Putting Vegetables on the Menu
Vegetables never need to be overcooked and boring -- quite the opposite: They can be the tasty centerpiece of your meals. Use any vegetable that is convenient for you -- fresh, frozen, or canned. Enjoy a variety within each subgroup so that you get many different flavors as well as nutrients.
Vegetable VarietyWhat vegetables can be found in your refrigerator? Do you have a variety of colors? A variety of subgroups? When you shop, keep the subgroups in mind and get several from each one. Keep your refrigerator brimming with vegetables in a variety of colors. Keep frozen vegetables on hand for when you come up short on fresh veggies. Choose ones without added sauces to keep the calories low. Add your own flavorings.
Finding delicious ways to prepare vegetables is key to eating more of these low-calorie foods -- and you don't have to be a master chef to do it. Creativity will take you a long way. For instance, instead of eating plain carrot sticks, slice them into rounds and lightly coat with a low-fat marinade or bottled salad dressing.
Or steam carrots, then toss with a splash of orange juice and ground ginger. Or oven roast the carrots: Cut into pieces, toss with a light coating of cooking spray and your favorite herb or two, and bake in a hot oven until tender. Three delicious, low-calorie ways to enjoy carrots and none of them took a recipe. You can do the same with other vegetables.
To make salad preparation easier, either buy bagged romaine lettuce and spinach or buy a salad spinner. You can easily cut up a head of romaine, toss it in the basket of your salad spinner, wash thoroughly, then spin dry. Store in a plastic, recloseable bag in the refrigerator. Cut up other veggies that you like in your salads and keep them in containers in the refrigerator. They'll be quick to add to your greens so you'll be more likely to include them -- and that will boost your intake. Prepare small bags of a colorful variety of washed and cut veggies. Store them in the refrigerator. Now they're easy to toss into a lunch sack or munch on for a snack at home or in the car.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines also urge you to eat more legumes, but you may not know how to do that. Even if you don't like beans by themselves, you'll probably like them when you mix them with other flavors. There are quick and easy ways you can add them to your eating routine. Keep a variety of canned beans in the cupboard. Then rinse, drain, and store a can at a time in the refrigerator.
Here are a few other ideas for bean preparations:
- Add beans to sauteeing garlic as in the description above for fixing greens. Then add the greens and you have a filling side dish with few calories and a great flavor combination.
- Top your salad with a few white beans.
- Add black beans to cheese quesadillas.
- Use the blender to "hide" beans in spaghetti sauce -- blend your sauce and beans together, then serve over pasta.
- Use beans instead of meat in Mexican tostadas, enchiladas, tacos, and chili.
Stir-frying in a wok or skillet is
another delicious low-calorie cooking method. Add a small amount of fat-free
broth, nonstick cooking spray, or oil to a pan and, over medium heat, toss
vegetables until crisp-tender. Start with the vegetables that take the most
time to cook, and add the more delicate ones toward the end of stir-frying to
avoid overcooking them.
Squash or pumpkin puree makes a great nonfat thickener in soups and stews. Use "other vegetables" liberally. Top a pizza with them; add to a casserole, pasta, or rice dish, or include in a tortilla wrap. Become vegetable conscious. Get creative and add them wherever you can even if a recipe doesn't call for them. Soon you'll be filling up on fewer calories than ever before.