Easy Ways to Eat More Vegetables
Why Should We Eat Vegetables?
People who eat fruit and vegetables as part of their daily diet have a reduced risk of many chronic diseases. AgeInGrace encourages making half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Vegetables are important part of healthy eating and provide a source of many nutrients, including potassium, fiber, folate (folic acid) and vitamins A, E and C. Options like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes and garlic provide additional benefits, making them a superfood!
Potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Dietary fiber from vegetables helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
Folate (folic acid) helps the body form healthy red blood cells. Women of childbearing age who may become pregnant and those in the first trimester of pregnancy need adequate folate to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and spina bifida during fetal development.
Eating Vegetables Provides These Health Benefits
#1 The nutrients in vegetables are vital for health and maintenance of your body.
#2 Eating a diet rich in vegetables may reduce risk for stroke, cancer, heart diseases and type-2 diabetes.
#3 One to four cups of vegetables are recommended each day, depending on how many calories you need.
TIPS on How To Eat More Vegetables
- Keep frozen and canned vegetables on hand to know you always have vegetables at the ready.
- Make double and triple portions; at a serving one day and have one ready-to-go for the next.
- Keep a bag of pre-cut or baby carrots around — grab a handful as a snack, pack them with lunch, throw them into stew, or microwave for a quick vegetable.
- Microwave or saute onions and peppers to put more vegetables into a tomato sauce.
- Toss extra sauteed vegetables on a frozen pizza.
- Make a big salad to last a few days, store in the refrigerator in a plastic container.
- Add vegetables into sandwiches — not just the old lettuce and tomato, try alfalfa sprouts, sliced red onion, sliced cucumbers, sliced yellow squash or zucchini, red peppers, or leftover grilled vegetables.
- Add vegetables to an omelette or scrambled eggs — sauté onions, peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes and add some fresh herbs.
- Drink tomato, V-8 as a vegetable.
- In a tomato sauce, cut the amount of meat you use in half and add more vegetables — onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini or others.
Try Grilling your Fresh Vegetables
Picture, if you will, the perfect evening for a back yard barbeque: you are with some of your favorite friends having chilled beverages of your choice-the smoke from the grill is billowing, emitting an intoxicating mixture of aromas that are so delicious you want to take a bite of the air. Then your friend opens the grill cover and to your utter shock and amazement your eyes are greeted with a colorful and tempting arrangement of vegetables. What? “Where’s the beef?” My friend knew right away, he would have to enlighten me and teach me the secrets of searing and grilling succulent garden vegetables on the grill.
His first bit of advice: Pick hearty vegetables and use slightly lower grilling temperatures.
My friend selected eggplant, squash, zucchini, and asparagus spears for the grill on this evening. The asparagus is not so hearty, but it made for a delicious side with the other meat substitutes. The larger veggies selected were sliced into thick wedges, much like cuts of beef or pork. I was thrilled with the consistency of the eggplant in particular. Thicker cuts of vegetables are able to retain more flavors, and can also resist a little more heat from the grill. His grill preparation for the veggies was not all that different from grilling the standard fare.
His second veggie grilling trick: Sauce it up!
The vegetables were marinated a couple of hours prior to grilling in a sweet, honey barbeque, olive oil, and spices concoction my friend had created on the fly. First he seared the vegetables lightly on each side and removed them from the grill, and then placed a sheet of aluminum foil that he had sprayed with non-stick cooking oil. He made tiny slits with a knife in the foil to permit more heat to flow through. The foil was critical in his opinion, allowing for longer cooking time on the grill without burning his veggies. The asparagus were added last and doused with a little olive oil and brushed with butter as they grilled.
Last garden grilling tip: Keep the growl in your grilling!
So as not to taking away from the typical manly grilling techniques, he brushed his homemade marinade on as they cooked and he also flipped his eggplant, squash, and zucchini wedges just as you would a steak. This age old grilling ritual kept me interested in the veggies and allowed for more golden persuasion, which always enhances one’s grilling efforts. By the time all items were thoroughly cooked, which was less than 20 minutes, my mouth was watering, contemplating this strange meal that lay ahead of me. Some additional barbeque dipping sauce for the grilled vegetables and we were ready to dine.
As you may have guessed, he is your typical steak and potatoes kind of person, but this grilling your garden stuff was surprisingly fantastic and just as filling as a big, fat New York strip. Well, maybe that’s going a little too far. My friend took all the credit as we gushed over this delightfully different grilled vegetable meal. So, do yourself a big favor; experiment with this healthy and most intriguing way to change up your normal back yard barbeque, and you may end up just like me; pleasantly surprised.
