“What vegetable do you want with dinner?” Without fail, my mother would ask us this question every night and I would quickly reply “potatoes!” Mom would explain that potato doesn’t count as a vegetable in her house and I would make a case with technicalities…. a potato is classified as a vegetable, however it is nutritionally categorized as a starchy food due to its high carb content. Maybe this is where my debate skills stem from! After much back and forth, Mom insisted we pick something else, and most often it was corn in butter sauce.
I later learned that my mom was trying to get us excited about eating green vegetables. My dad was the only one in the family who enjoyed brussel spouts and steamed spinach. I know this because my siblings and I would be the last ones at the table, since no one could leave until their plate was empty. I remember a battle with green beans that lasted for hours….being stubborn did NOT serve me well that night! When we had our choice, the kids opted for shoepeg corn in butter sauce, mashed potatoes with butter, or the occasional broccoli in cheese sauce. So are all vegetables created equal?
The answer is NO!
Different vegetables offer different health benefits, so while you may be getting in the recommended daily servings, you’re missing out on some powerful nutrients! The most commonly eaten vegetables are not as rich in nutrients as some other choices. A classic store bought salad will usually contain only iceberg lettuce, which is definitely better than eating a cheeseburger, but is nutritionally lacking when compared to Romaine lettuce.
America’s favorite iceberg lettuce ranks lowest in nutritional value across the board (it’s 96% water!). What’s the reason for this inequality in lettuce nutrition? The color! Darker, loose leaf lettuce contain more antioxidants and nutrients than their lighter colored counterparts. The darker leaves are able to absorb more light and in turn, synthesize more vitamins! A great rule of thumb to follow:
I’m sure my mother would have loved to hear her kids demand romaine lettuce as their vegetable with dinner! The reality was that we preferred non-green veggies with our meal. For those who enjoy ALL the colors of the rainbow, aim for these veggies:
White: eat cauliflower more often than potatoes
Yellow/orange: eat more carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, and bell peppers instead of corn
Red: choose tomatoes and red peppers over red cabbage & potatoes
According to experts, the more brightly colored the vegetable, the more protective the health benefits thanks to a rich assortment of plant compounds called phytochemicals. These brightly colored foods may offer the most protective health benefits against cancer and other diseases, as well as helping people with diabetes control their calorie and sugar intake (from American Institute of Cancer Research). Whether you have picky eaters, a need to test out new veggies, or just think a colorful veggie tray is pleasing to the eye go for deep, rich colors when choosing your vegetables.
The options are endless, so remember, eat your colors and enjoy the rainbow! And keep in mind that the freshest, organic options are best (without the butter, cheese sauce, and fatty ranch dressing)!
Live your WHOLE life,
Shannon & Meg