Honesty is key to evaluating our personal eating habits and how we might improve them. That is, at the end of the day when we take stock of how we managed our regiment today, it's easy to glaze over that donut you gobbled in the office or the sugary beverage you just had to have midday. However, an honest look at our habits is the only way we're ever going to improve them.
Let's take an honest look at vegetables then. An astounding number of adult friends over the course of my life have had the same aversion to vegetables as one might expect of children. In my observation, this is more true of people in their 20s and more true when it comes to men than to women. Maybe it's a leftover from years of being force-fed veggies by mom as a child. I know, in my case, I grew up with a distinct distaste for vegetables because of how they were often prepared in my home; in the 1970s it seems there was no vegetable that couldn't be boiled down to mush or soaked in butter. Only years later, when I began my personal journey to improved nutrition, did I learn countless vegetables and preparations that elevated them to the position they play in my regiment today – often as the centerpiece of healthy, delicious meals.
Here are a few rules of thumb I've discovered when it comes to making vegetables a magnificent component of your healthy diet.
* Boiling or over-steaming reduces the nutritional value of vegetables and makes them less appealing to many people's palates. Consider sauteeing, stir-frying or roasting to maintain texture and nutrition.
* While it's hard to argue that butter makes pretty much anything taste better, it also decreases the nutritional value of vegetables. Butter substitutes are dubious at best. Instead, consider cooking them with olive oil. You will get a lot more complex flavor, and healthy fat, while also enjoying the benefits of the vegetable. Today, the only vegetables I personally prefer with butter are corn, peas and green beans. Try the recipe below to see if crisp, olive-oil seasoned vegetables aren't a huge improvement from those soggy, sagging veggies of the past.
* Liven up vegetables you might not already be fond of and see if that doesn't change your mind. Add an Asian chili sauce to green beans to replicate something you might find in an Asian restaurant. Garlic (my personal "must" for all vegetables) and ginger can liven up snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower and crisp green beans.
By considering taste and texture, most vegetables can be transformed into something that will surprise you and hopefully become a fixture in your healthy menu planning.
The following preparation has worked for me with asparagus (particularly in season), broccoli, Brussels sprouts and even whole carrots. It demonstrates how taste and texture can combine to create easy, healthy dishes that also happen to be healthy.
* Toss cleaned, trimmed vegetables in a large bowl, with enough olive oil to coat, salt, pepper and fresh chopped garlic. Let sit for at least 15 minutes in the fridge, but longer won't hurt these hearty vegetables.
* Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
* Pour out vegetables into baking pan, making sure as best you can that they are spaced apart in the pan and lightly coated with your olive oil mix.
* Here's the tricky part. Different vegetables and different size vegetables will require different cooking times. While there is a little room for error here, you will want to keep an eye on your work. Place vegetables in over and keep an eye on, checking first after 15 minutes and then in 5-10 minute increments afterwards. You will know when the vegetables are done when there is a slight char on the outside. Toss when you first notice the char and replace in over until they appear equally cooked. You're looking for a roasted, even crispy exterior and a moist, toothsome interior – NOT soft.
* Serve immediately, as maintaining the wonderful texture they emerge from the oven with is difficult in re-heating.
Follow these simple instructions and you'll transform simple vegetables into easy, delicious components of a healthy meal, using only the healthy fat in olive oil and basic seasonings. Paired with simple grilled chicken or fish and you have a meal perfect for weight-loss purposes. It's also an easy way for the young single to impress a date. Those handy steamer bags have nothing on the delight that is roasted asparagus.
Give it a try; you won't be disappointed.
-Michael W. Sasser is Oklahoma Magazine’s senior editor and an award-winning journalist. Neither a medical nor nutrition expert, he shares his personal weight loss journey exclusively with Oklahoma Magazine readers. Reach him at [email protected].