Thursday, May 26, 2011

Veggies Are Not The Enemy!

I am often very saddened by the amount of veggie hate I encounter on a regular basis and I blame parents. Generation after generation of parents have forced children to consume mushy canned veggies before leaving the dinner table and that is wrong. This forced eating turns some people into veggie avoiders and then they raise their kids to never even eat veggies! I'm here today to tell you that veggies are amazing and good and if you find a way to give them a second chance, you could find that the hate in your heart can replaced with an understanding... maybe you won't end up loving veggies but you can at least be friends.

I personally love many veggies - carrots, peas, green beans, brussels sprouts, onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, kale and so many more but others are just 'eh' for me, which means that I probably won't buy them and make them at home but I'd eat them if I were out someplace and happened upon them.  With the exception of zucchini, I'm not a big fan of squash so that is an 'eh' veggie for me. Don't love it, don't hate it. I pretty much like all other veggies.

I have one veggie hate confession to make. I only have one veggie I despise with every fiber of my being and I will not, under any circumstances eat this veggie.. I hate the flavor of it and I think it destroys any food it comes into contact with so it isn't something I can even pick out of a dish because it's ruined if it has this veggie in it and that veggie is the green pepper!

I'll eat red, yellow and orange peppers but green is non-negotiable! Green peppers are unripe peppers.. so if you eat them, you are eating peppers that aren't finished! Red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers. Also, one large red bell pepper contains 209 mg of vitamin C, which is almost three times the 70 mg of an average orange.

The best way to start with veggies is fresh, of course. Fresh veggies (organic if you an afford them) are the building blocks of a solid, healthy diet. You should be eating (and enjoying) a ton of veggies everyday!

Frozen veggies can be a great second choice. My favorite frozen veggie is corn. All the work is done for me and all I have to do is warm it up or thaw it to toss into dishes! Frozen can be great if you can't get fresh but some veggies lose their crispness when frozen and you have to make sure you aren't buying veggies packed with crappy ingredients that take away from their goodness - like cheese or butter sauce.

The worst thing that ever happened to us - canned vegetables. Yes, they can be convenient but they taste horrible. Veggies are meant to crunch and snap. They aren't meant to disintegrate into pulpy piles in our mouths. You should have to chew veggies, not swallow them like pudding. Our teeth are specifically made to chew plants, so use them! Canned veggies shouldn't be a choice at all, if you can help it. I don't mind canned spinach but I rarely use canned veggies at all.

So, how to reintroduce veggies back into your life?

A Daily Smoothie.

Blend together the following in a blender:
1 cup of unsweetened nut milk (or use homemade almond milk sweetened with dates!)
a scoop of your fave protein powder (I prefer hemp)
1/2 cup berries or tropical fruit (frozen is great in this case, it acts as ice)
1 TBSP flax seed
1/2 banana (frozen will give it a shake consistency)
a handful of spinach
* you may need a couple ice cubes if you are using non-frozen fruit.

wait.. spinach in a smoothie? yep! It's fabulous! First off, you won't really taste it and you'll be drinking a full serving of veggies in there! When I buy a big container of spinach, I'll eat it fresh for a few days and when it starts to wilt, I'll pop the rest in the freezer and then I can grab a small handful and toss it into my smoothies. It keeps for a long time that way. Other optional additions to your smoothie can be Maca powder, Cacao powder, Chia seeds, and whatever supplements you want. You can pack a whole lotta goodness into a shake every day! You could even make that your daily breakfast! It's quick and easy.

Make Up For Lost Time
I want you to make peace with your parents veggie mistakes. I want you to wipe the slate clean and start over when it comes to veggies! I want you to re-try a veggie you have a hatred for once a week. Pretend you've never had it. When you start with fresh veggies you have endless cooking options but the easiest way is to roast them because I don't think I've found a veggie yet that isn't delicious roasted.

Take a cookie sheet and place a piece of foil on it and mist it with oil (or use a quick spray of cooking spray) then lay out whatever veggies you are trying on to the foil. You can also mix in a variety of them!. Then drizzle or mist olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with sea salt. You can also add any herbs and spices you want. then, cook at about 400 degrees (turning once in awhile to prevent burning) until the veggies are fragrant and fork tender. They should be able to be pierced with a fork but shouldn't be mushy. Different veggies cook at different speeds... potatoes and carrots take longer than asparagus and mushrooms so you may need to cook the harder veggies for a bit first and then add the ones that cook faster.

Some veggies, like carrots and onions will caramelize and turn into sweet gems of deliciousness while others blossom in flavor. A good example of that is broccoli. Broccoli is ok raw but steam it for a couple minutes and it is really delicious.

You need to experience veggies on their own.. so avoid dumping sauces on them or hiding them in other foods. Veggies actually taste really good. Once you've started eating healthy and removed sugar and processed foods from your diet, your taste buds will re-emerge and come to life again. You'll find that you prefer less salt too!

Steaming is great for broccoli and cauliflower. I love to saute green onions, mushrooms and peas to add to my brown rice for a quick stir fry. My favorite way to eat green beans is sauteed with a little hoison sauce, an Asian sweet soy type sauce. I love corn and baked potatoes with a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper and Earth Balance buttery spread. I love sweet potatoes with a little Earth Balance, cinnamon and maple syrup. Speaking of potatoes, you can toss whole potatoes (regular and sweet) into your crockpot and bake them that way. Cook on high for a few hours and you have perfectly baked taters!

There are tons of other ways to enjoy veggies. Get on the internet and google for veggie specific recipes!

Find Your Inner Bunny!

Your parents may have started your aversion to veggies but if you continue to hate veggies then that is on YOU. As we grow up and mature, tastes change so things you didn't like in the past may become a new favorite but you'll never know if you don't try those things at different times in your life.  I'm guessing the store is full of veggies you haven't even tried and maybe feel a little intimidated to bring home and that's ok! Just google a veggie you are interested in and find a few recipes to test out. Ask friends if they have a fave way to make that veggie and get recipes! If you have kids, start a weekly veggie project... choose a new veggie each week, research it, buy it and have everyone try it!

A gorgeous salad is the obvious choice for eating raw veggies. I'll be posting about building the perfect salad in my very next post! Stay tuned!

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