4-H Camp Challenge. A team of us in NDSU Extension created the challenge to promote healthful eating during the multiday camps at the newly renovated camp.

My daughter probably thought she had escaped my influence for a few days at summer camp. I chuckled to myself.

Actually, I think it was more like a silent maniacal laugh.

“What vegetables are your favorites?” I probed. I was still wondering if aliens had abducted her while at camp. This small person still looked a lot like me, though.

“I like lots of vegetables, Mom. I like carrots, corn, cauliflower, potatoes,” she began.

“Cauliflower? How about broccoli and cabbage?” I asked.

“I like broccoli that isn’t cooked, but I do not like cabbage,” she replied while wrinkling her nose.

“In fact, I want some cauliflower. It’s so good!” she said.

I really wished I could have whipped a head of cauliflower from behind my back.

Parental patience had prevailed and, like her siblings, she finally appreciates vegetables.

Whether you prefer corn on the cob, zucchini or beets, now is a great time of the year to enjoy fresh vegetables from your own garden, a farmers market or the grocery store. However, fresh, frozen, canned and dried vegetables all count toward the recommended amount all year long.

According to the most recent recommendations, adults should consume at least 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, depending on gender and physical activity level. They should consume 1 1/2 to 2 cups of fruit.

The upcoming 2015 Dietary Guidelines continue to stress the value of vegetable and fruit consumption in maintaining our health. Eating plenty of vegetables and fruits can reduce our risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, and can help with weight management, among other things.

Unfortunately, a July 2015 report printed in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showed that nationwide, about 86 percent of adults consume less than the vegetable recommendation, and 82 percent consume less than the fruit recommendation.

If you are looking for inspiration, consider these seven tips to enjoy all the delicious fresh vegetables of late summer and early fall:

  • Think thin when the urge to snack strikes. Munch on raw fresh vegetables such as cucumber spears, green and red pepper rounds, radishes, broccoli or cauliflower florets, green beans, carrots and celery. Prepare a low-fat dip for vegetable dippers using a base of plain yogurt or cottage cheese. Season with herbs and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
  • Choose a main-dish salad. Use a variety of crisp and crunchy fresh vegetables to vary your favorite salad and create some special combinations. Take advantage of the wide selection of lettuces, greens and other fresh salad vegetables.
  • Add a side salad to your lunch or dinner menu with homemade, low-calorie dressing. This may be as simple as mixing fresh lemon or lime juice with freshly snipped parsley or chives.
  • For a low-calorie sandwich, wrap your favorite sandwich fillings with crisp lettuce leaves. Or fill lettuce leaves with seasoned cottage cheese, drizzle with a low-calorie salad dressing and enjoy a light lunch.
  • Turn a salad into a sandwich. Place fresh-cut vegetables, mixed lightly in dressing, into pita bread for an easy carry-along salad.
  • Stuff parboiled (partially cooked) or lightly steamed green peppers with other chopped fresh vegetables tossed with bread crumbs. Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake for a diet-wise dinner.
  • Before bringing on the main course for kids or adults, offer a platter of colorful fresh vegetables and dip to take the edge off their appetite.

For more information, check out “How to Select and Store Vegetables” (available at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1456.pdf) for information about keeping fresh veggies at their best. Visit our food preservation resources (available at https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/food) for information about canning, freezing, drying and pickling a wide range of vegetable and fruits.

Here’s a recipe with a thumbs-up from my cauliflower-eating daughter. Serve it as a tasty side dish.

Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

2 Tbsp. milk

3 Tbsp. butter

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. onion powder

2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place cauliflower florets in a large pot. Add just enough water to cover. Cover pot and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and place in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat with an electric mixer until mixture is well-combined.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 80 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 2 g protein, 4 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber and 100 milligrams sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Aug. 13, 2015

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@nsdu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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