If you're like most Americans, you're probably not eating enough vegetables.
You have lots of excuses. You want fresh, and they don't keep very well. They take too long to cook. Mostly they just don't taste good unless you bury them in butter or cheese sauce (and you know what that does to your arteries!).
Well, winter has arrived just in time to solve some of your vegetable problems.
Deep orange vegetables like yams, carrots and acorn squash keep well, and are outstanding sources of beta carotene, an antioxident reputed to have cancer-fighting properties.
Winter vegetables are good sources of insoluble fiber which keeps your bowels moving, and soluble fiber which keeps your cholesterol down and your arteries open.
Because they're solid complex carbohydrates, they fill you up without filling you out. They help balance your plate and make a meal satisfying, especially when you're decreasing your portions of meat, chicken or fish.
Most taste very sweet and help to replace less-nutritious sugary treats.
Best of all, they blend well with a variety of spices, so don't require tons of butter or margarine to improve flavor.
If you're clever -- and good with the microwave -- you can cook them faster than you can get a pizza from Domino's!
Take acorn squash, for example. Using a sharp knife, cut one in half. Remove the seeds. Sprinkle the cavity with pumpkin pie spice and a tablespoon of finely chopped walnuts. Microwave for 5 to 10 minutes, until fork tender.
Try ginger carrots. Cook frozen baby Belgian carrots in 1/4 cup of water for about 5 minutes until fork tender. Stir in a tablespoon of ginger preserves. Continue cooking and stirring for a minute or two until the carrots are glazed and spicy.
If you happen to have a little time on your hands, try this recipe for carrot, sweet potato, apple kugel. It comes from "Life After Schmaltz," a book for heart-healthy Jewish holiday cooking by Rosalind Trieber, M.S., Ann Sussman and Janet Brigham, Ph.D., published in Baltimore by Trieber Associates.
The fragrance and flavor will impress your family and friends (and prospective home buyers if you happen to be selling). You might even take this one to some holiday parties, even if you're not Jewish.
Carrot, sweet potato, apple kugel
Serves 8. (197 calories and 6 grams of fat per serving)
1/4 cup margarine
1 cup grated, peeled sweet potatoes
1 cup grated, peeled carrots
1 cup grated, peeled apples
1/2 cup matzo meal
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons sweet wine
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with about 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Combine the ingredients and pour into the pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
And don't forget. If you like your carrots fresh, crisp, sweet and raw, you can get them in nifty little packages at McDonald's, to go along with your reduced fat burger.
Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant to the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center in Baltimore and director of Eating Together in Baltimore