Vegetables — Don’t Knock’em, Try’em!

In September 2010, the Centers for Disease Control published the latest results of an ongoing telephone survey in which they ask people over 18 how much fruit and vegetables they eat every day. “State-Specific Trends in Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among Adults — United States, 2000-2009″ reveals that only 25% of the people surveyed eat vegetables — other than French fries — three or more times a day. A survey by a market research company had similar findings. Their spokesman concluded there was nothing you could do to get people to eat vegetables. An attempt to market baby carrots as junk food didn’t do very well. Even some nutrition experts admit they don’t like vegetables.

Are there any good answers? Plenty. Let’s clear up a few myths.

Taste the Difference

Do you think vegetables have no flavor — or taste bad? For a lot of people, “vegetables” evokes unpleasant childhood memories of frozen spinach, carrots or lima beans boiled and served indifferently with an admonition to sit there until you finish every one, or the disgusting messes in the school lunch program. Most “fresh” vegetables in the supermarket produce section are bland to the point of tastelessness. They’ve been bred for size and color, not flavor, and lose a lot of their nutritional value in the time it takes to transport them. Frozen vegetables are actually better for you! Most Americans probably don’t know what tomatoes are supposed to taste like. It’s no wonder that “disguising” vegetables for children has become a fine art.

If there’s a farmer’s market in your area, go there and ask to try a tomato. You’ll notice the difference immediately. They’re sweet! So are corn and red bell peppers. If celery, carrots, lima beans or cucumbers seem tasteless to you, chew them well and hold them in your mouth for a minute. You may decide that they need salt or spice — and that’s fine.

If you’re used to prepackaged foods with a lot of additives it may take some time to realize the subtleties of vegetable flavors. But there’s nothing wrong with spicing things up. It’s an honored tradition. If you’ve ever had Chinese or Indian food, you know about this! All it takes is a small bit of work with the right sauces and seasonings. Use red pepper, onion, garlic. Try oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary — spaghetti sauce herbs. Your local Asian grocery has amazing sauces you can try. Or best of all, make up your own.

It’s Quick, It’s Easy, and It’s Delicious

A lot of people say they don’t know how to cook vegetables appetizingly. They think it’s incredibly difficult or takes too much time. Fresh vegetables are seen as too time-consuming for today’s overworked families. Salad mixes in sacks and fresh frozen vegetables in microwavable containers are now available for this reason. They’re great if you can afford them. But cooking vegetables yourself is actually easy.

Get fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market. Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, onions, green and red peppers — whatever looks appetizing. Cut them up, mix with olive oil, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and any sauces or spices you like. Put them in more olive oil in a frying pan. Turn up the heat and stir things around for about ten minutes. You can also put them an oiled baking pan, toss it in the oven and bake at 350 for fifteen minutes. Now you have something interesting! You can adapt this method for frozen vegetables. There are lots of simple recipes on line.

Grow Your Own

The best vegetables are those you grow yourself. You can do this even in an apartment. All you need is a patio or a balcony and some containers. You can grow tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, small potatoes, broccoli, peppers… the possibilities are virtually endless. You can get kits and instructions for apartment gardeners at any nursery or home improvement store. Some varieties have even been bred specifically to grow in patio gardens. Try heirloom seeds if you want to experience the old-fashioned taste your great-grandparents knew.

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