Dieticians recommend that half your plate consist of vegetables. This is a lamentable fact for many because vegetables have an unfortunate reputation of being unpleasant ‘rabbit food’: something only to be tolerated for the sake of health. This need not be the case, however. Changing your attitude about vegetables will improve your diet.
Vegetables don’t need to be bland, but they also don’t need to be subjected to cooking techniques that diminish their healthiness to be tasty. Mushrooms need not be swimming in butter, broccoli smothered in cheese, potatoes deep-fried in oil, or spinach saturated with cream. And there’s no reason why carrots, butternut and sweet potato are sweetened, when they’re naturally sweet already!
Different Cooking Methods
First, know that different cooking methods bring out different flavors, and work well for different vegetables.
Steaming is possibly the healthiest way to cook vegetables. Broccoli, pumpkin, corn, cauliflower, green beans and zucchini steam very well. Not only do you not need to use oil or butter, but there is little leeching of nutrients. As a definite advantage, cooking time takes mere minutes. Good steamers are important for cooking these well. Once cooked, you could chop up and mix all the vegetables, and drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Some fresh basil or coriander, with a sprinkling of feta, makes this a delicious supplement to any meal – or even a meal in itself if you add protein from avo, chicken or lentils.
Mushrooms, aubergine, peppers, zucchini, pumpkin and tomato (yes, I know it’s a fruit) cook wonderfully under the grill. Grilling is another quick and healthy way of cooking, and possibly one of the tastiest. A pinch of salt is all you need to enhance their flavor. Contrary to popular opinion, they do not need to be dripping with oil to be grilled. In fact they need none at all. Just a spritz now and then with a liquid, even simply water, is sufficient. Aubergine, however, needs substantial moisture to be grilled, but this can be done by pressing slices in a marinade (like balsamic, soy and water) before grilling.
Carrots and potato take longer to cook. If you want them to be ready at the same time as other vegetables, you can parboil them first and then either steam or grill, or you can simply cut them more thinly. Bear in mind that nutrients leech out considerably during boiling, ending up down the drain.
Most vegetables can be roasted, and this is definitely delicious. However, this is not the quickest way to prepare vegetables, which means that it is not the healthiest. As a general rule, the less the cooking time, the more nutrition retained. Keep this option for special occasion dinners.
Changing the way you prepare vegetables can make adjusting to a healthier lifestyle an easy transition. You might find yourself surprised at how delicious, and even filling, vegetables can be.
Queenie Bates is a long time vegetarian, and enjoys everything to do with food – grocery shopping, cooking, browsing for new recipes, and of course eating.