Fall is a great time to start eating more vegetables

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross
lienhart@purdue.edu

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Fall is the best time of the year to add more locally grown fresh vegetables to your family’s healthy eating plan. I’m not talking about fried or starchy vegetables.

Many people eat or drink their fruit because it is sweet, but the veggie content ends up being on the very short end. You need more vegetables for the fiber, vitamins and minerals that they provide.

We need to retrain our brain and our taste buds. Here are some guidelines on getting the five to nine servings you need each day:

  • Whether the vegetables are chopped up and raw, or cooked, 1/2 cup is a serving.
  • If you’re measuring leafy vegetables, a serving is 1 cup.
  • If you are drinking vegetable juice, then the amount for one serving is 3/4 cup.
  • Since potatoes are a favorite for many, you for sure need to know that a serving size is 1/2 cup, whether scalloped or in a salad. Ten French fries, every child’s favorite, equals one serving.

Nutritionally speaking, vegetables are “VIFs” — very important foods. Vegetables and fruits should be planned into your meals and snacks at least five to nine times a day. After all, they are one of the most important sources of vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and C.

The bonus to vegetables is that they are low in calories and high in fiber, making them great for meals and especially important for snacking.

Vegetables rich in vitamin A are needed for growth, healthy skin, bones and teeth, and good eyesight. Many of the vegetables that are high in vitamin A are abundant in the early fall and include dark green leafy greens such as spinach, collards, kale and escarole.

The deep yellow vegetables that contain lots of vitamin A are carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash. Tomatoes and tomato juice are also high in vitamin A.

Vitamin C-rich vegetables include tomatoes, tomato juice, broccoli, raw green vegetables, cabbage and potatoes.

Have you ever thought about the vegetables parts you eat? We eat the leaves of spinach, lettuce and cabbage, but from cauliflower and broccoli we eat the flowers. When we eat beans, peas and corn, we are eating the seeds. The stems of celery, asparagus and rhubarb are the parts we eat, and tomato, cucumber and squash are the fruits of their respective plants. You eat the roots of carrots, beets and sweet potatoes, but white, red, or golden potatoes are tubers. When you eat onions and garlic, you are eating the bulb.

Remember, vegetables contain important vitamins and minerals, but certain vitamins are destroyed by things such as heat, light and air. Some vitamins dissolve in water. That means that high temperatures and re-freezing can lower the quality and food value.

When selecting fresh vegetables, avoid those that are wilted, bruised or otherwise deteriorating. When selecting frozen vegetables, choose packages just before going to the checkout counter so they remain as frozen as possible.

Your body really needs veggies, so plan to eat more of them.

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