The recommendation to count your fruits and vegetables bears repeating. Increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables has health advantages including lower risk of heart disease and diabetes and even beauty benefits like more attractive skin tone .
Getting your five (or nine) a day can be challenging in summer when you can zip out to the farmer’s market for fresh corn and tomatoes, but it is even tougher in winter. I previously covered ideas for adding fruits to your diet and here are some ideas for vegetables—in winter or any season.
Consider veggie-rich soups and stews. I love to make soup in early fall when the harvest is plentiful and the days are still long. I freeze big batches to dole out over the winter. But even in winter, I pick cold days to steam up the kitchen and make a nice winter soup—carrot ginger, or pumpkin mushroom or even Manhattan Clam Chowder with tomatoes canned in the summer. Add a salad and bread to create a simple, warming and healthy dinner
Make salads a staple. Although most of us won’t be pulling greens out of our gardens in the winter, salads are a great daily staple. If you buy pre-washed lettuce—or keep home washed lettuce in a salad spinner—salads are quick and easy to make. For variety try switching the types of greens (spring mix one week, red leaf the next, arugula the following, etc) and top with a changing variety of toppings (dried cranberries, goat cheese, toasted nuts, etc) . Just watch the fat in the dressing.
Add a slice of roasted red pepper to a sandwich. I always smile at the concept of sneaking vegetables into casseroles or onto sandwiches. A roasted red pepper offers a delicious, savory taste boost, so add it to your sandwich without apology. Pull them prepared from a jar or roast your own, and they will up the gourmet scale on your lunch. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, try adding pesto mayonnaise as a perfect compliment.
Vary your recipes for winter-hardy vegetables. Even the most dedicated healthy eater is going to get bored with the same recipes over and over, so try a little preparation variety. Potatoes can be served baked, roasted, boiled, mashed or fried with eggs. Yams can be roasted, baked in pie, or turned into soup or (baked) “fries”.
Salsa is a vegetable if you eat enough. How many (fun) ways can you think of to eat salsa—without chips? Try topping a baked potato, mixing with scrambled eggs, or spicing up a hamburger or grilled chicken breast. Who said winter eating was boring!
Remember the vegetable juice. A particularly good choice for the time challenged, I like to have single serving cans of vegetable juice in the pantry as an “emergency” vegetable. Or if I know it’s going to be a busy week, I may open a big can and serve it throughout the week.
Don’t forget about veggies and dip. Some vegetables that are good winter keepers work well served raw with dip. On lazy winter days, I’ll cut up a rutabaga, peel some carrots and leave them out on the kitchen table with a low fat dip. Before I know it, they have disappeared.
Pumpkin pie counts as a vegetable. Pumpkins are squash, a vegetable that is loaded with nutrition. They are delicious in pie and for a low fat alternative, leave off the crust and make pumpkin custard. To cut the fat (and calories) even further, prepare with evaporated skim milk instead of full fat evaporated milk or cream.
Does it still seem hard to get three (or more) vegetables into your day? Consider this… if you have raw carrots with lunch or as a snack, followed by dinner with a salad and hot vegetable, you are there! It’s a healthy practice that is easy to manage—any time of the year.