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Eat your veggies

June 3, 2011 - Kathie Evanoff
I’m always looking for new ways to prepare vegetables and even though I’m not a vegetarian, one of my favorite publications is Vegetarian Times magazine.

This is not a plug for the magazine, but I’ve subscribed for several years only taking a break now and then when my life became so busy I found several issues stacking up that I didn’t have time to read. Yet I’m always drawn back to the publication for the wealth of information on how to get in lots of vegetables.

Most of you have probably seen or read the latest news reports on the new food pyramid, which is not a pyramid at all but is now a plate. Although I was a fan of the old pyramid, it did take a lot of time to figure out, not to mention all of the information that came with it. For those who didn’t like all that reading and reference, it was confusing and difficult.

Now when you go to www.mypyramid.gov, you are instantly transferred to the new site, www.choosemyplate.gov. Just like the old “four food groups” method from my youth, the new plate-shaped guide is divided into four sections, with a fifth section off to the side labeled for milk.

The sizes of the sections, as well as the figure of the plate, give an indication of how much we should be consuming of each of these food groups, Vegetables, Grains, Protein and Fruit. As expected, the vegetable section is the largest, followed by grains. Protein and fruit look to be about the same size and milk is the smallest.

Along with the plate are guidelines recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that advise how to balance our calories by enjoying our food, but eating less. We can do this by making half of our plate fruits and vegetables, one-quarter protein and one-quarter grains. According to the USDA recommendations, we also should make whole grains half of our portion and switch to fat free or low fat milk.

On the website, when you click on a particular food group on the plate, you are sent to a page explaining what makes up that particular group. On the protein page, beans, nuts and seeds are listed along with meat and seafood.

What is not included on the plate are oils and fats. That doesn’t mean we should avoid them, according to the USDA. There is information about oils on the site which explain that although oils and fats are not a food group, they are essential to good health. But they should be limited due to their high caloric values. In other words, we need some, but we don’t need a lot. More searching on the site reveals the recommended daily allowance by age of oils and fats. According to the charge, I should be consuming no more than 6 teaspoons of oils per day in the form of nuts, fish and cooking oils. Because nuts and fish are high in oils, they are counted in both the protein group and the oils allowance. While we can still have solid fats, like butter, we should get the majority of our oil allowance from healthier choices, such as olive oil, fish and nuts.

Visually, I can see where the “plate” is a little less confusing than the much-divided pyramid, but there is still a lot to know about what constitutes healthy eating. There is still the issue of portion sizes, caloric intake and how exercise levels effect our diets.

If it’s important to us, we should be willing to do the research. And it should be important. This is, after all, our health.

Although I am not vegetarian, I try to eat as many meatless meals as possible, so I often substitute beans, nuts and seeds and know I am still getting good servings of protein. But I have always been drawn to vegetables, often craving them if I don’t get a good supply often enough.

This time of year, when the Farmer’s Markets start opening and the gardens start producing, I start looking at recipes and trying out new things.

A recent discovery came from Vegetarian Times online. In addition to the magazine, I also receive a few of their online newsletters in my email and one that caught my eye this week was a recipe for Austrian Pickled Red Onions.

It’s no secret that I love onions. I picture these onions on sandwiches, burgers (including ground beef, turkey and my favorite “burger,” giant portabello mushrooms on a bun). I also can imagine these onions chopped into salads and piled onto crostini (little toasts in Italian), that I make from slicing French baguettes into small slices and toasting them under a broiler or toaster oven. I have a batch pickling on my counter as I type this and can’t wait to give them a try. Here’s the recipe as it is published at www.vegetariantimes.com. Check out the site for even more recipes and a mouthwatering photo of this recipe.

Austrian Pickled Red Onion Makes 2 cups Ingredients 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar 1/3 cup sugar 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns 1/2 tsp. salt 6 whole allspice 1 small clove garlic, peeled 1 small bay leaf 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced (2 cups)

Directions Bring vinegar, 1/2 cup water, sugar, peppercorns, salt, allspice, garlic, and bay leaf to a boil in saucepan. Add onion slices, and return to a boil. Remove from heat, and transfer to bowl or jar. Cover, and cool. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours before serving. Onions will keep up to 2 weeks in fridge.

Nutritional Information Per 1/4-cup serving: Calories 29 Protein <1g Total Fat <1g Saturated Fat <1g Carbs 7g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 74mg Fiber <1g Sugar 5g

 
 

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