Category Archives: Tips – Vegetables

7 Healthy Habits to Reach 10 a Day

It’s no secret that we all need to be eating more fruits and vegetables. The USDA recommends that Americans get 5-9 servings per day, and only 1 in 10 of us are able to achieve even 3 servings of vegetables daily. However, epidemiological research shows that the greatest reduction in disease risk happens in those who consume 10 servings of produce a day (curious? Read more here). When we consume 10 servings of produce daily, the risk of succumbing to 9 of the top ten causes of death in the United States plummets. Therefore, the single greatest impact you can have on your health is increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables. Because fruit is easier to access and consume, the bulk of this post is about increasing your vegetable servings.

  1. Always have frozen veg on hand: Access to frozen vegetables allows easy, quick solutions on days you realize no vegetables were planned for dinner or are too tired to cook. Add them to a soup, roast or sauté them, or simply thaw in the microwave and top with your favorite sauce (pesto, peanut sauce, marinara, etc).
  2. Roast a sheet pan of vegetables weekly: bulk prep of vegetables is a great way to have access to an abundance of produce, especially during the winter months. Roasted veggies last several days in the fridge and using a sheet pan will easily allow you to cook 10-15 servings in a single go.
  3. Add veggies to your breakfast: practically unheard of in the United States, yet vegetables often have a place at breakfast tables in other nations. Use roasted veg as a bed for your morning eggs, add spinach or kale to a protein smoothie, or fold last night’s sautéed veggies into an omelet or scramble. You can even try a savory grain based porridge (polenta, oats, quinoa) with egg, bacon and vegetables. Students of my Vibrant veggies class reported morning veggies as the single biggest game changer in their quest for 10 a Day.
  4. Choose vegetable based snacks: instead of chips and salsa, try red pepper strips, jicama, and celery with hummus. Remember “Ants on a Log” from kindergarten? Celery and nut butter is still a hit with the adult crowd (raisins add bonus points). Have a warm cup of vegetable soup in the winter as a snack if raw, cold foods are unappealing
  5. Keep Fruits out Front and Center: A bowl of fruit is naturally appealing and if it is literally in front of you it makes for an easy choice. Keep more travel-friendly fruits such as apples, citrus and bananas in the car, in your backpack or briefcase, and at your desk for effortless consuming.
  6. Sneak Them in Everywhere: Add extra vegetables to soups, spaghetti sauces, and even meatballs and meatloaf! I routinely sneak in shredded carrots and shaved brussels sprouts into meatloaf and marinara to get even more produce into my child, and it works great for us as well
  7. Always be on the Prowl: In my vegetable based challenges and programs I teach people to think of themselves as veg hunters. Veg hunters are always on the prowl and seeking produce wherever they go. Whether or not you order vegetables, seek them out on restaurant menus and ask yourself at every meal, “Where are my vegetables?”. By making them your focus, you naturally increase your consumption of them, making 10 a Day a realistic, daily achievement.
Veg hunters are always on the prowl!

Multiple times a year I host challenges and coach groups on boosting produce intake. We go far beyond what is here and I help each person overcome the obstacles that limit them in achieving this most important goal. Those who boost their produce intake to 8 or more servings daily consistently report less pain, better moods, better digestion and increased, yet stable energy improvements. If you’re interested in becoming a veg hunter, sign up for my free guide below, “5 a Day in 15 Minutes or Less” to gain access to more tips. You’ll also be alerted to when the next program becomes available and receive several additional tips and recipes to make getting 10 a Day easier than you thought possible!

 

 

Planting an Indoor Herb Garden

Why wait for the weather to change? Planting an indoor herb garden can be an easy way to introduce yourself to the joys of gardening and is a wonderful way for gardeners to get their gardening-fix even during darker, colder months. Tending to plants can be very relaxing, therapeutic, and rewarding. Harvesting fresh herbs for spaghetti sauce, stews, and broiled meats gives your food a flavor which rivals your favorite restaurants! It is far less expensive than buying herbs in the store, and since it is a living plant, you never have to worry about the excess rotting in the fridge!

