The list of reasons to eat veggies is a long one:
Vegetables play an important role in weight management.
They are naturally low in calories and cholesterol, are fat-free and packed with health-enhancing phytonutrients.
- Veggies help protect bones and prevent strokes.
- Green leafy vegetables are closely linked to heart health.
- Yellow-orange and green veggies reduce the risk of diabetes.
Summer salads are the perfect way to get your taste buds on a health kick. They are easy to toss together and go great with grilled meals like lean steaks, salmon and chicken breasts. Here are three simple salads for at-home dinners and brown bag lunches:
Leafy veggie salads: Leafy greens, the darker green the better, offer more taste and nutrition than iceberg lettuce. Leafy greens rate high in nutrient value with vitamins (A, C, K and folic acid), minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium), and those all-important antioxidants (beta-carotene and lutein). Try tossing mixed baby greens or tender spinach with fruit (sliced strawberries, pears or peaches), a few nuts (pecans, walnuts or slivered almonds), and a light vinaigrette salad dressing.
Mixed veggie salads: Any mixture of your favorite vegetables makes a great salad. Try combos like cold cooked peas, chopped water chestnuts, sliced scallions and garlic with a soy dressing — or broccoli florets, chopped red onions, raisins and sunflower seeds.
Bean and veggie salads: Any cooked or canned beans can make a super salad so be creative with your bean choices. Start with chickpeas, pintos, lentils and navy, black or green beans; add chopped onions, peppers or tomatoes; and spice it up with olive oil, vinegar and some herbs.
Enjoy crispy, crunchy, juicy vegetables at snack time. Enjoying a cup of raw veggies will help your body get the nutrition it needs for optimal health. You can buy them ready to eat, or slice and chop your own vegetables several times a week and refrigerate them in ready-to-go baggies to add to your brown-bag lunches.
Check out the local farmers' markets and roadside stands at www.washco-agmarket.net. Click on links in the left-hand sides and go to farmers' markets and local food movements. Farmers markets give delicious options from A to Z — asparagus spears, green beans, carrots, celery stalks, pea pods, grape tomatoes and zucchini.
What will you do for a healthier you? Add at least one more daily serving of veggies to your usual intake? Try at least one new vegetable in a salad every week? Eat two different colors of veggies every day?
Experiment with new salads and vegetable combinations this summer. One cup of leafy greens is a tasty start on the three to five vegetables you need every day. Add several crunchy veggie snacks and you'll meet your vegetable quota in no time.
Visit www.choosemyplate.gov for ideas to make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.