Growing up, my mother prepared dinner practically every night and always had a vegetable on the table. But one vegetable she never served was spinach. Once I became older and wise enough to want to eat spinach, I began wondering why we never had it at home. Her answer: She grew up eating canned spinach and never thought of preparing it a different way.
Unfortunately, this is a very common story when it comes to vegetables. You’re introduced to a vegetable that’s been served or cooked in a less-than-ideal way and then go through life thinking you don’t like it. Until you taste it when it has been prepared well, that is. That was me with green beans. Canned green beans were never my favorite. In fact, they’d often make their way onto my sister’s plate so I wouldn’t have to eat them. But serve fresh or frozen green beans and I’m in love!
This is important to keep in mind when serving vegetables to children. Just because they don’t like something prepared one way (i.e., steamed) doesn’t mean they won’t love them in a different preparation (i.e., roasted).
If you’ve been avoiding certain vegetables because family members have turned up their noses at them in the past, here are three vegetables you should reconsider in your meal plan for their delicious taste (really!) and impressive nutritional profiles.
UP NEXT Brussels sprouts!
Brussels sprouts: These beauties might be one of the hardest veggies for people to love. They even rank #4 on a 2013 “The Top 10 Vegetables I Won’t Eat” survey. To reclaim your love for this cruciferous vegetable, say goodbye to overcooked, boiled sprouts. Roasting or pan-frying them is a must.
To roast Brussels sprouts, cut off their ends and slice each sprout in half. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper then bake on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Once crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, sprinkle lightly with kosher salt and serve.
My favorite way to enjoy this veggie is to pan-fry them. Thinly slice, or shave, each sprout then sauté in olive oil with minced garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, cook and stir until the Brussels sprouts begin to soften and brown in color, being careful not to burn. If you’re not sure how to shave sprouts, check out the ”How Do I…?” video on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website eatright.org.
By enjoying four Brussels sprouts, you gain 3 grams fiber, 120% the Daily Value for Vitamin C, a good source of folate and potent cancer-fighting compounds for a mere 40 calories.
UP NEXT: Spinach!
Spinach: While canned spinach might be perfectly delicious in soups, stews and dips, it probably isn’t the ideal way to introduce your family to this leafy green. Start by selecting fresh baby spinach because it’s sweeter and more tender than its fully grown counterpart.
Like Brussels sprouts, spinach is delicious sautéed in a simple combination of olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper until wilted. Once cooked, you can also squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice to brighten up its flavor. If feeding a larger family, keep in mind one pound of fresh spinach cooks down to about one cup sautéed spinach.
To serve as a fresh salad, pair with ingredients like dried cranberries and almonds or sliced pears, walnuts and feta cheese. Spinach salad also works well with bolder dressings and can often be seen with honey mustard, warm bacon or garlic-style dressings.
With 40 calories in a cup and a half, each serving of fresh spinach is high in folate, a good source of magnesium, and also packs 5 grams fiber, 70% the Daily Value for Vitamin A, 25% the Daily Value for Vitamin C and 20% the Daily Value for iron. Spinach is also rich in disease-fighting phytochemicals, including beta-carotene for immunity and lutein for eye health.
UP NEXT: Cauliflower!
Cauliflower: If you grew up eating bland, over-boiled cauliflower, it’s no wonder you may be avoiding it. Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can take on both mild and stronger flavors. Plus, if you don’t have time to chop and prepare fresh cauliflower, frozen florets work just as well in any of these preparations. Simply run frozen cauliflower under cool water to thaw before cooking.
Roasting cauliflower helps to bring out this vegetable’s natural sweetness and buttery flavor – a completely different experience from boiled cauliflower. Roast just like Brussels sprouts but reduce cooking time to about 25-30 minutes. After baking, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or serve as is.
One technique I learned about five years ago was sautéing cauliflower florets in a pan with breadcrumbs. This results in a crispy and flavorful side dish – and usually my favorite part of the meal. Start by running frozen florets under cool water to defrost, then place in a skillet and drizzle with olive oil. Over medium-high heat, stir to coat florets with olive oil then sprinkle with garlic powder, pepper, Italian-style bread crumbs and Parmesan. Continue to stir and cook until breadcrumb crust begins to brown and cauliflower becomes tender.
For one-sixth of a medium head of cauliflower (approximately 1 ¼ cups chopped), you benefit from 2 grams fiber, an excellent source of Vitamin C, and a good source of folate and phytochemicals such as indoles and isothiocyanates, which have anti-cancer properties — all for 25 calories.
Andrea Luttrell is a registered dietitian nutritionist for the Living Well Eating Smart program at Big Y Foods. She can be reached at email@example.com or write Living Well, 2145 Roosevelt Ave, PO Box 7840, Springfield, MA 01102.
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