Kim Severson, of The New York Times, wrote a must-read article last week titled Told to Eat It’s Vegetables, America Orders Fries. You can probably surmise in an instant the soapbox I’m about to jump on, right? I’ve thought about this article a lot since I read it. It’s not a shock-we don’t eat enough vegetables in this country. The number of people, particularly parents, who categorize French fries as their veggie of choice is, frankly, pathetic. Really? French fries? Next thing you know they’ll count the ketchup as another serving.
I realize I’m entirely privileged when it comes to access to produce. Living in San Francisco I’m a few short miles away from some of the country’s best vegetables. I can find them not only at the farmers’ markets but at my supermarkets as well-local, organic, and fresh. When veggies are in season the prices are accessible and I don’t shy away from spending a healthy portion of my grocery budget getting the best ones I can find. I realize most people don’t have this luxury. Local produce doesn’t exist in their town and vegetables are expensive, especially compared to junk food. This is a battle being fought all over the US right now-the cost of real food being out of reach to so many.
But, I don’t know that price is always the obstacle. In Kim’s article she talks a lot about the work it takes to prepare vegetables. People want convenience and when food prep takes time they just wont do it. Here’s where that soapbox comes in…
People-think of all the possible ways to prepare vegetables. They are easy to cook, a blank canvas for flavors, and fun to play around with when you want to try new things. What’s 20 minutes of time in the kitchen when we’re talking about your health, feeding your family, and being smart about what goes into your body? In 20 minutes you can prep and cook a vegetable stir fry, you can wilt greens for a frittata, you can saute carrots with fresh cilantro and lime, and you can blanch and saute green beans with almonds and browned butter. Heck, you can even tackle it in 10 minutes-roasting asparagus spears, steaming broccoli, or sauteing strips of bell peppers. Think about building meals around your veggies instead of relegating them to the side of your plate. Invest in a new cookbook or two (New Flavors for Vegetables or Cooking from the Farmers’ Market would by my suggestions) and get inspired. Wander the market and let your kids pick out the veggies for a change-they’ll be a lot more likely to eat them when they are invested in the preparation. Make a simple salad with dinner every single night. It’ll fill your belly with good stuff each day.
Four and a half cups of veggies and fruit a day is the recommendation. It’s not that hard-make it happen. For you, for your family, and for your health.