By Eliza Short, RD, Jackson In Action Contributor
Most people living in the United States do not meet vegetable intake recommendations of 4-5 servings or 2.5 cups per day (for most adults). Why is it so difficult for us to meet these recommendations? Through my experience working with both kids and adults, I have found a few common reasons why this can be the case. One reason that is often reported involves disliking the taste and/or texture of vegetables. Further, vegetables, along with many other healthy foods, are often perceived to be very expensive, and it can be challenging to find ways to prepare tasty recipes. All in all, there are countless reasons to avoid eating vegetables, but why should we work on overcoming those barriers? One reason to overcome these barriers is emphasized with results from a recent study. This study found that a higher intake of both fruits and vegetables was associated with a lower risk for heart disease, cancer, and death from any cause. This can be due to the many health promoting components of these foods, including fiber (helps lower cholesterol and therefore heart disease risk), vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients (help “fight” cancer). Keep reading to learn a few ways to overcome vegetable intake barriers!
The cooking method will play a role in the flavor of your vegetable. Try roasting vegetables tossed in a small amount of canola oil and your favorite seasoning. Roasting reduces the bitter flavor of many vegetables (try broccoli, cauliflower and asparagus), while emphasizing the sweeter flavors of others (carrots, potatoes, beets, peppers, and onions). Instructions for roasting carrots and potatoes can be found in the recipe below.
Try adding more vegetables to casseroles, soups, and other dishes where they can be easily incorporated! One example is in the recipe below-the original recipe contained only carrots, and I modified it to include peppers, onions, and potatoes!
Disguise your vegetables in your favorite foods! Roasted, steamed, or stir-fried vegetables can be pureed and added to dishes with a red sauce (think spaghetti or lasagna) or creamy soups (white potatoes or cauliflower can take the place of some of the cream).
Aune D, Giovannucci E, Boffetta P, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer and all-cause mortality-a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Intl J Epidemiol. 2017;46(3):1029-1056.
Recipe: Roasted Vegetable Medley with Tahini Dressing*
4 Large Carrots, sliced in half lengthwise and into finger-length pieces
2 cups small red potatoes, each potato quartered
4 T + ¼ tsp Olive oil, divided
1-2 tsp Cumin (to your liking)
1 sweet bell pepper, any color, sliced into strips
1 medium yellow onion, sliced into strips
4 cloves garlic, minced and divided in half
1 cup farro, dry (or barley, rice, other grain of choice)
1 can chickpeas, drained
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Red pepper flakes, to your liking
1/4 cup raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/3 cup tahini
2 T lemon juice
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
3-4 T water, as needed
Preheat oven to 425 F. Prep carrots and potatoes, add to large baking sheet with 2 T olive oil and cumin. Roast for about 40 minutes until tender, stirring halfway through.
Heat 1 T olive oil in a pan on the stove top, add pepper, onion, and half of the minced garlic. Stir fry until vegetables are slightly browned (to your liking).
In a medium saucepan, combine farro with enough water to cover by a couple of inches (at least 3 cups water). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until farro is tender but still slightly chewy (pearled farro takes about 15 min, unprocessed takes about 25-40 min). Drain off excess water and return farro to pot. Add 1 T olive oil, 2 tsp lemon juice, half of the minced garlic, ¼ tsp salt, and red pepper flakes to your liking. Add chickpeas, set aside.
In a small skillet, combine pepitas with ¼ tsp olive oil and a dash of salt, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until edges are golden brown. Set aside.
Tahini sauce: combine the tahini, lemon juice, 1 T chopped parsley, and a few twists of black pepper (to your liking). Whisk to combine, then whisk in 3-4 T water. You may need to add more water to reach a thick but drizzly consistency.
Assemble dish: Pour farro and chickpea mixture across a large serving platter. Add roasted potatoes and carrots on top of grain mixture, then add stir fried onions/peppers. Drizzle tahini dressing over mixture, and garnish with pepitas and parsley.
*Recipe adapted from the cookbook, “Love Real Food”
March Harvest of the Month
Tune in to WEAU-TV 13 NBC on March 14th at 4pm for a live cooking demonstration featuring carrots with Registered Dietitian Ruth Lahmayer Chipps, MS, RDN, CD. Alternatively, come in person to the Black River Memorial Hospital Café on Thursday, March 28th, from 11:30-12:30pm, to taste the recipe and ask questions!
Eliza Short, RD, is currently pursuing her PhD at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She studies food access and its relationship to diet-related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes.