Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green (Vegetables)

So in yesterday's post I reminded you all that vitamin supplements are not vegetables. And maybe some of you are thinking you should eat more of them to provide you with fiber and help you fill up on something that doesn't have a lot of calories.  You are interested in not spending extra money on something that likely won't do you any good and might even harm you.  But you've got all of these excuses for not eating vegetables.  Here are some of the common ones I hear and something you can  do about them.

1) I don't like vegetables.  I know what this is like.  The other day Boyfriend of SkepticRD was treated to a rant about how an entire dish of red curry was ruined for me because that particular restaurant put peas in it.  But chances are there is at least one vegetable that you like, so concentrate on eating more of it first.  For example, if the only vegetable you like is tomatoes, look up recipes for different kinds of salsa, make it into soups, etc.  In the course of recipe experimenting you will probably find some new flavorings that will help you venture out into other vegetables.  You can also try hiding them in thick and hearty soups or pureeing them into pasta sauces.  Try some vegetables raw and some cooked as some people do better with one texture over another.  And don't be afraid to flavor them with healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, drippings from the roast you made, or even nitrate-free bacon! 

2) Vegetables are expensive.  I do work with people who have very limited incomes, and food security is a real problem.  Depending on your situation you might qualify to get foods at a local pantry, and some pantries are actually able to supplement with produce from community gardens.  If you have transportation to a local farmer's market, try negotiating with the local farmers at the end of the day when they are trying to sell some of the produce that's not as "pretty."  And if it's legal in your area, you might even want to scavenge in local supermarket dumpsters.  For people who have adequate income but are still not trying to be wasteful, you can save money by buying frozen vegetables in bulk or even buying fresh ones on sale/in season and freezing for later.  Once again check out Farmer's markets to buy in season and negotiate prices.  And some people might also have to take a long, hard look at where they are spending their money and cut some things out.  (For example, if you stop buying the diet soda, aka brown water that provides no nutrition value, you can probably put more money towards vegetables and other healthier things).  Start clipping coupons for frozen vegetables.  And pretty much wherever you live you can grow some vegetables whether it be in a hydroponic garden or a pot on your porch.

3) I don't live in [insert state with moderate climate] here and can't get fresh vegetables all the time.  Keep in mind that for a large chunk of human history people did not have the means or funds to ship vegetables from thousands of miles away or large supermarkets to buy them in.  People relied on canning their vegetables, tucking tubers away in dark basements, and as refrigeration became more accessible then people began to freeze vegetables also.  It is still possible to do a form of this today by relying on frozen vegetables that can be steamed, worked into soups/stews/casseroles, baked into quiches and frittatas for breakfast (or any time of day!), stir fried with protein, or even blended into smoothies.  You can buy a cube or chest freezer to buy vegetables in season and freeze them for winter or buy bulk frozen vegetables.  Vacuum sealers also work wonders for saving vegetables in the fridge or freezer. You can learn to do your own canning or look for canned no added salt vegetables.  Or, once again you can experiment with growing your own vegetables hydroponically or in a mini greenhouse in your home.  My eighty something year old grandparents have a one bedroom apartment in their retirement community where they store sweet potatoes under the bed, put vegetables in their chest freezer, and do a small amount of canning.

4) I don't live in an area that has a lot of fresh vegetables available.  This is another tough one, as a great many of my patients are limited when it comes to their mobility and use of public transportation.  Once again, if you are old enough or infirm enough you might qualify for a supplemental program like Meals on Wheels—they usually have to provide at least one vegetable as part of their program.  Or see if you qualify for a food delivery box from a local food pantry or church—your vegetables will be canned so rinse them well before cooking if you have trouble with retaining fluid from too much sodium.  If you are more mobile and can take public transportation, purchase some large tote bags to take to farmer’s markets; once again you can typically negotiate with the farmers on buying smaller portions.  You can also buy mini coolers and insulated tote bags to help you take more frozen vegetables from the closest grocery store back with you.

5) Can't I just buy fruit and vegetable juices?  See my previous post about the pros and cons of "juicing."  What I will repeat here is that usually it's too easy to get a carb/calorie overload with juices, you don't get the fiber you need, and liquid calories do not provide the satiety value that solid food does which can promote overeating later.

6) I’m too busy.  You can find pre-cut vegetables in just about any grocery store and even in gas stations these days.  You can place frozen vegetables or fresh pre-cut vegetables in the crock pot with protein or in the oven, or even throw them on the grill.  If you choose to patronize fast food places, you can get garden salads for relatively low cost.  Now, if you want to save even more money, wash/chop/freeze/vacuum seal your vegetables on the day you do grocery shopping and then you don’t have to worry about it for a while.

Take home message—Yes, it does take work to get your vegetables in, but it will get easier once you actually get into the habit.  Keep in mind too that if you have financial and transportation issues there may be help out there for you if you are willing to ask.

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