What You Will Need:

  • A Window – ideally with Southern exposure in winter. If you live in a dark place, you can use full-spectrum lamps to keep your plants happy!
  • Herbs – choose plants which you will actually use (I rarely use marjoram, even though it grows easily). My favorites – basil, thai basil, lemongrass (not an easy one to grow), cilantro, and oregano. You can start from seed if you wish, or purchase starter plants from your nursery.
  • Several small pots with holes for drainage – individual pots will allow you to keep an easier eye on each plant and its needs. If space is of concern, you can group them in one container, but growth may be compromised if your herb choices have differing needs.
  • Organic Soil – Choose organic, compost-rich soil for your plants. It contains a wider spectrum of nutrients and beneficial organisms than standard potting soil.
  • Plant food — worm castings, worm tea, PlanTea, or fish emulsion among others to give your herbs once a week.

For actual planting, this video is a basic how-to.

For some medicinal qualities of common herbs and spices we use in cooking, check out this blog post!

All Wrapped up!

It’s playtime in the Dream Kitchen!

On April 25th, VIBRANCE Nutrition and Fitness teamed up with Design Kompany to do a educational lunch and work party for solopreneurs. Design Kompany provided the space and I came in and demonstrated how easy it is to make a quick, healthy lunch in under 20 minutes. Here is shortened video footage of the event: Continue reading All Wrapped up!

Season's Eatings: Spotlight on Sweet Potatoes

My favorite holiday food growing up was my mother’s sweet potatoes. The recipe had been passed down from my great-grandmother and unlike most family’s marshmallow-laden recipe, ours was studded with pecans and brown sugar. Often called yams, the dark orange fleshy tubers we enjoy every holiday (canned, marshmallow-laden or otherwise) are actually sweet potatoes.

These foods come into season November and December, but are available year round for our enjoyment. They are an ideal winter food – heavy and warming with a sweet taste that satisfies cravings that peak during dark months. Rich in beta-carotene, sweet potatoes give us the precursor to Vitamin A that is essential for night vision. They are a perfect example of how nature gives us the appropriate foods at the appropriate time of year.
Sweet Potatoes, despite their candy-like flavor (which is enhanced by roasting or broiling) are low in the glycemic index and do not cause the spike in blood sugar white baking potatoes can, making them a preferred food of bodybuilders, diabetics, and those following a low glycemic diet. They are rich in soluble fiber, B6 and potassium, all heart healthy compounds which protect against heart disease. The sweet potato is also rich in powerful antioxidants which protect against inflammation and certain cancers.

This wonderful whole food is a great way to get healthy, nutrient rich carbohydrates that will not adversely affect your blood sugar or weight. For the next few months, replace steak fries with baked sweet potato fries and white rice or mashed Russets with mashed sweet potatoes. Enjoy them in savory and sweet dishes!

Below is a recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. I encourage you to give them a try for dinner one night. If you have a favorite sweet potato recipe you’d like to share, I’d love to see it!

Sweet Potato Fries

  • 6 Sweet Potatoes, cut like steak fries
  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil, warmed, or grapeseed, sesame, or peanut oil (these do well under higher heat)
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 TB. Mexican seasoning, Cajun seasoning, or spices of choice
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees (220 degrees Celsius). In a mixing bowl, toss sweet potatoes with oil and spices. Place potato wedges evenly on a baking sheet with enough space between each wedge to allow them to get crispy. Bake for 10-30 minutes (depending on size), flipping the over halfway through to brown all sides. When finished, they should be crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Cool for 5 minutes before serving.

3) How to Prepare Your Vegetables:

Vegetables can be washed in the following solutions:

  • a solution of vinegar and water (one part vinegar to twelve parts water – rinse in cold water to remove the ‘vinegar odor’)
  • The juice of half a lemon and 1 teaspoon of sea salt to a small basin of water. These provide a mildly acidic solution that may remove a greater percentage of bacteria and contaminants than just water alone.

