Friday, May 6, 2011

5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor

I wrote this post as a participant in the Eat, Play, Love blog carnival hosted by Meals Matter and Dairy Council of California to share ideas on positive and fun ways to teach children healthy eating habits. A list of other registered dietitians and moms who are participating in the carnival will be listed at the bottom of this post or can be found on Meals Matter.

5 Quick Ways to Prepare Vegetables with Maximum Flavor

For optimal nutrition, virtually every American family needs to eat more vegetables. Poor preparation can be a serious obstacle to vegetable enjoyment, since no one likes to eat over-cooked, soggy, mushy produce. Here are some hot tips for maintaining vegetable flavor and texture, so you can increase veggie variety in your family meals.

1. Crunch into raw veggie power.

Crisp fresh vegetables are popular as nutrient-rich snacks and in entrĂ©e and side salads. The key to safe and tasty fresh veggies is storage and cleaning. Purchase high quality items without bruises at the grocery store or farmer’s market. Keep them wrapped in the fridge crisper drawer and wash them thoroughly under running tap water just before eating.

2. Steam veggies quickly on the stovetop.

However you cook vegetables, the goal is to make them tender but crisp, while retaining a natural bright color. The time necessary to steam veggies (after the water has boiled) varies depending on the type and size of pieces. Steaming can take as little as 5 minutes for small green beans or cauliflower florets to as much as 45 minutes for whole beets or an artichoke.

3. Cook veggies rapidly in the microwave.

According to the experts, today’s microwave ovens are marvels of engineering, miracles of convenience, and great at preserving the nutrient content of vegetables and other foods. This is because microwave cooking can be done quickly (3-8 minutes on HIGH per pound of vegetables) and with minimal amounts of water (a few drops to a couple of teaspoons).

4. Stir-fry veggies for a few minutes.

Stir-frying in a wok or non-stick pan is another wonderfully quick and easy way to prepare fresh or frozen veggies. Thin slices, small pieces, and leafy greens, such as spinach and bok choy, take only 1-3 minutes. Carrots, onions, snow peas, and whole green beans may take a bit longer, like 4-6 minutes. Small amounts of olive oil and/or sauce help speed cooking.

5. Roast veggies in a hot oven.

Oven roasting takes longer than other methods of cooking veggies. However, it is easy and convenient when you’re already cooking meat or whole poultry in a hot oven (375-400 degrees F). It takes about 45-50 minutes to roast root vegetables (beets, carrots, turnips, parsnips, whole garlic, small potatoes, etc.) that are drizzled with a little oil.

Don't stop here! Join the carnival and read other Eat, Play, Love blogs from dietitians and moms offering the best advice on raising healthy eaters. And if you don't get enough today, for more positive, realistic and actionable advice from registered dietitian moms, register for the free, live webinar Eat, Play, Love: Raising Healthy Eaters on Wednesday, May 18.

The Best-Kept Secret for Raising Healthy Eaters, Maryann Jacobsen, MS, RD
Feeding is Love, Jill Castle, MS, RD, LDN
5 Quick Ways to Prepare Veggies with Maximum Flavor, Dayle Hayes, MS, RD
The Art of Dinnertime, Elana Natker, MS, RD
Children Don’t Need a Short Order Cook, Christy Slaughter
Cut to the Point - My Foodie Rules, Glenda Gourley
Eat, Play, Love - A Challenge for Families, Alysa Bajenaru, RD
Eat, Play, Love ~ Raising Healthy Eaters, Kia Robertson
Get Kids Cooking, Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN
Kid-Friendly Kitchen Gear Gets Them Cooking, Katie Sullivan Morford, MS, RD
Kids that Can Cook Make Better Food Choices, Glenda Gourley
Making Mealtime Fun, Nicole Guierin, RD
My No Junk Food Journey – Want to Come Along? , Kristine Lockwood
My Recipe for Raising Healthy Eaters: Eat Like the French, Bridget Swinney MS, RD, LD
Playing with Dough and the Edible Gift of Thyme, Robin Plotkin, RD, LD
Picky Eaters Will Eat Vegetables, Theresa Grisanti, MA
Raising a Healthy Eater, Danielle Omar, MS, RD
Putting the Ease in Healthy Family Eating, Connie Evers, MS, RD, LD
Raising Healthy Eaters Blog Carnival & Chat Roundup, Ann Dunaway Teh, MS, RD, LD
Soccer Mom Soapbox, Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD
Teenagers Can Be Trying But Don’t Give UpDiane Welland MS, RD
What My Kids Taught Me About Eating Mindfully, Michelle May, MD


  1. Good tips Dayle. Eating a variety of foods from all the food groups is important for kids and adults. Knowing how to prepare foods to preserve taste and texture are important skills. I'll never forget the first time I roasted Brussels Sprouts or added raw asparagus to a salad. Getting your kids involved in preparing these foods will also give them great skills for life! Thanks for sharing!

  2. These are awesome ideas...roasting veggies is my secret weapon for adults and kids alike!

  3. Love that you included the times for the variety of cooking methods--an oft asked question from parents.
    Personally, I roast and microwave most of the time! Working mom...:)

  4. Very helpful tips! My kiddos love raw veggies. They eat me out of carrots, cucumbers and peppers when they are available.