Do You Have Time for the Health Benefits of Vegetables?
If you are interested in improving your diet, you will likely be adding more vegetables to your eating plan. Most people do not receive the health benefits of vegetables, instead letting protein be the mainstay of their diets. Others substitute too many low-value carbs, which are the villains you know too well – white flour, white sugar, and high-fructose corn syrup.
The category on the food pyramid is actually “fruits and vegetables”, and many people make their diet heavy in fruit, but not so much on the veggies. It’s so easy to grab that banana you see hanging on your kitchen stand, or that peach that is blushing in ripeness and filling your nostrils with its perfume. It’s not so simple to put vegetables in your meals.
Vegetables need to be in your diet so you can stay filled up. Plenty of vegetables provide ample fiber for you, making it less likely that you will snack between meals. This is also a good long-term strategy for keeping those excess pounds off.
You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a vegan to enjoy more vegetables in your meals. But once you eat more veggies, you’ll find that it’s easier to prepare meatless meals, or have smaller portions of the meat that you do eat. And that is one of the health benefits of vegetables.
Definitely try to add more vegetables during the warmer months of the growing season, when farmers’ markets and vegetable bins at the supermarket are overflowing with good produce. Why start in the middle of winter, when the selections are not as good? Try it in the summer, and give your plan the best chance to work.
How You Can Use This
The information presented here will enable you to optimize the nutritive value of vegetables and save yourself precious time in their preparation and storage.
Oh, and by the way, just one heads-up. You may think that the cooking methods below have a slightly American South slant to them. You are correct. My mother was born and raised in East Texas, and I am a Texan through and through. Unlike my mother, though, I don’t believe every vegetable should be covered in melted butter and seasonings. However, I do think that the occasional use of the right condiments and seasonings can really enhance the flavor of vegetables. I love Mediterranean food, so I use lots of lemon juice and olive oil.
Things You'll Need
- Several cutting boards or cutting surfaces, which you’ll be washing frequently
- A couple of good vegetable peelers
- A sharp paring knife
- Adequate storage containers for left-overs or raw veggies
- A salad spinner is wonderful and makes your lettuce and greens perfect.
- A food processor would be nice and saves time! Even if you don't have a big one, a mini-chopper will work well for chopping onions and carrots
Tips for Preparation
- Tired of raw carrots in your salad? Grate them for use in soups and salads. Cook them, mash them, and combine them with mashed turnips for a different taste.
- If you grow your own vegetables, harvest lettuce, spinach, and any other greens very early in the morning. They will be fresher, and the leaves will not have had time to soak up heat. If you must harvest in the afternoon, be quick about it! The leaves will wilt very rapidly.
- Use lots of onions? Chop and mince a whole onion at a time. If you’re only using a small portion of the onion, you can store the rest, and have them handy for a later dish.
- Eggplant can be annoying to figure out. Make sure you buy it in season (summer) for best quality. I’ve found the best way to cook eggplant is in the George Foreman Grill.
- How do you wash vegetables? When you are ready to use them! If you wash lettuce ahead of time and store it, you’re likely to retain too much moisture in the lettuce. Store veggies straight from the supermarket in their plastic bags, and worry about washing them when the time comes.
- Salad spinners are great contraptions to have to spin the excess water out of lettuce, spinach, and berries.
- If you must store apples in the refrigerator, keep them in a separate bin. They will continue to ripen, and will release a gas that may hasten the breakdown of other vegetables in the same bin.
- Store potatoes in the coolest, darkest place in your house. But not in the refrigerator.
- Take out the core in the center of the onion. That is the hottest part of the onion.
- Do you like black-eyed peas, purple hull peas, or green beans cooked with salt pork? The flavor will be enhanced if you cook them, and store overnight in the refrigerator before eating.
- A little salt in the cooking water will make your vegetables cook faster.
- Vine-ripe tomatoes retain more of their flavor when they are left out on your kitchen counter. Once they’re cut, refrigerate them.
- Interesting in freezing vegetables? Consult the many sources on the Internet about freezing methods. For instance, peppers can simply be chopped, put in storage bags, and go right into the freezer. But green beans and okra must be blanched first.
- The best way to eat corn is freshly harvested from the field. Corn turns rapidly into a starch. If you buy from a farmers’ stand, eat very soon, or cut the corn from the cob and freeze it.
And Just How Much Time Are We Talking About?
Be determined! Adding more vegetables, especially fresh ones, will take more time out of your day. You must devote more time to preparation, cutting, cooking, and clean-up.
So do you have time to eat more vegetables? If you eat 3 vegetables for your evening meal, you can count on it taking an extra 45 minutes out of your evening plans -- that is, if dinner is your heaviest meal. At lunch, you’ll find you can’t be rushed, and you’ll need more time to prepare it, but lunch prep won’t be quite as time-consuming as dinner is. Count on an extra 15 minutes to prepare lunch.
So there you have it. You’ve got to set aside an extra hour per day for your health. What else could you do with an hour out of each day’s schedule that would be as healthy for your body and your spirit?
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