Despite the general public being constantly told of the many benefits of consuming vegetables every day. 90.8% of the Trinidad and Tobago population consume less than 3 servings of vegetables a day. Bear in mind, 1 serving of vegetables is not that much (see photo below, each vegetable illustrates 1 serving).
Nevertheless, there are many ways to sneak this nutritive food group into ones diet, such as:
1) Consuming it raw as a smoothie or well seasoned, low-sodium chow.
2) Seeking out recipes that use the vegetables in savoury items e.g. muffins, quick breads or breads.
3) Seeking out recipes that utilise herbs and spices as flavourings in cooked vegetable dishes.
4) Consuming the vegetables raw or dehydrated, with a dip e.g. dried beet root with salsa, jicama sticks with ranch dressing, radish with hummus etc.
5) Add grated or shredded vegetables to sandwich fillings or spreads e.g. grated carrot to cheese paste, grated zucchini to tuna paste etc.
Experiment until you find at least 6 vegetables you can consume on a daily basis in ample amounts.
The following collage shares 7 ways vegetables can be used as snacks, best part they are low-calorie.
|Say yes! to Veggie Snacks|
However, to vegetable newbies, try selecting vegetables with a high-water content (Click here for a qualitative list). Vegetables with a high-water content often have a mild taste that is tolerable and can be consumed raw or cooked. They also tend to be fibre-rich despite being low in calories and packed with variable amounts of minerals and vitamins.
Aim to consume two servings a day, working your way up to at least 4 vegetable servings per day. Once this is achieved, slowly add vegetables with stronger flavours e.g dark green leafy vegetables- spinach, watercress, patchoi (bac choi) and purple vegetables- purple cabbage, eggplant etc.
Here are some great starter vegetables:
1) Christophene or Chayote
132grams (g) uncooked christophene conatins about 93% of its weight in water. It is a.member of the squash family, and is classed as a vegetable-fruit (because of the seed). It is oblong and pear shaped, with a rough skin that is mild to dark green. The flesh is pale green to colourless and has a mild taste that is comparable to zucchini or cucumber. There is a single seed and the flesh can be consumed in many ways -raw or cooked.Christophene can be stir-fried and served with brown rice or whole grain pasta or served as a simple salad .
For more nutrition information go to nutritiondata.com: raw and cooked
The water content in tomatoes range from 80- 93% or even higher per 100g of edible flesh. The water content does diminish depending on how it is prepared and how much salt is added. Taste-wise, the darker the shade of red, the more intense the flavour appears to be. Yellow and orange tomatoes, tend to have a mild taste. Regardless, tomatoes are best served raw, but studies have shown that the anti-carcinogenic properties are activated when the vegetable-fruit is cooked. For more nutrition information go to nutritiondata.com: raw, cooked and dried
Cucumbers eaten without the skin is more tolerable to persons on therapeutic diets e.g. renal diet. Outside of that cucumbers have a strong odour but the taste is very mild. They are best consumed raw for the nutritive properties (low-calorie, rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium, and fibre) but can be consumed cooked or pickled. Sliced cucumbers sprinkled with a pinch or salt and black pepper can be a great side dish to most rice based dishes. Cucumbers have been known to aid in lowering blood pressure due to its potassium content along with containing a number of disease-fighting antioxidant compounds, like tannins and flavonoids, says Michelle Dudash, Registered Dietitian and Chef Consultant. In the homoeopathy lifestyle, cucumbers are a coolant or an alkaline food, "their moist flesh makes them cool to the touch and they contain ascorbic acid and caffeic acid, two natural compounds that can help prevent water retention" says Dr Andrew Weil M.D, Health Advisor. For more nutrition information go to nutritiondata.com: raw.
4) Lettuce- Iceberg
Iceberg lettuce is most commonly consumed because the price attached and crisp texture. It is no surprise that iceberg lettuce is cheap compared to romaine and arugula. The pale green hue, comes off non threatening to many non-veggie lovers along with the low calorie and minimal vitamins and fibre contents. Regardless, iceberg lettuce has a mild and slight 'leafy' taste compared to other salad greens. One bonus of iceberg, lacking from other lettuce varieties is the high water content. This component allows iceberg to mix well with other food items without contributing an overpowering flavour, for this reason adding iceberg lettuce to salads can help eliminate the bitterness of the leaf lettuce, e.g romaine, watercress etc. Bear in mind, iceberg lettuce can have a pale to dark green hue. For more nutrition information visit nutritiondata.com: raw.
Other vegetables with high water contents that could be included into the diet easily are:
Cabbage- green (93% water) & purple (92% water)
Cauliflower (92% water)
Broccoli (91% water)
Carrots (87% water)
Sweet peppers (92% water)
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NOTE: To the botanist cucumbers, tomatoes & christophene are classified as fruits because they contain seeds but in the culinary sense they are vegetables because of their low-sugar content compared to traditional fruits.