Nutrition can seem confusing. One day a food is called good for you, the next day it's not in the media. There is one factor that rarely seems to be in question though: eating vegetables are good for you, right? Except on this one diet that says carrots have too much sugar.... and peas too... oh and don't even get started on fruit....
This is one thing that I find so frustrating in the nutrition world. Only 1 in 4 Canadians get the minimum recommended 5 servings of vegetables and fruits per day and it seems each day there's another story in the media telling us yet another vegetable or fruit is too high in sugar so we shouldn't be eating it. Or, I meet people who don't like vegetables because they're afraid to put a tiny bit of oil and salt on them!
So today, I want to talk about the latest study in the International Journey of Epidemiology showing that intake of 10 servings of vegetables and fruits per day helped reduce the risk of heart disease by almost 30%, cancer by by 14%, and death from all causes by 31%! To give you an idea of what a serving looks like, the study considered 80g a serving- that would be around 1/2 cup vegetables and fruit or 1 cup of leafy greens, or 1 medium fruit.
So here's the deal: instead of worrying about the grams of carb in beets or carrots, I want to help everyone take a step back and look at the big picture. If you don't eat many vegetables and fruits, worrying about which vegetable and fruit has more sugar occurring naturally in it is NOT where you're going to find a benefit- the benefit will be in starting to eat more veggies and fruit to get the fibre and nutrients!
So instead of telling you 'The 5 best vegetables to eat' or 'the 10 lowest sugar fruits' I instead want to ask you a question:
Which vegetables and fruits do you actually enjoy eating??
The truth is that if you don't enjoy a food, forcing yourself to eat it probably won't last long. If you restrict a bunch of different vegetables and fruits, you're missing out on the nutrients that variety brings you! If you enjoy vegetables more when they're sautéed in some garlic and olive oil or roasted with some oil, herbs, and salt versus steamed, then do that! Enjoyment of food is important and if you can find a way to actually enjoy more vegetables and fruits in your diet, then it's probably something you'll actually stick to and will actually bring health benefits!
So today I'm going to discuss some tips to help you eat more vegetables and fruit but I'm also going to share some ways to help you enjoy vegetables and fruit! Personally, steamed brussel sprouts really don't do it for me. Roast them up with some olive oil, and garlic, and a pinch of salt though and I LOVE them! See the difference?
Top 6 Tips to make vegetables more enjoyable
1) Not a fan of steamed or boiled veggies? Try roasting them!
By roasting your vegetables in the oven, you'll caramelize them and bring in a different flavour. To do this, cut up your veggies, drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and salt, and toss to coat. Roast them at 400F mixing every 10 minutes for around 30-40 minutes or until browned. I like to add some garlic and herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage to the pan too but that's up to you!
2) Sauté your vegetables
If you're not a fan of steamed veggies, why not sauté them with some garlic and herbs? For those of you who don't know, sautéing is cooking your vegetables quickly in some hot fat. Yes, I'm talking about cooking with fat, the horror! I'm not telling you to drown your veggies in butter or olive oil but a tablespoon or so in a big batch of veggies really isn't that much, especially if it means you end up enjoying the flavour more! Steamed green beans aren't very exciting but if you sauté them with some olive oil, garlic, oregano, and finish with a squeeze of lemon and they're at a whole other level!
3) Grill your veggies
If you have a grill pan or when it's summer, grill those veggies! You can either chop them and put them on skewers, brush with some oil and grill, or if you're lazy like me you can toss them with some oil and put them in a grill basket! If you want to leave your veggies in large pieces, you can just put them directly on the grill as is and flip them! You'll get some tasty veggies and when you're grilling anyways, it makes clean up a lot easier!
(As I'm writing this it is currently -35 outside here in Yellowknife but a girl can dream about summer, can't she?)
4) Add some veggie noodles like zoodles to your meal!
When you're making pasta, try spirillizing some veggies like zucchini to add some extra veggies to your noodles in a fun and tasty way! Notice how I said add, not replace? If you try to eat zoodles instead of pasta... well let's be real, they're not going to cut it! Bulking up your pasta with vegetable noodles, on the other hand, can be a great way to go! Don't have a spirillizer? You can pick up a julienne peeler for around 10 bucks that will do the same thing! Why not make veggies a bit more fun?
Most of us are more likely to eat raw veggies if there is some dip involved. Keep some tasty dips like hummus and tzatziki in your fridge too to add a bit more flavour! Another healthy dip that you can make yourself is mixing some plain greek yogurt (the 2% fat works well for this) and mix in some spice mixes or even try dressing mix! You'll get a creamy, delicious, nutritious dip with protein that can help you enjoy your veggies more!
6) Salads can be more than lettuce and tomatoes!
Most of the time, salad can be.... well... boring. It doesn't have to be that way though! Why not take some of your roasted veggies and toss them with your favourite vinaigrette, maybe some pasta or quinoa, and a bit of feta cheese? There are so many things you can do with your veggies to make them interesting and tasty! Experiment with what you enjoy!
I hope this helps you to think about starting to enjoy your vegetables and fruit again! What are your favourite ways of making veggies and fruit tastier? Let me know!