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Gardening News: Maximizing the benefits of summer garden bounty

August 29, 2012

By Marilyn Csernus
Nutrition & Wellness Educator, University of Illinois Extension Ogle County

This is an opportune time to take advantage of all of the summer produce, whether from the backyard garden, farmers’ market or the local grocery store.

Gardeners with particularly abundant yields may even become a little anxious thinking about how to enjoy all the fresh vegetables within the short window of freshness.

We need to look no further than The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans to realize most of us don’t eat enough vegetables. These evidence-based recommendations to help prevent chronic disease, promote health, and reduce the risk and incidence of overweight and obesity indicate that fruits and vegetables are nutrient dense food groups that tend to be under-consumed by most Americans.

Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and other substances that may promote health, with fewer calories.

For most individuals, when one food group is increased, another is decreased. Ideally, when fruits and vegetables are increased, less nutritious foods containing added fat, sugar and calories are decreased.

Fresh produce is naturally low in sodium and has no added salt. Another benefit is the lower calorie content of fresh produce as compared to other foods.

Similarities exist among healthy eating patterns from around the world, and one similarity is an increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Evidence links poor food choices to several chronic diseases.

We recognize the benefits of a lower sodium diet and a healthy weight in relation to cardiovascular disease, including hypertension.

Increased intake of lower carbohydrate vegetables and fruit in place of less healthy carbohydrates can be beneficial in weight control and diabetes. This can possibly delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes in at-risk individuals, and help those individuals with diabetes better control their glucose levels.

Your mother was right when she said “eat your vegetables.” So, instead of panicking with your garden bounty, try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at meal time.

Try some of the following tips to help increase your intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables. Be adventurous, and remember that your plate should resemble the rainbow with dark green, red, orange and purple colors.

Breakfast

• Fruit smoothie, fresh fruit, oatmeal with blueberries

• Veggie omelet or scrambled eggs with red and green peppers, onions, mushrooms and spinach

Lunch or dinner

• Grilled or roasted vegetables brushed with a little olive oil and seasonings — squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, mushrooms, kale, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and asparagus

• Grilled veggie panini sandwich

• Grilled cheese and sliced tomato sandwich on whole wheat bread

• Fresh salsa

• Tossed salad varying salad greens, fresh veggies adding your favorite cheese, fruit, nut or lean protein source such as grilled chicken

• Vegetable casseroles are endless — squash, green bean, pea, broccoli or cauliflower

• Bruschetta

• Vegetable pizza

• Zucchini bread

Snacks

• Fresh fruit

• Bite-size carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, radishes, and red, green or yellow peppers

Roasted broccoli

1 pound washed and cut up broccoli florets

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced shallot

1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese

1 teaspoon of lemon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit

Wash 1 pound of fresh broccoli florets and pat dry. Toss or brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place broccoli on a baking sheet covered in aluminum foil. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on desired crispness.

Stir together the other 1 tablespoon of olive oil, lemon juice, minced shallot, parmesan cheese and lemon pepper. Makes approximately four servings.

Nutrition: 81 calories, 7 grams of fat, 106 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of carbohydrate and 2 grams of fiber.

From the Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2012, issue

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