“Eat your vegetables. They are good for you.” These directions, often delivered in wheedling tones, are used in an attempt to entice children and adults alike to eat their vegetables.
When it fails, it may be followed by “If you don’t eat them, you can’t have dessert,” or “You will stay at the table until you eat that.”
None of these arguments are particularly convincing, although it is true that vegetables are good for you and eating them is an excellent idea.
The persuasion required to get a sullen child to at least taste his vegetables is discussion better suited for another time and place, mostly because I don’t have any pat answers for it. Some kids (and adults) are pretty hard cases.
However, making vegetables more appealing might be a good first step. Too often the vegetable in a meal is an after-thought. Menu planning goes something like this: “What should we have tonight? Hamburgers and french fries would be good. Roast beef and potatoes? Maybe we should have fish and a baked potato. Spaghetti would be good.”
After mulling over the possibilities — usually pretty quickly — the decision is made including the main course and a starchy accompaniment. A plan for dessert may follow and a roll or bread might be added.
Sometime around dinner time, the cook may think, “Hmm. We really should have a vegetable with this. What should I fix?” By then dinner is nearly ready so the quick option is to grab a package or can of something in the plant family and drop it into a pan or microwave dish to cook.
When the meal is served, it is ignominiously plopped onto the plate and, with guilt assuaged, it is given no more thought by either the cook or the diner except to possibly become a tugof- war about eating it.
This sequence of events is understandable. Sometimes main dishes take time and effort at a time when everyone is hungry. People are passing back and forth through the kitchen and there may be meetings, homework and other deadlines to meet after dinner. Putting extra effort into a side dish is difficult.
Nevertheless, returning to the original thought, vegetables are good for you. So good, in fact, that the USDA dietary guidelines recommend eating between five and nine servings of vegetables and fruits daily, with the strong emphasis being on vegetables. Maybe meal planning should start with the vegetable and the rest of the meal could built around that. That would take some adjusting at best and most likely will never catch on.
However, if more vegetables are added to the menu and actually consumed, odds are that people will eat fewer calories and learn to eat better overall.
Moving the vegetable out of the dark shadowy corners of the plate might require a little planning, but there are some pretty good vegetable dishes out there. There are also ways to serve vegetables as part of a main dish. Consider casseroles or main dish salads.
Vegetables make a tasty garnish. The lettuce, pickles and tomato on a hamburger don’t really constitute a whole serving but it helps. A vegetable tray with a good dip is almost a selection of garnishes and can add some zip to a meal.
Get sneaky. Disguise vegetables by putting them into desserts like pumpkin cake and carrot cookies. This option does increase the fat and sugar content of your diet, but the vegetable content does redeem them somewhat.
When the vegetables are a side dish, avoid over-cooking them. They will taste better and be more nutritious when they are still somewhat crunchy. Steaming is a good way to avoid nutrient loss to the cooking water.
1/2 head red cabbage 1/4 to 1/2 pound bacon, fried 1/4 cup sugar 1/4 cup vinegar
Cook red cabbage in water until tender and dark purple. Drain off water. Dissolve sugar in vinegar and add a little bacon drippings for flavor. Pour over the cabbage. This will turn the cabbage from purple to red. Toss and add bacon.
1 cup shortening 1 1/4 cups sugar 2 eggs 1 cup grated carrots 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 3 cups sifted flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup ground or whole raisins 1 cup nuts or dates
Cream shortening. Add sugar, eggs, carrots, lemon rind and juice. Gradually add dry ingredients that have been mixed or sifted together. Add nuts and raisins. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Drizzle frosting over these while warm. Cool and serve or store in an airtight container.
2 bunches broccoli crowns, cut into bite-sized pieces 1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled 3/4 cup red onion, chopped 3/4 cup sunflower seeds (or other nuts) 3/4 cup raisins Combine vegetables. Add dressing and mix well. Refrigerate to blend flavors.
1 cup mayonnaise 1/2 cup sugar 2 tablespoons vinegar Combine ingredients and mix well before adding to salad.
1 package (3 ounces) orange or apricot powdered gelatin dessert 2 tablespoons white vinegar 1 large can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple 1 can (16 ounces) beets, mashed
Pinch of salt (optional) Mix and reserve juices from pineapple and beets to equal 1 1/2 cups. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add powdered gelatin dessert and stir to dissolve. Add vinegar, beets and pineapple. Chill until set.