We’re busier and busier these days and feeling exhausted can be an everyday thing. Switching to healthy food choices can give you the energy you need to accomplish everything you have on your to-do list. And when it comes to eating well, taking small steps can make a big difference. It can become a habit, just like drinking your morning coffee or going to bed at 9 pm every night.
This is the first of a series on foods that make you stronger. Let’s start with a word that can make some grimace – vegetables. Do you ever look at your tracker at the end of the day and think eating more vegetables needs to be your food goal for the next week – again? Just the word vegetable can represent a harbinger of childhood misery and the hours spent at the dinner table waiting for you to eat them so you could go play. Or could remind you of the childhood rule to eat your vegetables before you could have dessert. But times have changed, you’re an adult now, and just as your life has evolved so too should your relationship with vegetables.
Vegetables are chock full of the necessary proteins, vitamins, and acids that are critical to your body’s functions. For example, beets perform amazing feats in your body like reducing your oxygen intake during workouts, allowing you to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. So here are a few good-for-you vegetables along with recipes that kick them up to adult-level deliciousness.
This green vegetable is packed with bone-healthy vitamins like C, A, and K and can reduce the overall risk of cancer.
Roasting is the key here. Roasting sweetens the broccoli and you great caramelization with crunchy edges. It soaks up all that great lemon flavor.
4 to 5 pounds broccoli
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves (about 12 leaves)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Cut the broccoli florets from the stalks, leaving an inch or so of stalk attached to the florets. Discard the stalks. Cut the larger pieces of broccoli floret in half. You should have about 8 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets on a sheet pan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Toss the garlic and broccoli and drizzle with 5 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned. Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, Parmesan, and basil. Serve hot.
Spinach has the power to form healthy new cells and is a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
10 ounces baby spinach
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Feta cheese and roughly chopped fresh cilantro, for sprinkling
Heat the olive oil in a large pan set over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeño and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cinnamon, and salt, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the spinach and lemon juice to the pan, turn the heat to low, cover, and cook, tossing occasionally with tongs, until the spinach is very soft, 7 to 10 minutes. (If the spinach does not fit all at once in the pan, add a little at a time, adding more as the spinach in the pan wilts.) Uncover and evenly spread the mixture across the bottom of the pan. Use the back of the spoon to make four to six shallow indentations in the surface of the greens mixture to hold the eggs while they cook.
Break the eggs into small cups and gently slide them into the indentations. Raise the heat to medium, cover the pan , and cook until the whites are set but the yolks are still a bit runny, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Drizzle a little more olive oil on top and sprinkle with pepper, feta, and cilantro. Serve hot, directly from the pan. Serves 2
Nutritional Information: 274 Calories, 11g Carbohydrates, 12g Fat, 13g Protein, 4g Fiber, 267g Cholesterol
They are rich in vitamin A—strengthening the immune system, eye, and bone health.
1½ pounds sweet potatoes, unpeeled, cut into ½-inch wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon hot chili sauce, such as Sriracha
1 garlic clove, grated
Preheat oven to 425°. Toss sweet potatoes with oil on a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer; season with ½ tsp. salt. Roast until tender and browned in spots, 35–40 minutes. Remove from oven; while still hot, toss potatoes with hot chili sauce and garlic. Season with salt.
They have something hard to get in any other food–lycopene. And, because of this, tomatoes can help protect skin from UV rays, lower cholesterol, and even prevent some cancers.
Baked Polenta & Tomato Salad
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey
2-3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 ripe tomatoes
18 ounces packaged of prepared polenta
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
fresh basil leaves
In a small pot, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes. Stir until honey is dissolved into the vinegar. Over medium heat, allow the vinegar to reach a low boil. Cook for about 10 minutes until it has reduced by half and the consistency of honey.
Allow to cool, remove bay leaves.
Slice the polenta into thin (1/4 inch) slices. Brush each side with very light covering of olive oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, until the edges begin to become crispy.
Assemble the salads. Layer thick slices of fresh tomatoes, baked polenta, and basil leaves. Top with the desired amount of vinegar/honey reduction.
Lisa Lewis is the author of Healthy Happy Cooking. Her cooking skills have been a part of First Place for Health wellness weeks and other events for many years. She provided recipes for 14 of the First Place for Health Bible studies and is a contributing author in Better Together and Healthy Holiday Living. She partners with community networks, including the Real Food Project, to provide free healthy cooking classes.