Get Your Veggies The Old Fashioned Way
By Susan Bowerman, MS, RD, CSSD
For many people, and especially kids, eating enough vegetables is a real challenge. Many vegetables take time to prepare, they're perishable and, let's face it, a lot of people just don't enjoy them unless they're drenched in salad dressing or sitting on top of a pizza.
Food companies know that many of us are trying to eat better, and they're working hard to meet this demand by supplying us with more vegetable-laced food products than ever before.
Have you been tempted to meet your five-a day with some veggie snack chips – you know, the ones that say they're ‘made with' spinach, or carrots or tomatoes? Before you dig in, keep in mind that most of these chips are made from potato or corn flour (think pure starch), with some powdered or pureed vegetable tossed in. Then, they're shaped and fried just like other snack chips.
Aside from the fact that most have very little vegetable matter in them to start with (with the exception of chips that are actually made from vegetable slices), the heat of the frying process destroys beneficial nutrients – like vitamin C.
And even if you were to get a pinch of vegetables in your chips – the labels will tell you that you won't be getting any vitamin A or C from a tiny one-ounce serving that will also cost you about 140 calories, since you'll be downing a couple of teaspoons of fat at the same time. A whole carrot, on the other hand, has only about 25 calories and provides more than twice the Daily Value for vitamin A, and a fresh tomato gives you half your daily needs for vitamin C for only 30 calories.
The ‘vegetable sneak attack' – literally sneaking veggies into home-cooked items like soups or baked goods – is one strategy for increasing veggie consumption, and it's fine to do this as long as it isn't the only way your kids get their veggies. Kids really need to learn how veggies taste, rather than only getting them only when they're disguised as something else.
Common nutritional wisdom says to eat foods that are as close as possible to their natural state, and fresh veggies certainly fill the bill. Keep around the ones that are easy to eat and use, like baby-cut carrots, cherry tomatoes and pre-washed salad greens. Fresh-frozen veggies are great, too – they're frozen soon after picking so they retain their nutrients, and they're easy to toss into soups and stews.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.