Welcome to harvest season!
This time of year, the earth is colorful as ever, plants dripping with the jewels that only nature can provide, gifting us with its bounty...for some, this is the most exciting thing and just the idea of munching on a freshly picked pepper or tomato is a mouth-watering vision. For others, it’s wah, wah, wahhhhh. Not everyone finds it easy, desirable, tasty, or convenient to enjoy fresh vegetables. I get it. The slicing, the dicing, using them before they go to waste, the sometimes bitter or pungent flavor...it makes sense to me why some people really just dislike their veggies.
A “pickiness” with foods can be both nature or nurture response, often sprouting from early childhood. Children are inherently turned off by savory/bitter and pungent flavors, making vegetables an easy food to “ick” at. This coupled with an environment where vegetables and fruits aren’t offered readily and you’ve got yourself the perfect storm for a picky eater when it comes to the almighty plant.
If this is you, have no fear, this is COMMON. I do want to tell you why, though, it is so important to include produce into your diets daily. Fruits and vegetables are the nutrition POWERHOUSE that we all need for optimal health. I fully don’t expect you to change your opinion of the foods based on that sentence, however, so...we deep dive into the world of what fruits and vegetables can do for you:
Fruits and veggies are LOADED with essential nutrition that it can be hard to find in other foods.
I’m not just talking about vitamins and minerals here - although those are important too! They also contain dietary fiber, enzymes, phytonutrients and antioxidants that can support your body on a cellular level.
Cells are the building block of every part of our body - strong, nourished cells are sort of like building your house on stone instead of on sand!
Antioxidants can help to prevent oxidants in your body from mutating cells and potentially preventing some cancers - as a cancer survivor, that alone is enough to get me excited! What is even more interesting is that each color of produce provides a different set of antioxidants, which is why I always try to encourage eating from each color of foods.
Fruits and vegetables often contain excellent amounts of nutrients that are widely under-consumed in the standard American diet - certain nutrients that produce is loaded with, like dietary fiber and potassium, can help to prevent certain cardiac conditions and also help to manage lots of gastrointestinal diseases.
Fruits and veggies also richly contain vitamin C. Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables (the form in supplements is often different) is a nutritional powerhouse in the body, lending a hand in healing wounds, protecting skin integrity and aids in growth and repair of body tissues.
Folate is found in many fruits/veggies and is imperative for red blood cell production, as well as key in pregnancy to help prevent spina bifida and other neural tube defects in the growing embryo.
Carotenoids(including beta carotene, not the same as vitamin A found in supplements or foods like liver) helps to keep your eyes and skin healthy and to prevent infections.
Fruits and vegetables are KEY for satisfaction at meals, including when you’re trying to lose weight!
So - when I eat, I’m a volume person. I love huge portions - always have. Fruits and veggies are quite low calorie, compared to other foods, so you can consume more for the same calories.
1 cup of steamed broccoli contains 55 calories, lots of fiber and nutrients
1 cup of white rice contains 206 calories and very little of anything else
The high fiber content in fruits and vegetables helps you stay full for longer, when paired with fat and protein at a meal. Feeling fuller, longer, helps to keep you from getting hungry again quickly and reaching for foods that you are trying to avoid.
Okay! WOW - I’m always so impressed with what fruits and veggies can do for our bodies! Yes, I’m a Dietitian and I’m trained that way, but even so - these foods can support our bodies so much!
But - now, here is the conundrum if you or a loved one is a picky eater...how can we incorporate more of these foods into our lives without feeling like we are eating like a brontosaurus?
I am a FIRM believer that I do not care what it takes to eat fruits and veggies, just eat them!
So, what does that mean?
Don’t be afraid of using dressings, dips, and flavorings to make eating veggies a little more palatable if you aren’t someone who loves them.
Only like raw veggies? Make a great dip or dressing to add to them to really add some flavor. Vegetables do NOT need to be boring in order to be healthy!
