Posted on April 22, 2021 at 3:52 PM by IWLS Dietitians
What is off about this meal? Mashed potatoes, baked chicken breast, dinner roll. Picture this on a plate. Notice what’s missing? COLOR! We eat with our eyes as well—the meal experience starts with the vision of the food in front of you. Is an all-pale plate that inspiring? Likely not.
A simple way to add color, texture, and nutrition is a small switcheroo: veggies. Green, purple, deep yellow, red, orange…yes, please!
Make produce the priority by selecting a fruit or veggie to serve with each meal before choosing the protein and grain. Building the meal around fruits and veggies, rather than fitting them in as an afterthought, is key for a tasty meal. Adding can be as simple as grabbing some baby carrots and enjoying raw, or heating a frozen bag of steamable veggies, filling out a sandwich with green leafies, or mixing in chopped cooked broccoli with a favorite casserole or soup. With so many varieties to choose from, it can be challenging to know which will pair best in a recipe. Consider the texture, flavor, color, and nutrients they will contribute to the meal.
A tender baked sweet potato or carrot pairs well with a firm slice of roast beef, mixing two opposite textures. Using similar preparation methods, like roasted chicken with roasted broccoli or sautéed fish with sautéed peppers, offers complimentary textures and flavors. Don’t overcook! You will end up with a soggy mush that no one wants.
The bold flavor of a red onion or Brussels sprout makes a splash in a recipe such as a salad or simply on the side. More mild produce, like cucumbers or cantaloupe, balances sharp, acidic flavors from tomatoes or citrus fruits.
Bring color to any meal by adding vibrant veggies or fruit. Add a dash of green to soups with spinach or kale or a pop of orange to yogurt with a sprinkle of peaches.
Then you have the added nutrition aspect. (Hint: Not all compounds naturally found in produce can be isolated and put in a vitamin pill. You also need the other compounds in the plant to help absorb nutrients.) Fun fact: did you know that the most powerful antioxidants are the colors of the plants themselves? Consider the orange in a sweet potato, the deep green in spinach or kale, the purple in cabbage, the red in tomatoes. Antioxidants! These compounds not only provide benefits to humans, but to the plant itself, where they protect from free radical damage. Then you get into all the vitamins and minerals. What’s not to like?
There are so many ways to boost your produce—add-ins to recipes (which add bulk/volume, flavor, and switch up old favorites), planning a meal or snack around produce (instead of an afterthought), trying a different prep method, or just picking out something at the market that maybe you haven’t tried before are great options to get going. If you’re looking for some new ideas, check out the website www.haveaplant.org, or ask one of our Iowa Weight Loss Specialists dietitians! Happy eating!
Annette Snyder, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD-Iowa Weight Loss Specialists Belmond Dietitian