A Veggie Wish

October 2, 2012 in fiber, Health, Mediterranean, Nutrition, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

Here we are at the beginning of the school year again. For me it’s a time much like New Year’s Day; a time to assess how things are going. I ask myself, “Are there things that need improving upon? The answer to my question has never been, “No, there’s nothing to improve upon.” If a genie gave me a wish and it could be only one wish – a wish that would help others with their health, I think that I’d choose ‘helping the simple vegetables of earth reach tummies.’ What a great season autumn harvest time is to be thinking about getting veggies into tummies.

I know that most adults and some children know that vegetables are good for us, but that knowledge is often not making the bridge from the knowing, to the act of eating them.

Today, I’m not going to spend time telling you about all the nutrients that are bundled up with dark green, bright orange, red and yellow vegetables. I just want to suggest that there may be space on your plate that can be filled with some of them. An even more daring thought is to consider this: Are there some other foods that can be cut back a bit and replaced with vegetables?

Why should you try to nudge some of the servings of refined grain, cheese, meat and starchy foods to the side to make more room for more veggies?  Vegetables are not only an incredible delivery system for nutrients, but they are packed with water and fiber. Do you wonder, “Who cares about water and fiber?” The clever trick that the duo offers is to fill you up and nourish you on fewer calories.

When cattle eat grass (full of fiber and water) they get all the nutrients to make them healthy and to pack their muscles with nutrients. It takes lots of grass to grow beef cattle. The great thing is that when we eat beef, we get most of those nutrients. Unfortunately, most cattle are not fed on their natural fodder, grass.  They stand in feed lots up to their ankles in manure and mud, getting little exercise, and eat carefully formulated feed based mostly on corn.  It causes harm to them, since they were fine-tuned by evolution to eat grass, but by using plenty of antibiotics, you can keep them alive much more cheaply while they fatten up.  By not exercising and eating plenty of calories their muscles get marbled with fat, so they fetch a higher price, sooner. When we eat meat raised this way we get lots of saturated fat too, and maybe something else in the beef that is not so wonderfully healthy for us. We don’t know yet, if it’s all that hemoglobin or some other factor in red meat that contributes to the health problems. What happens to unhappy cattle that loll in feedlots and fatten up instead of traipsing happily over grassy hills?  Research hasn’t yet penetrated the mystery of why red meat is associated with serious health risks. At least we can sympathize more easily with the cattle. So many of us don’t get exercise anymore either, and we too eat diets rich in corn and corn-derived products. Many of us too get additional fat in our muscles and on vulnerable parts of our bodies. For more information, read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollen, or the book Food Inc. You could also view the DVD or streaming video of Food Inc. Or you could view a hard-hitting videos Frankensteer or Food Inc. on the Netflix streaming video site.  These accounts of investigative journalism tell about raising animals for humans to eat, and the impact these practices have on the animals the people who eat them, and on the environment.

In addition, to getting something besides the nutrients our body can use from the substantial amount of meat Americans’ eat, we must recognize that the very central and large portion of the western diet is devoted to meat.  This takes a huge toll on the environment as well as on the animals and the humans.

But what we can do is we can learn from the animal’s natural proclivities – eating grass and green herbs. We can get the nutrients we need, from the vegetables that grow in the earth. Like grass that cattle can digest, the vegetables that we can digest, come packed with numerous nutrients, fiber and water.

When you eat dry foods –where most of the water is gone— like chips, crackers, cookies you get lots of calories and will probably be hungry sooner than after a mixed meal containing lots of veggies with their no-calorie fiber and water.

How creative can you be at adding vegetables?

Have you tried a reverse omelet?

Remember that part of the value of food is the taste. Making vegetables taste good is an important part of the goal. Take a little time and search the Internet for the type of vegetable you want to make. If it has a little butter or sauce on it, adding these tastes may be helpful to get you or your child to the point of not being afraid of eating veggies. Even a light coating of butter can make ordinary vegetables taste good. Some moms are so afraid of a little butter or salt that they just offer the vegetables naked. Unfortunately, some vegetables have a bitter bite and children and even some adults flatly reject that bitterness.

Consider making a stir-fry. One delicious way to make a meal largely consisting of mostly vegetables is to make a stir-fry. You can stir in a little meat, and some tasty herbs, like ginger, garlic, basil, tarragon, and so forth. A little low sodium soy sauce, adds the saltiness that ties the meal together. Serve over brown rice or whole wheat noodles.

Autumn is bounty of the harvest season – a great time to try new recipes with vegetables that you’re not accustomed to using. Stroll through a farmer’s market, or your neighbor’s garden; neighbors like me, may be on veggie overload and more than happy to give some away.

If you have children, you may want to consider Natalie Digate Muth’s, MD, MPH, RD advice. She says that the most powerful way to get children to eat vegetables is to model that behavior. In addition, you may want to involve your children with menu planning and recipe development. Maybe even let the children help assemble a salad (you put out a variety of ingredients) and they make the salad. Let the children stir in the grated zucchini or carrot into the whole-wheat muffins you’re making. They will be helping and when they taste how good they are, they will realize that vegetables can taste yummy.

I haven’t been able to get a genie on contract; so nix on the hope for my one wish. I do believe, however, we can do it on our own; just let our creative juices flow. Go to the recipes in our website and/or to Natalie Digate Muth’s great book “Eat Your Vegetables and other mistakes that parents make.” Dive in! Introduce yourself and your family to a new vegetable.