Washing in bleach or detergent is not recommended because vegetable skins are porous and improper rinsing may lead to illness.
Do not soak delicate leafy greens for long periods of time (> 2 min) as vitamins can begin to leach out into the water. Hardier produce such as melons and squashes will welcome a good scrubbing to remove superficial contaminants.

For cooking, the key is to cook as little as possible. Al dente vegetables retain greater nutrients than veggies which have been boiled, roasted or fried to death. Cut vegetables into small, uniform chunks to minimize the amount of time the vegetable is exposed to heat. This will allow for even cooking and minimal nutrient loss.

  • How to Uniformly Dice Vegetables:
  • It's Harvest Time!!!

    The Best Ways to Choose, Prepare, and Cook your Veggies!

    Greetings, Dear Reader!

    It’s harvest time!
    The local markets have been bursting with ripe local produce. We’ve had a beautiful berry season, and heading into fall our focus turns to the hearty vegetables that carry us into the winter. This month many wonderful vegetables are in season; squashes, carrots, potatoes, greens such as escarole, bok choy, collards, kale and beet greens, and we still have corn available at some markets!
    Vegetables can be somewhat intimidating to manyof us, especially those we did not grow up eating. Being raised in Alaska meant families relied heavily on heartier and more processed vegetables. I remember the first time I tasted “real” corn on the cob and when I moved down here only to discover not all tomatoes bounced when you dropped them! A friend of mine in high school had never had fresh pineapple and had no idea she would like it. The same can be said for the more exotic vegetables you may not be comfortable with: dinosaur kale, bok choy, delicata squash, and fresh beets are some of the favorites I have discovered as an adult.

    This month we’ll talk veg: how to choose, store, prepare and cook them; and why they are so essential to a vibrant, abundantly healthy life.
    I’m also going to encourage you to go out on a limb and explore with a new vegetable. Head to your nearest farmer’s market (many will remain open throughout the month) or grocery store and pick something new. You can bring it home and search for a recipe, or ask the produce person how to prepare it. Extra points for locally grown choices!

    Please let me know what you choose, how you prepare it, and forward any recipes that you would love to share with others. The healthiest, most captivating recipe will be featured in a future newsletter, and the contest winner will receive a little gift on behalf of VIBRANCE Nutrition and Fitness!

    To Your Health!


    Aimee Gallo

    Why Veg Out?

    Vegetables are critical components of a healthy diet, yet in our rushed, convenient-valued society they are often left out. Vegetables contain an incredible amount of nutrients – A, C, and B vitamins, minerals, fiber, and hundreds of known and unknown antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect our cells against disease and damage. They are the most “nutrient dense” of all foods, meaning they provide the most beneficial nutrition for the least amount of calories.

    Obviously, we can survive for quite some time without them – most Americans do. But the deleterious effects of vegetable-neglect are subtle and far-reaching. Without adequate nutrients from vegetables we create a body susceptible to low energy, weakened immune system, and a wide range of degenerative diseases. The nutrients found in vegetables have been scientifically proven to be protective against heart disease, many forms of cancer, macular degeneration, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Studies conducted over populations consistently demonstrate that societies which consume the most vegetables live the longest and healthiest of all nations.

    1) How to Select your Vegetables:

    When choosing your vegetables, you want to reach for the highest quality produce available. This will greatly increase the available nutrients found in the plant, and consequently, available to you. Many studies have demonstrated that organically grown produce contains higher concentrations of nutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown produce. There is also no reason to willingly encourage pesticide and herbicide consumption. These toxic chemicals accumulate in our fatty tissue and have widely unknown consequences, especially when they can potentially react with other chemicals and medications introduced into the human body.

