USDA Nutrition Guidelines

Incorporating Vegetables Into Your Diet

Making Salads
Bagged lettuces, cabbage, and other vegetables make it easy to build a salad. Read the bag to see whether the contents are "ready-to-eat" or if you need to wash them. Ready-to-eat, prewashed bagged produce can be used without further washing as long as you keep it refrigerated and use it by the "Use by" date on the package. You may be tempted to buy alfalfa or bean sprouts along with other salad veggies. The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend against eating raw sprouts of any kind because of the routine presence of potentially harmful bacteria.
Since most vegetables are low in calories, they are great choices for weight loss. But it's up to you to preserve their low-calorie nature by preparing them wisely. The Food Guide eating patterns assume vegetables are eaten without added fats or sugars. If you add fat or sugar, you begin using up your discretionary calorie allowance. Use low- or nonfat cooking methods, such as steaming and microwaving, to avoid using up some of your discretionary calories. In fact, steaming preserves the most nutrients. Since starchy vegetables have the most calories in the veggie world, do not eat more than the recommended amounts.

Microwaving is best for frozen vegetables or the varieties that take a long time to cook. Place in a glass dish with a little bit of water in the bottom and cover with a glass lid (if you use plastic wrap, do not allow it to touch the food while microwaving). Use light margarine sparingly on corn, or skip it entirely and lightly sprinkle corn with chili powder for a punch of flavor. For flavor, top your smartly-cooked veggies with herbs or spices, a sprinkle of no-sodium herb/spice blend, or a squeeze of lemon. Or make a simple sauce. Try mixing nonfat plain yogurt with minced garlic and chopped mint or cilantro leaves (not both) and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. A sauce with southwestern flare can easily be made by mixing together a little lime juice, vinegar, minced garlic, cilantro, and jalapeno pepper along with a touch of olive oil. A small amount of oil helps hold the spicy mixture on the veggies.