Before the start of the New Year, the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance released its 2015 American fruit and vegetable intake report card. The results, unfortunately, are pretty rotten. Yes fruit consumption (excluding juice) per capita for adults and children has risen 2% since 2009, but vegetable consumption (excluding fried potatoes) has decreased, decreased 6% since 2009.
Vegetable-centric restaurants are making more headlines than ever, and the over 1.2 million #farmersmarket posts on Instagram would lead one to believe that America’s love affair with flora-focused eating is real and robust. The report card numbers unveil the embarrassing reality, that our love for putting plants on our plates, while passionate, seems, sadly, too shallow to stick.
I spent many years in school studying the theories behind behavior modification, and when I practiced as a clinical dietitian I would always do my best to meet patients where they were at, working toward one healthy goal at a time and building from there. I never gave ultimatums and I never berated. As a mom of a picky toddler I attempt to be patient, offering familiar foods next to the new, and not stressing over the veggies that get tossed off the tray.
But after years of gently prodding patients, readers, students, and now my own kid, to embrace vegetables as an every meal, everyday reality, this whole adults not eating even close to the suggested intake of 2 – 3 cups of vegetables per day makes me want to scream. Please hold while I calm down.
Okay. Now, for goodness sake, let’s all make a serious effort to embrace produce in our regular rotation. The report speculates that one reason people are eating fewer vegetables is the trend toward one pot or one pan cooking (so what just put the vegetables in that one pot!). No longer are meals a clearly defined plate of protein, starch, and vegetables. The convenience and quick-cook trend has, sadly, sidelined the side salad.
Four ideas to up your veggie game:
1. Utilize your freezer. Freezing technology is better than ever, while frozen broccoli, green beans or snap peas are not crisp enough for raw crudities, they are great subbed in for fresh in soup, stir-fry, or steamed solo and seasoned with lemon zest and sea salt.
2. Plan meals around what’s in the crisper. Nothing makes me sadder or more embarrassed than tossing veggies in the trash. I know that I ALWAYS have frozen chicken, shrimp, and sausage at the ready to defrost in my microwave, so instead of planning around protein, I plan meals around the vegetable that needs to be cooked up first, from cauliflower (curry!) to kale (lasagna!).
3. Add ‘em to EVERYTHING. Bringing a frozen meal or can of soup for lunch at the office? Pack a baggie of baby spinach, peel the plastic off the tray or transfer the soup to a bowl and sneak that spinach into the dish before you heat. Boom, you just doubled the veg.
4. Register for my vegetable cookery class on Craftsy.com!
Have any vegetable tips to share? Please do in the comments, or over on my fb page.
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