Article and recipes by Registered Dietitian Andrea Holwegner and the team of Dietitians at Health Stand Nutrition.
March is Nutrition Month and we’re celebrating by introducing fun and creative ways to help you and your family eat more vegetables every day. Read below for ideas and recipes!
Before we explore how to incorporate more vegetables into your family’s diet on a daily basis, let’s dive into WHY vegetables are such an important part of a healthy diet and how much we really should be eating.
Why is Variety Important?
Vegetables provide us with vitamins, minerals, fibre, and phytochemicals that are critical to our overall health and wellbeing. Vitamins and minerals are essential nutrients that have specific roles in the body that help with cell maintenance, immunity, chemical reactions, our ability to convert the food we eat into usable energy, and so much more! For example, fibre plays an important role in the management of cholesterol, diabetes, and the overall feeling of being full, and phytochemicals function as antioxidants, phytoestrogens, and anti-inflammatory agents in the body. Each essential nutrient plays an important role in disease management.
How Many Vegetables is Enough?
The previous version of Canada’s Food Guide focused on servings of fruits and vegetables needed per day. Now, instead of focusing on serving sizes, Canada’s Food Guide makes planning simpler by suggesting making 50% of your plate full of fruits and vegetables. Aim to include fresh or frozen fruits and veggies and leafy greens at meals as well as some of your snacks.
Does Colour Really Matter?
Variety is the spice of life. It’s important to emphasize the fact that your diet should be full of different kinds of fruits and vegetables as well as different colours. This is essential because each colour of fruit and vegetable provides us with different nutrients.
The colour compounds in fruits and vegetables are often due to the phytochemicals or phytonutrients. These nutrients in a plant are a part of their protective system, similar to our immune system, so, when we eat plant foods, we also see protection in our systems. Research has shown us that eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables and eating adequate amounts of each can reduce our risk for chronic diseases.
Here’s a breakdown of the benefits each colour has to offer:
Orange: high in carotenoids which have been linked to a decreased risk of certain cancers and eye disease.
Blue: high in anthocyanin that helps preserve brain function as we age.
Green: high in antioxidants that are related to cancer prevention.
Most vegetables provide several of the same vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals however each is known for specific roles in the body.
How to Eat More Vegetables
Now that we know why it’s crucial to ensure we’re eating enough vegetables, let’s explore a few different ways to eat more vegetables every day!
Here are six easy ways to start eating more vegetables:
When making up your plate, choose at least two different kinds of vegetables. Add variety by having one raw and one cooked, or choosing vegetables of different colours to keep your plate colourful and increase the nutrient content.
Add flavour to make your veggies tastier! Ingredients like butter, oil, salt, spice blends, nuts, or seeds go a long way. If you like how they taste, you’re more likely to eat more.
Make easy replacements. Try replacing wraps and bread with large leafy lettuce, or using spiral zucchini or spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
Turn your vegetables into chips! Vegetables like sliced beets, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kale make delicious chips with just a little salt and some time in the oven.
Don’t forget about vegetables at snack time. Try packing convenient snacks like baby carrots, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, sliced peppers, mini cucumbers, or raw cauliflower with hummus, just to name a few.
Recipe: Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe
This recipe freezes well and works great as part of a balanced breakfast with a bowl of Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts and fresh fruit. It also works great for school lunches as a nut-free snack or tasty dessert. This recipe multiplies easily to make in bulk as a freezer stash.
¼ cup butter
½ cup oil
1 ¾ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup buttermilk (or milk soured with 1 tbsp vinegar)
2 ½ cups flour
4 tbsp cocoa
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (fresh or frozen)
½ cup chocolate chips
Cream butter and sugar. Add oil and eggs and vanilla and buttermilk.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips.
Pour into 2 greased and floured 9 X 5 loaf pans (or one 10” Bundt pan).
Bake about 45 minutes at 325 F until top springs back when lightly touched.
Makes 2 loaves, 10 slices each.
Per Serving (1 slice):
Calories – 234
Fat – 10g
Carbohydrate – 35 g
Protein – 2.8 g
Fibre – 1 g
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