How to Prepare Tasty Vegetables
Vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet. They provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that help us maintain and improve health. They come in a wide variety of colors and often those colors can be an indicator of some of the beneficial phytochemicals they contain. For example, many orange and dark, green leafy vegetables are sources of beta-carotene which can have benefits for the immune system as well as bone and skin health. The red or pink color of tomatoes can be tied to lycopene, which has a role in prostate health. This is the reason it is recommended to include a variety of vegetables from different color families.
There are multiple ways to prepare and eat vegetables: here’s how!
The Best Vegetables to Eat Raw
Many veggies can be eaten raw such as carrots, celery, sugar snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, cucumber, peppers, green onion, etc. Many of these can also be eaten with leafy greens as part of a salad. Raw vegetables are sometimes set out as a vegetable plate or as part of a relish plate on buffets or at parties.
With their variety of colors and textures, raw vegetable plates add some visual appeal to a table as well as giving people healthy low-calorie food options to choose from. They can be served with a variety of dips such as hummus, salsa, creamy dips or salad dressings.
Some raw vegetables can also be presented with a filling for alternatives in a presentation such as mini-peppers filled or topped with a small amount of a favorite dip, small tomatoes filled with flavored cottage cheese, or celery sticks filled with nut butter or cheese. Use lower fat dips or fillings to help keep calories in check.
How to Cook Vegetables
Vegetables can be cooked in a variety of ways. Various cooking methods can enhance or highlight flavor components of vegetables. For example, slow-cooked caramelized onions often have a sweeter taste and overcooked broccoli may have a stronger bitter flavor. Experimenting with cooking methods and cooking times can help you find your favorite ways to prepare and eat vegetables. Whichever way you’d like to cook your vegetables, we recommend that you eat a variety of different veggies them so that you get different vitamins and minerals. Some examples of cooking methods for vegetables are below.
Microwavable steamer bags of vegetables are available in many grocers frozen food section and offer a convenient, fast way prepare and add vegetables to a meal. They are available in both seasoned and unseasoned forms. Choosing the unseasoned versions allows you to season them to taste as desired and can be a good option for those watching the sodium in their diet as many of the pre-seasoned versions contain added sodium.
Vegetables can also be steamed in steamer bowls in the microwave, steamer pans, or in pans with a steamer basket on the stovetop. Steaming helps preserve the nutrients in the foods compared to boiling and may also make some nutrients more available to the body. Steaming can be a relatively quick cooking method and varying the length of steaming can allow you to control how crisp or soft the texture is.
Boiled or Stewed Veggies
Some vegetables lend themselves well to boiling or stewing in water or another liquid such as broth or tomato juice. Using a broth or juice may also add some additional flavor to vegetables.
Firmer vegetables such as potatoes or carrots may take 15-20 minutes at a gentle boil or simmer to become done while others make take only take a few minutes. Leafy cooking greens such as mustard, collard, turnip greens, and kale can be boiled until tender in about 20-25 minutes while Swiss chard may only take 8-10 minutes to cook.
Baked or roasted Veggies
Slow roasted sweet potatoes develop a softer texture and sweeter flavor. Kale can be baked into “chips” quickly by roasting them on a sheet pan. Cauliflower and broccoli can be cooked along with peppers and onions for a colorful, flavorful dish.
For more information, see all of the articles and recipes on our nutrition tips page!