What should I be eating Part 2: Vegetables

Last week I introduced the new Australian guidelines and outlined the fist and most abundant group (hopefully) in our diet, breads and cereals. This week I am going to discuss the next group, vegetables.

This group is by far the most colourful and exciting, there are simply so many varieties that it is near impossible to not find one that tickles your fancy. Vegetables are an important source of dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and other exciting things like iron, zinc, protein and folate.

Including a wide selection of vegetables in your diet will actually reduce your risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases such as heart disease and some cancers. Due to their low energy dense properties, vegetables assist in the maintenance of a healthy weight and can also help with weight loss when consumed as part of a balanced diet (think food plate again). Terrific!

Now don’t just imagine green, wilted and tasteless vegetables, take a trip to your local farmers market and discover the different colours and varieties that are on show. And don’t forget, this group includes leaves, roots, tubers, seeds, stems, shoots and flowers (edible flowers anyone?) so there are more than enough to chose from.

Another good thing is to play with different cooking methods. Prior to starting my degree I was your typical 3 vegetable girl – carrots, sweet potato and broccoli, chopped in chunks and steamed. Now I try to shake things up a bit by simply cutting a different way, roasting with a splash of rice bran oil and fresh herbs or even grating and making vegetable patties. As with everything else, the possibilities are endless.

How much do we need?

Children 2.5-3 years need 2.5 serves.

Children 4-8 years need 4.5 serves.

Older children and adolescents need 5 serves.

Adults should aim for 5-6 serves a day, and lactating women need more, 7.5 serves.

A serve is approximately 75g, or if you don’t have scales (or can’t be bothered weighing):

  • 1 cup of leafy greens or raw salad ingredients
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1/2 cup of sweetcorn
  • 1/2 cup of cooked, dried or canned beans, peas or lentils
  • 1/2 cup of cooked orange of green vegetables (spinach, carrots, pumpkin)
  • 1/2 medium potato or other starchy vegetables (taro, sweet potato, cassava)

Choosing vegetables that are in season will always be readily available and be of higher quality as they are less likely to be frozen. In saying that though, if frozen vegetables are your only choice due to cost or time, they are still a viable option. And they are probably more nutritious than vegetables that have been sitting in the fridge crisper for a week or more.

If you do happen to visit a local farmer’s market, get to know who you buy from and you will discover that they are contagiously passionate about their produce, and will often give you tips for cooking and let you know when things are in season. Otherwise head to this website for a list of what each season has to offer:

Fruit and Vegetable Seasonal Guide

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