    Secondly
    , local produce has been known to have higher nutrient levels than non-local produce. The reasons here are simple. When faced with a long transport, produce is often picked under ripe so that it can reach its destination with minimal damage. Being picked before peak ripeness limits the potential nutrition that a plant can create. Also, as soon as a vegetable is picked, it no longer is on “life support”. Unlike fruit, vegetables do not continue to ripen after harvest; vitamins and other sensitive nutrients begin to break down after picking. Choosing locally grown, especially at the height of season, maximizes use of nutrition found in produce.

    Finally, the maturity level of a vegetable is important. Young, tender vegetables have maximum nutrition. A plant with woody stalks, tough leaves and showing signs of decay is well past its prime and is on a nutrient descent. Look for vibrant colors, tender leaves, and lack of decay when choosing your vegetables. Produce staff are well trained in recognizing ideal produce – ask them for advice on any specific vegetables you are uncertain of.

    2) How to Store Your Vegetables:

    Once picked, vegetables are increasingly sensitive to nutrient breakdown because they no longer have incoming nourishment from the soil and root system. How we store our vegetables have a great influence on how well they retain their existing nutrient levels.
    Different vegetables spoil at different rates (potatoes versus chard, for instance) and therefore have different needs. Generally speaking, cooler temperatures are best. The more sensitive members – leafy greens, green beans, etc. are best kept in the refrigerator. Washing vegetables before refrigerating encourages spoiling, even if wrapped in a paper towel to reduce moisture condensation. It is best to store them in a tight-fitting glass or plastic container or a plastic vegetable storage bag (these are very effective at prolonging shelf life) and wash them right before use.

    Vegetables such as potatoes, garlic, onions, winter squash, sweet potatoes, avocados and eggplants react negatively to refrigeration. These are best kept in a “root cellar” environment – a cool dark area where temperatures are 50-60 degrees (garages are wonderful). These vegetables should only be refrigerated after they have been cut or cooked.

  • Storage Times for Various Veggies
  • 4) The Healthiest Ways to Cook your Veggies:

    Vegetables get a horrifically bad rap in taste tests because the traditional American way of cooking them isn’t much different than our British ancestors, who learned the best way to avoid disease was to boil everything into an unrecognizable state of mush. When cooked properly, vegetables have an amazing array of flavors and textures that can be quite delightful to even the pickiest of palates. Ideally, you want your vegetables cooked until just crisp-tender (al dente) so they are full of flavor, color-rich, and nutrient dense. Below are some cooking methods which achieve just that:

    1. Quick Sauté: Bring a little bit of oil and ¼ cup water or broth to a steam and add vegetables. Cover (this prevents nutrient loss through steam and light and quickens cooking time) and “sauté” for 3-7 minutes, depending on vegetable.

    2. Steaming: place 2” of water in the bottom of a pot. Place a steamer basket in the pot. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables only after the water has come to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cover tightly. Steam vegetables until brightly colored and crisp-tender – 2 to 7 minutes.

    3. Blanching: this is great for tougher greens such as chard and beet greens, as well as asparagus, which is easy to overcook. Bring a pot filled ¾ full with water to a boil. Drop in vegetables and let boil for 1-3 minutes (that brightening of color is a sign the vegetables are done). Remove from heat, immediately draining the pot and rinsing the veggies under cold water to halt the cooking process. Some nutrients will be lost in the water with this process. It can be “recycled” in soup stock, or given to your plants.


    Key things to remember when cooking vegetables: the shorter the cooking time, the better. Avoid microwaving, which destroys a significant percentage of antioxidants in the vegetable. Keep it crisp-tender to maximize flavor and nutrition!

    Sources:

    The World’s Healthiest Foods, Essential Guide for the Healthiest Way of Eating by George Mateljan

    Asami, D.K., et al. Comparison of the Total Phenolic and Ascorbic Acid Content of Freeze-Dried and Air-Dried Marionberry, Strawberry, and Corn Grown Using Conventional, Organic, and Sustainable Agricultural Practices J. Agric. Food Chem., 51 (5), 1237 -1241, 2003. 10.1021/jf020635c S0021-8561(02)00635-0