So now you’re eating the right kind of grains, it would be great to have something to go with them. Vegetables are an integral part of any diet, adding flavor, color and nutritional value to any meal. They contain no cholesterol, and are low in fat and calories. The dietary fiber present in vegetables helps lower the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, while aiding in the prevention of certain types of cancer and obesity. This dietary fiber gives vegetables to ability to give a feeling of fullness with fewer calories than many other foods. Found in vegetables, Vitamins A and C keep eyes and skin healthy, help heal cuts and wounds, and aid in maintaining healthy teeth and gums.
There are five types of vegetables: dark green (broccoli, romaine lettuce, spinach), starchy (corn, green peas, potatoes), beans and peas (kidney beans, split peas, black beans), red and orange (butternut squash, carrots, tomatoes), and other vegetables (beets, celery, zucchini). It is recommended that adults (ages 9 and over) consume between two and three cups of vegetables each day. A cup is measured using chopped vegetables, and any whole vegetable or 100% vegetable juice counts as a serving. Beans and peas are special because they are also a great source of plant protein, which makes them similar to meat, poultry and fish. Vegetarians and vegans, who don’t consume animal protein, should consume larger amounts of protein filled beans and peas to make sure they are getting enough dietary protein.
There are a few keys to getting the right kind of nutrition from your vegetable selections. The first is to buy fresh and in season. Fresh foods contain less sodium and more flavor. If fresh options aren’t available, choose canned or frozen vegetables that are labeled ‘reduced sodium’, ‘low sodium’ or ‘no salt added’. To make adding vegetables to a meal easy, buy prewashed bags of salad, or be sure to rinse all vegetables with clean water and dry before cooking or preparing. Once they’re clean and ready to go, add them to any dish for an infusion of color and flavor. Also try using vegetables as snacks by adding a low fat dressing as a dip. Keeping some pre-sliced vegetables in the fridge helps make eating these nutritious foods quick and simple.
So throw some green, red or orange vegetables in with your next meal and make it a nutritional success!
For more information on the Vegetables Group, check out http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/vegetables.html, and check back in for the next Segment, A Balanced Diet Part IV: Fruits.