So happy that here in the Southeastern USA that we celebrated the first day of spring yesterday. For us, it was a worse than normal winter and to see spring come is a blessing! With warmer weather, our desires for foods can change, no longer do we desire the heavier comfort foods of cold weather, but a desire for lighter fare emerges.
Whole and Natural is Better
We all know we should eat our fruits and veggies, and preferably in whole/raw form. A whole orange has less calories than orange juice, plus it has the fiber. And unless you have juiced your own, there is surely to be extra sugar and things added to it. The more things that happen to a fruit or a vegetable from the ground to your plate, will alter the nutritional effectiveness of it. Some of the vitamins and healthy enzymes can be taken away and other things can be added like sugar and sodium, ugh!
This thing about sodium additives in food is going to take me on a side rant. I have gone vegan now, but when I was looking at the labels for fresh ground turkey or chicken in the grocery store, I was always blown away by the sodium content. It made me wonder, “How do foods in their near natural state contain so much sodium?” I was mortified this weekend to read an article that stated that lean foods are injected (my word) with a sodium wash in order to make it taste better and be more appealing! I can season my own food, thank you very much, but this just goes to show that when you are not in control, that others can mess with the good food you eat. My Dad likes to buy those rotisserie chickens from the store and although they look good and smell good, but I remember thinking how salty they tasted! I don’t like the taste of salt to begin with, but now I know why they taste salty. Just thought you’d be interested to know! Be informed and alert to what food processing companies may do to alter your food from its natural state.
Veggies as Snacks
Veggies are beautiful things when eaten in their most natural state. If you aren’t a big fan, you can readjust your taste buds to learn to enjoy them. I like to cut up celery, with maybe some baby carrots and broccoli and let them be my “potato chips” by adding some crunch when I have a garden burger for lunch. This way you are getting your fiber, the nutrients and a little oral satisfaction by crunching. If you want to make them even more delicious, dip them in low calorie salad dress or salsa, yum!
Veggies to Avoid
Avoid veggies that are fried or God forbid, in a casserole. Casseroles have so much cheese, cream and whatnot in them, that they mask the wonderful flavor of the veggies rather than enhancing them and add tons of fat and calories. The more you mess with food from its natural state, the more potential calories and fat can be added. If you want an alternate to roasting your veggies in the oven, try stir-fry, just be careful with the oil, steam them or better yet, grill them outside.
Veggies in Your Meal
2/3’s to 3/4’s of our plates should be filled with vegetables. Healthy folks know this, but this is just a reminder. Yesterday I had a whopping big veggie meal that I can’t wait to duplicate today. I had 5-6 cups of fresh broccoli, 1 cup of baby carrots with a quarter of a cup of wild grain rice (watch the calories in rice, they are high for the amount I like to eat) and a 1 1/2 cups of baby bella mushrooms sauteed in Pam. The broccoli and carrots were roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes, and roasted veggies caramelize and taste delicious! Normally I eat on small plates, but I had a big plate full of colorful veggies. Not only was it a visual treat, it was healthy and it tasted great, and that’s the point isn’t it?
Things I Use to Season My Veggies
My goal is to go as natural as possible, I do add somethings to perk up my roasted veggies and although you can toss them in olive oil, I spray mine with Pam.
- Basil – excellent with tomatoes and eggplant too.
- Stevia – sprinkle on top to enhance the sweet taste when your sweet tooth is doing the talking.
- Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime Juice – Excellent to sprinkle on top of your veggies when they come out of the oven. Zero calories and good on salads too!
- Salsa – Especially delightful on tomato and eggplant, I have to be careful not to over do this one. My favorite new salsa is a mango salsa that they sell at Costco. It is more delicious and far more cheaper that what is sold in grocery stores. If I didn’t reel myself in, I could eat half a tub of it in one sitting!
- Rainbow Peppercorns – I don’t normally like “hot things” anymore, but I am in love with rainbow peppercorns that I buy from Trader Joe’s, just $2.00, and it lasts. You grind your own and it adds the most delightful taste to veggies.
- Spike – Herbal mix you can buy anywhere, even comes in a low sodium version.
- Agave Nectar – Wonderful drizzled in very small amounts on my sweet potato fries. I buy sweet potatoes julienned in French fry strips, except you bake these in the oven. They taste magnificent and even if you’re hooked on white French fries, this sweet potato version will blow you away!
- Onion and/or garlic – These add spunk when you are cooking vegetables. I favor roasting; however prefer to saute baby bella mushrooms. Saute the onion in Pam until it is fairly done for a nice caramelized effect.
- Salt & Pepper – Doesn’t get much easier than this. A lot of roasted veggie recipes say to toss them in oil sprinkled with salt and pepper.
- Balsamic Vinegar – It is tasty sprinkled on top of veggies.
- Balsamic Glaze – Okay, I like this even better. You mix approximately 1 part glaze to 1 part water, stir and add. Magnificent!
- Mix & Match – I bought huge bags of fresh broccoli and baby carrots this week. My current kick is to spray with Pam, sprinkle with Stevia, roast for 15 minutes, then spritz on some Nellie & Joe’s key lime juice and grind some rainbow peppercorns on top. This may sound hideous, but actually it is a wonder combination of spicy and sweet with a little tang, none of which is over powering.
I am sure there are many more ways to season your veggies, but these ideas are just off the top of my head.
Be Colorful with Your Veggies
Try to add as much color to your plate as you like to add to your life. Different colored vegetables have different benefits health-wise and food-wise, mixing it up brings variety and interest to your plate.
Green Foods: Spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kale, sprouts, romaine lettuce have B-complex vitamins for your circulatory system as well as cancer fighting agents.
Orange Foods: Cantaloupe, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apricots and carrots have Vitamin A that helps repair DNA cells.
Red Foods: Watermelon, tomatoes, red cabbage have lycophene to protect from prostate problems and has phytochemicals that fight damage caused by free radicals.
Orange and Yellow Foods: Nectarines, tangerines, pineapple and papaya contain Vitamin C and antioxidants which are good for connective tissues and help prevent heart disease.
Green and Yellow Foods: Collard greens, corn, green peas, honeydew melon contain carotenoids, and lutein, which helps prevent cataracts and macular degeneration and also osteoporosis.
Red, Blue and Purple Foods: Strawberries, blackberries, beets, blueberries and red apples contain anti-aging phyto-chemicals and anti-oxidants which could protect us from heart disease and aging.
Green and White Foods: Celery, garlic, chives, onions and pears contain an organic sodium which is said to be beneficial for fluids in the joints.
Celebrate the vegetables of this beautiful season. Endeavor to be creative and think of ways to dress up your plate with delicious and healthy vegetables. Welcome the spring and the chance to eat something delightful and good for you!