By Agapé Gooden, RDN, WIC Nutritionist
All the delicious vegetables that are in season right now are wonderful for making healthy holiday sides and adding color to your meals. Each one also contains different nutrients that are important for your family’s health. Feel free to get creative and try new ways to cook these vegetables, and don’t limit yourself to just one!
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, which means that it contains high amounts of several nutrients (vitamins C, E, and K, and folate). It can be steamed, grilled, sautéed, or mixed with other vegetables, especially sweeter vegetables like corn and carrots. It is also great with cheese, which may be especially appropriate if you have young children who don’t like to eat vegetables.
Cabbage is a vegetable that contains mostly water. However, it also provides potassium, some calcium, vitamin C, folate, vitamin A, and vitamin K. Cabbage is great steamed and sautéed, and it makes a great addition when mixed with other vegetables. You can also add meatballs to cabbage to get some protein. The texture of cabbage is quite soft once it is cooked, so it may be a good vegetable to introduce to young children.
Carrots can be shredded and added to salads, cooked and glazed with honey, frozen and steamed, or eaten raw. They are rich in beta-carotene, vitamin A, and potassium. Beta carotene is a pre-cursor for vitamin A, which means your body turns it into vitamin A. This vitamin is important because it helps our eyes, skin, and immune system stay healthy.
Kale is another cruciferous vegetable, like broccoli. It requires minimal preparation and can be added to smoothies, microwaved, sautéed, or eaten raw. However, it does have a very strong taste and is often more enjoyable with other vegetables and/or fruits.
Potatoes are considered a starchy vegetable, which means they contain a greater amount of carbohydrates than broccoli, spinach, and carrots, for example. Other starchy vegetables include beans and corn. Potatoes are used in a variety of ways, especially during the holidays. Mashed potatoes can be a great way to get both carbohydrates and calcium. Sweet potatoes contain vitamin A (in the form of beta carotene), and potassium. Sweet potatoes are great in pies, baked, or in casseroles, and you can add nuts to get more protein and fat.
Pumpkins can be chopped up and mixed with other vegetables, grilled, steamed, shredded, or baked. Pumpkins contain vitamin A and potassium, making them a great fall edition to any meal. Of course, they are a wonderful treat for the holidays, as well; when many people add evaporated milk to cook pumpkin pie.
Spinach can be the main ingredient for salads, or you can add it to smoothies to get the recommended amount of vegetables needed each day. It can also be cooked and sautéed with vegetable oil and mixed with other vegetables. Adding oil can help to add variety to the macronutrients consumed so you get both carbohydrates from the spinach and fat from the oil. Spinach contains potassium, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, folate, and vitamin A.
Learn more about healthy eating through the WIC program offered at Mary’s Center. This is a special program for pregnant mothers, infants, and children up to age 5 that offers nutritional benefits and food in the form of WIC checks and cash value for fruits and vegetables. Each participant is also provided with nutrition counseling and breastfeeding counseling. Call us at 202-232-6679 for more information or to learn if you are eligible