Vegetables, the ultimate health food! Whether you follow a vegetarian, paleo, Mediterranean, or ANY eating pattern, vegetables are superstar of healthy diets. They are low in calories, fat, and sugar but are even better loved for the things they DO contain! Vegetables are rich in more than just vitamins and minerals. They are rich in powerful compounds like polyphenols, phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber which all do amazing things for the body! Winter is the best time to start making changes as a family to increase vegetable intake! Why? Because cold weather calls for soups, chili, warm baked dishes, slow cooker meals and casseroles! What better way to improve the acceptance of vegetables than by putting them in delicious comfort foods?! And let’s not forget that this is when some of the best vegetables of the year are in season! Winter squash, pumpkin, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga and other root vegetables are cheapest and most flavorful during the winter months! Take advantage of this special time of year to sneak more of these nutrient rich foods into your family meals!
Let’s take a look at some of this season’s top techniques to use these veggies in a delicious way!
This method involves baking vegetables at a high temperature in a little oil. It helps retain many nutrients but also imparts a delicious, caramelized flavor to the vegetables. Root vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips, rutabaga and carrots are delicious tossed in a little coconut oil, seasoned with a little rosemary and roasted until browned. Another favorite recipe to try are oven roasted cabbage steaks. Simply slice a head of cabbage into thin “steak-like” strips. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper before roasting until the edges are caramelized and the cabbage is tender.
Soups, chili, and chowders
Perhaps the best thing about winter is coming in from a cold day outside to find a nice steamy bowl of soup waiting for you. There are so many soup and stew recipes that call for winter vegetables like onion, potato, and carrot. Expand your horizons past the regular soups and get creative by adding pumpkin cubes to your chili or making a chowder with sweet potatoes and corn. A simple google search for soup using ingredients you have in your pantry and refrigerator is a great way to use up things you already have on hand. You might even discover a new family favorite!
Slow cooker meals
If you are pressed for time, slow cooker meals can change the way your family does dinner! Many slow cooker meals can be thrown together in the morning, left all day to cook, and enjoyed with minimal effort in the evening. Another option is to prep all ingredients for multiple crock pot meals one day of the week, freeze in airtight bags, then remove from the freezer and slow cook the day you wish to use them. Vegetables are often the star of many slow cooker soups and stews, but you can also use your slow cooker to cook whole squash or pumpkin. For a little inspiration try adding cubed onion, carrot, garlic, and potatoes to a slow cooker, topping with a few seasoned raw chicken breasts and cooking on low for 5-6 hours.
Casseroles and pasta bakes
Instead of using canned soups, white rice, and other processed ingredients, make a healthy, veggie packed casserole! Try adding vegetables wherever you can and make your dishes healthier and use crushed tomatoes, herbs and spices, cultured cream cheese or your own homemade milk based sauces for flavor. For example, make a stuffed cabbage casserole by sautéing a little grass fed ground beef, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and whatever spices you desire and throwing in a casserole dish with plenty of chopped cabbage leaves. Brussel sprouts are also great in casseroles and can be delicious with a little garlic and parmesan. Make an easy egg casserole by chopping winter vegetables such as potato and onion and toss in olive oil, roast briefly in the oven, then top with a few eggs and return to oven until set. As another creative idea, make cleanup a cinch by using a squash as your casserole dish! Simply bake your squash, scoop out the middle and mix with whatever cooked meats, vegetables, or spices you desire then return to the squash shell, and bake until warmed through.
The opportunities to add vegetables to your meals are endless! Your meals will be more nutritious, colorful, and interesting with the addition of more vegetables! Here are a few great ways to enjoy delicious, winter vegetables this year!