Carol Harrison is a Toronto-based registered dietitian. Connect with her on Twitter and IG @CarolHarrisonRD
As a dietitian, I know that a diet rich in fruits and veggies has loads of health benefits: it can help with digestive problems, reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers, lower blood pressure and may help keep our weight in check.
How much should we eat? To invest in your good health at every meal and snack, make half your plate fruits and veggies . I bet you knew that, right? So, let’s talk about what really matters: taste! I like to take a culinary nutrition approach showing people how to cook for better health. Give these winning ideas a try. The flavours are fantastic!
1. Roast or grill your veggies
This is how you turn veggie haters into veggie lovers. Roasting and grilling amp up the sweetness and dampen the bitterness. You can roast or grill tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, corn, eggplants, zucchinis, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, onions, cauliflower, broccoli…so many options!
Roast up a sheet pan of chopped red peppers and cherry tomatoes. Portion and freeze them for up to six months. When you’re crunched for time, they’ll give you a head start on a healthy dinner. Here’s one of my favourites: add pre-roasted peppers and tomatoes to pasta sauce; heat and enjoy over your favourite cooked pasta, topped with dollops of creamy ricotta for a tasty protein boost.
You can also enjoy roasted and grilled veggies as side dishes, or chop them and add to sandwiches, wraps, frittatas, and pizzas. They’re also great in nourish bowls, salads, and even veggie hummus (see below).
TRY THIS RECIPE: Roasted broccoli with lemon aioli makes a terrific snack or side dish. Add roasted garlic for a delicious variation.
Nutrition nugget: Using some fat to boost the flavour of veggies is fine by this dietitian. To prepare, coat veggies liberally with olive oil to help them brown and carry the flavour. The fat also helps us to absorb vitamins A and K in the veggies.
2. Make veggie hummus
Enjoy creamy hummus with a flavour-and-colour twist by blitzing in cooked veggies. It’s a great way to use up leftover veggies too.
Enjoy your hummus as a dip with raw veggies or as a spread for wraps and sandwiches. To turn it into a dressing for nourish bowls and salads, add olive oil, lemon juice and water as desired.
TRY THIS RECIPE: —made with your choice of carrots, beets, peas, edamame or red peppers—looks fun and tastes great.
Nutrition nugget: We tend to eat more veggies when they’re cut up. Consider getting into the habit of prepping and refrigerating veggies when you unpack your groceries.
3. Add fruit to your salads
Liven up your salads with fruits. Use what you have on hand or what’s on sale. Juicy berries, crisp apples or pears, oranges, grapefruits, cherries, kiwis, and mangoes all amp up the sweetness and add vibrant colour to salads.
TRY THIS RECIPE: Arugula and walnut salad with grilled peaches: Slice peaches in half and remove the pits. Coat the cut side of the fruit with olive oil. Grill peaches over medium heat for about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Let the peaches cool, then chop them and toss with arugula and toasted walnuts for a fabulous salad. To make it a meal, toss in cooked quinoa and diced chicken.
For a tasty dessert top grilled peaches with a dollop of Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla), a drizzle of honey and toasted walnuts. Leftovers make a great breakfast too.
Nutrition nugget: Enjoying fruits and veggies together is also a fabulous way to boost the variety of produce we eat—and to get all the health benefits they each have to offer. For example, any vitamin C containing fruits or veggies (bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, citrus fruits) will help to bolster the iron we absorb from plant foods such as grains, beans, lentils, seeds, tofu or spinach.