Here is my favorite salad dressing from my blog, that I've affectionately named "Lettuce Gravy"!
If you don’t mind cooking for your veggies, try grilling and roasting them. Far too often, in diet books, blogs, and websites, I see recommendations for steaming your food. Fine, I guess, but dang, it makes food taste like it’s been run through the dishwasher. Not appealing. Grilling and roasting help to caramelize the naturally found sugars in the foods, bringing out their natural sweetness. Let me tell you, grilled asparagus with fresh lemon and garlic is DIVINE. It would not nearly be as good with steamed food.
For fruits, cut them up and dip them in natural peanut butter or almond butter - so good! I sometimes make a cream cheese and vanilla fruit dip and it’s so delicious too. Grill them. Roast them. Roasted apples or grilled pineapple or peaches over some plain yogurt is BEYOND delicious.
DON’T be afraid of adding flavor!
Try keeping some veggies cut up in a container in the fridge. Having them ready to go is a lifesaver. If you don’t want to cut them up yourself, many grocery stores, like Adams or ShopRite offer packaged produce that they cut in-house, like peppers, squash, carrots, berries, etc. EASY.
For picky kids, I HIGHLY suggest taking away the pressure from eating new foods. Kids innately aren’t going to want kale salad, so don’t force them. Some suggestions for kids are:
When they are playing, leave a small plate of some snacks in their area. The plate should have a variety of foods, some they are familiar with and enjoy and some new foods, such as strawberries and fresh green beans and some cheese slices. Just leave the plate there. Chances are good when on their own turf and terms, kids will explore these new foods. If they don’t like it or don’t try it, don’t worry. Kid’s bodies are incredibly resilient. Keep trying (WITHOUT pressure). It can take kids up to 7 tries of food to even decided that they enjoy it or not.
At the dinner table, when serving a new food, only place the amount of a bite on their plate. PLEASE do not put a heaping serving and expect your kids to consume the whole thing. Only ask that they try it. Allow them the opportunity to spit it out if they want. It breaks the pressure and allows them to explore. Let them know it’s okay if they like it or don’t like it. I have found that this makes mealtime fun again and kids love the idea that they can explore their food. More often than not - they will eat it!
Don’t be afraid of fortifying your meals with fruits/veggies or a really good vegetable powder product:
Want to add some nutrition to your pasta sauce or meatloaf? Add some shredded carrots or zucchini. Puree up some squash or spinach and add it. You can really stretch your nutrient content of meals by doing this!
We are super into the products by Dr. Cowan’s Garden. We even carry them in our store!
Most vegetable powders are quite lacking, as they can really compromise the nutrition in the powder by not drying the foods properly.
Dr. Cowan’s Garden dries all of their foods the right way to keep nutritional integrity quite intact. In fact, eating 1 tablespoon of his powders can really bump up your nutrient intake for the day and also easily add a variety of foods to your diet that you might not otherwise be able to do!
I’m super into his Threefold Blend right now.
This is a combination of leeks, carrots, kale, swiss chard, and peppers. It’s SO delicious and offers you nutrients found in all of those veggies - including the fiber.
Adding this to some broth will REALLY up the nutrient factor in your soups. You can also make a dip with it by adding to plain greek yogurt or sour cream. Try adding to sauces or meatloaf to really pack a nutritional punch!
Want to incorporate more greens into your diet, but are nervous about oxalate exposure?
I add these to smoothies, soups and sauces. My kids have no idea when I add them to smoothies and I love that they are getting some quick nutrients in!
If you prefer a little sweetness to your greens, they even have vegetable powders that include root veggies that can take some of the “green” taste away. They are beautiful products - I highly suggest looking at them. Each container provides you many many servings of properly dehydrated powders to really make it easy to eat your veggies!
Here are some great recipes such as zucchini hummus with leek powder, from Dr. Cowan’s:
No matter how you do it, don’t forget to eat your veggies and fruits each day. You CAN do this.
Your cells will thank you!
Here's to your wellness - Liz