Fleshy vegetables work best on the grill. Try corn on the cob, eggplant, potatoes, summer squashes, and portobello or other large mushroom caps.
Prepping for the Grill
Wash vegetables and trim off any blemishes. Don’t peel the vegetables unless specified in a recipe. Skin helps them hold their shape and stay moist. Wipe dirt off mushrooms with damp paper toweling.
Cut vegetables in thick slices. Slabs of eggplant, large summer and zucchini squash, and giant sweet Bermuda, Spanish, or Vidalia onions can be turned and basted individually or grouped in a grilling basket and turned all together.
Grill small squash, bell peppers, and unpeeled onions whole. Cut large tomatoes into wedges, small ones in half. Tomato wedges or cherry tomatoes can be cooked on skewers to prevent them from falling through the grill.
When grilling vegetables on skewers, be sure to pair up soft vegetables, such as tomatoes and mushrooms, with other soft vegetables. Cook hard vegetables, such as peppers and onions, together. Alternatively, parboil firm vegetables and then cook them along with softer ones.
To the Grill
Arrange the vegetables on a rack set crosswise on the grill to prevent the vegetables from falling onto the coals.
Brush the vegetables with sauce — if you are grilling meat, you can use the same sauce here, if you wish — or with a simple mixture of 2/3 oil to 1/3 vinegar or lemon juice.
Cook vegetables over moderate heat at the edge of the grill. Turn them with a wide spatula or tongs.
Approximate times are:
15 to 20 minutes: Thick slices of zucchini or yellow squash, eggplant, whole tomatoes, mixed vegetables on skewers
20 to 25 minutes: Whole zucchini, summer squash, large mushroom caps
35 to 45 minutes: Corn in the husk or husked and wrapped in foil (turn often)
45 to 50 minutes: Corn without husk brushed with sauce; whole eggplant for purée; thick onion or potato slices
1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours: Whole large unpeeled onions, whole baking potatoes or sweet potatoes (turn every 10 minutes to cook evenly)
Tips for Marinating Grilled Fresh Vegetables
Recipe for grilled vegetables and three different marinades:
Prep time: 30 minutes Marinating time: 2 to 4 hours
You Will Need
3/4 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro) 1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest
3 tablespoons lime juice 3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, sweet peppers, or portobello mushrooms or a combination, prepared for grilling
What to Do
- In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients except vegetables.
- Place grill-ready vegetables (except mushrooms) in a self-sealing plastic bag and pour in marinade. Seal and turn to coat vegetables. Refrigerate, turning occasionally, up to 4 hours. Add mushrooms for the last 2 hours.
- Remove vegetables from the bag and reserve the marinade.
- Preheat the grill. Oil grill to prevent sticking. Place vegetables directly over medium to medium-hot coals — about 5 inches from the heat — and grill turning and brushing occasionally with marinade. Serves 4, about 1 cup marinade.
Basil-Thyme Grilled Vegetables
Prepare as directed above, using the following marinade: 1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons each chopped fresh basil and thyme or 2 teaspoons crumbled dried basil or thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Makes about 1 cup marinade.
Asian Grilled Vegetables
Prepare as directed above, substituting the following basting sauce for marinade: 1 finely minced large shallot, 4 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 1/2 teaspoons dark sesame oil, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 minced clove garlic, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sugar, and 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce. Do not marinate. Instead, baste just before grilling and once when turning halfway through cooking. If using mushrooms, leave caps whole. Makes about 1/4 cup basting sauce.
Tips for Stir-Frying Fresh Vegetables
- Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl.
- In a large sauce pan or wok, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add onion, broccoli, carrots, and celery. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the zucchini and peppers, stir, cover the pan and cook for 1 minute.
- Add sauce, bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, covered. Serve vegetables while hot.
Asparagus and Mixed Vegetable Stir-fry
Combining asparagus with several other colorful vegetables, this easy stir-fry takes only 5 minutes to cook! And with this recipe, you’ll find the asparagus remains bright green and flavorful, never limp or soggy. Stir-fried in your wok or frying pan, this healthy dish will give you 2-3 servings of your daily vegetable quota, plus leave you craving more… Includes lots of cooking tips to help you make the best vegetable stir-fry you’ve ever tried. ENJOY!
#1 U.S. Department of Agriculture.gov Website. Washington, DC. Why is it Important to Eat Vegetables? Accessed March 8, 2015.
#2 Additional Research compiled by Betty Solomon, AgeInGrace.com