Cooking Fresh Veggies

Summer time – a great time for fresh veggies that taste wonderful! When picked in season, they are nutritional bargains! Some people might not know how to cook fresh veggies or know where to begin. Vegetables just need a little prep work and then they will be ready to cook. All fresh produce should be washed thoroughly and ‘bad spots’ should be removed.  Cut into uniform pieces so they cook evenly.

Here are a few ways to get your started!

Roasting:

Roasting vegetables is an easy way to bring out the flavor of the vegetables and is a healthy way to eat them. You can roast vegetables either alone or in combination with others. You won’t need much (or any) seasoning because the flavors are concentrated. After you prepare the vegetables, mix them with a little olive oil. Put vegetables on roasting pan. You want the vegetables to be in one layer (not tightly packed), so make sure your pan is big enough. Cook for 20-25 minutes at 400 F in multiple batches if necessary. Roast until the pieces are tender and are a caramel brown color around the edges.

Microwave:

Place the vegetable pieces into a microwave safe container. Add 2 tablespoons of water. Cover with a tight fitting lid. If the container does not have a lid, use a microwave safe plastic wrap to seal the bowl. Be sure to vent the bowl. Cook on high for 5-7 minutes. Drain water from vegetables and season as desired. My favorite is lemon pepper or garlic salt! Or just add some shredded cheese to ANY vegetable.

Stir Fry:

Use a large non-stick pan to steam pieces of vegetable until they are tender and tasty.

Place uniform pieces of vegetables in a pan with a shallow layer of water across the bottom, about 1/4 of an inch deep. Heat over medium to medium-high heat. Cover the pan with a lid to cook faster. Cook vegetables to crisp-tender. Check at 5 minutes for doneness.

Not sure whether a certain vegetable is a good candidate for stir-frying? It all comes down to the density and moisture level of the vegetable. Zucchini, sweet peppers and spinach are high moisture veggies and can be quickly stir-fried at high heat without the addition of extra liquid. Lower moisture vegetables like broccoli and carrots, require more cooking time. Most recipes call for the vegetables to be stir-fried briefly and then boiled in a liquid such as chicken broth. Another option is to briefly blanch (cooking technique in which food is briefly immersed in boiling water) the vegetables prior to stir-frying.
Also check out this seasonality chart for vegetables and here is more info on cooking vegetables.

February is National Snack Food Month!

There are a variety of foods to choose from when eating healthy snacks.

February is National Snack Food Month. Congrats Snack Food – you get a month all to yourself! The idea for National Snack Month was developed in 1989 as a combined effort between the Snack Food Association and the National Potato Promotion Board. Even though February is National Snack Food Month, that doesn’t give us the excuse to put anything we want in our grocery cart. Believe it or not there are HEALTHY snacks. Recently, manufacturers have produced lower calorie, lower fat and/or lower sodium snacks. Sugar is being reduced, as well, and nutrients are being added.

I agree it’s sometimes difficult to find healthy, tasty snacks. Shoppers may have to look high and low on the shelves and read the back of a product’s label to find out it is indeed ‘healthy.’ Fresh fruit and vegetables are always a great start. Fruit and vegetables can often be paired with other nutrient dense foods to add flavor. For example, apple slices are great with cheese, and celery is tasty filled with peanut butter or reduced fat cream cheese.

Great news! There are benefits to snacking, so no need to feel regretful about snacking. Healthy snacks are beneficial! Here’s how:

Binge control. If eating a piece of fruit or raw vegetables keeps you from taking second or third helpings at your next meal, you may actually consume fewer total calories for the day.

Extra energy and nutrients. Traditional, made-at-home meals often lose out to busy schedules. A grab-and-go snack can be the difference between some nourishment and none at all.

Control Hunger Pangs and Insulin Levels. Snacking helps you keep your hunger levels to a minimum and avoid feeling deprived.

Some other ideas for healthy snacks are:
• Air popped popcorn
• Lowfat or nonfat cottage cheese
• Frozen grapes
• Hard boiled egg
• Handful of walnuts
• Lowfat yogurt – or try the Greek yogurt too
• Tuna with 6 whole grain crackers
• A glass of lowfat or nonfat milk

With proper portions and healthy food choices, snacking can enhance, rather than hurt your diet. Think of a snack as a “mini meal” that will help you have a healthy diet, rather than as an opportunity to consume treats. Healthy snack foods are a great tool for permanent weight loss!

Summer Feeding Programs

Today, two Ball State University students, Victoria Parry and Olga Suchshinskaya, are our guest bloggers. Victoria is currently a Dietetic Intern and plans to continue with her Master’s of Science degree in dietetics next year. She hopes to become a Registered Dietitian (RD) and specialize in either renal dietetics or work to educate the public regarding healthy eating patterns. Olga was born in Kazakstan, Karaganda, grew up in Lafayette, IN, graduated from Purdue University, and is currently doing her dietetic internship. Over the years she has realized that people are her passion and kids are her devotion. She loves working with pediatric patients and their parents but also enjoys helping people optimize their health through proper nutrition and an active lifestyle.

 Have you seen the signs about Summer Feeding?

Buttercup helped with the Summer Feeding Program too!

We met with a group of kids at Pride Park Center and spoke with them about incorporating healthy fruits and vegetables into their meal choices.  We helped the kids with a fruit and veggies word search and also with coloring fun pictures of fruits and veggies.  The kids were so excited to tell us their favorite fruits and veggies which included carrots, broccoli, plums, bananas, and strawberries as the most popular responses.

We also played an exciting food pyramid relay with food models.  The kids had to take turns running to the opposite end of a basketball court to select a food model, such as a piece of bread, and then come back to the other side of the court to place the food model into the correct place in the food pyramid.  The first team to correctly place all of the food models into the pyramid won the game! Our teams were so good that they tied; they all did such an excellent job!

Once finished learning about fruits and vegetables, the kids got a surprise visit from Buttercup, our dairy cow mascot! Through Buttercup, we talked with the kids about the importance of consuming dairy products each day.  Buttercup was such a hit; all of the kids took photos with her.

It was a busy and fun day with the Summer Food Service Program.  We had so much fun helping the kids learn about healthy food habits while playing coloring and playing games. 

Ball State Dietetic Intern, Olga, is teaching children about the nutrition in different types of food.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)  is a partnership between the Indiana Dairy Council , Indy Parks Department,  and Indiana Department of Education.  The goal of this program is to provide low-income children under the age of 18 with nutritious meals while the National School Lunch Program is not in session for the summer.  For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, contact the Office of School and Community Nutrition at 1-800-537-1142 or 317-232-0858.