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Looking for healthy eating tips to incorporate more vegetables into your diet? 5 ways that make eating vegetables fun and easy!
By Aparna V. Singh
As someone born in a vegetarian family and in a country like India where there is no dearth of vegetables, you would think I should have no trouble eating plenty of vegetables every day.
However, while I have no issue with eating vegetables, I often used to be at a loss as to what to make on a given day. Add to that the fact that some vegetables are much easier to clean and prep than others, and you have vegetables like potatoes, carrots and peas dominating the menu. Tougher ones like cauliflower (need to look carefully for tiny worms), ridge gourd (the skin takes forever to peel) or kundru/kovakkai (need patience to chop) rarely ever got a chance!
Earlier this year, my healthy eating resolution was to not only add more vegetables to my diet consistently, but also eat a greater variety of vegetables. Each vegetable brings its own basket of nutrients along, so variety is not just for palate pleasing.
My plan to add more vegetables for a healthy diet has been working – we are eating vegetables in a greater variety than before, and also cooking them in multiple ways to avoid monotony. So, what did I do to get there? Here’s what.
I normally do my vegetable shopping in 2 bursts – over the weekend and once during the week to supplement. Each time, I consciously make sure that I have bought at least one vegetable that we haven’t eaten the previous week. Over time, this has become a routine and our menu for the week never repeats the same vegetable more than twice.
As a child, I disliked pumpkin, turnip, all the gourds and a whole lot of other vegetables. Today, I have overcome most of my aversions, thanks to prolonged exposure to inedible hostel food! However, in some cases food memories do stay with us and we cannot bear to eat a particular vegetable in the form our mothers made it.
The way to get around this is to move outside the cuisine of your community and see if you can find another style that agrees with you. While I am not really fond of the pumpkin koottu of my childhood, I love it in another form – a pumpkin soup I cooked up on instinct. Find the style that works for you!
We are used to thinking of rice or roti as the centrepiece of the meal, with vegetables acting as an accompaniment. At least once a week, I reverse that.
I have three options here that I make on a regular basis. One is a Chinese-style noodle broth with mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, peas and beans all thrown in with a dash of soy sauce, and star anise, garlic and loads of ginger to flavour the broth. Add the noodles right at the end so that they don’t end up mushy.
The second is minestrone soup – I skip the bacon but you could add it if you are not a vegetarian; the third, perhaps my favourite, is a Manipuri style stew my mother-in-law taught me to make (and that’s the recipe you’ll find at the end of this article).
All these are complete meals in themselves, but if you really feel the need for carbs, you could add a slice or two of toast.
I add grated cucumber or carrot to a bowl of sprouts, and they are fantastic for breakfast. Easy salads and no-cooking soups like gazpacho are another ‘cheat’s way’ for eating vegetables without spending too much time in the kitchen.
With all the recipes and the creativity in your head, the fact remains that vegetables take time to prep. Chopping vegetables the previous night while I watch television is what helps me to ensure a healthy diet. For those cooking for larger families, it may make sense to have the entire family chip in and/or invest in a food processor.
Here is my mother-in-law’s recipe for Kangsoi, a super healthy stew that you can eat by itself or with a little rice. (Kangsoi comes in infinite variations; this is the version my MIL makes, but you could add/drop vegetables based on your preference.)
Ingredients: (Serves 2-3)
Radish – 1 (sliced in rounds)
Chayote (chow chow) – ½ or 1 (sliced lengthwise)
Peas, whole in their pods – Around 10 (just open a bit to make sure these are clean inside)
Potatoes – 1 (sliced in rounds)
Spring onions – 1 bunch
Onions –1 (optional)
Chives – 1 small bunch
Ginger – 1 inch piece
Coriander to garnish
Start with boiling water, and once the water is boiling, add all the vegetables along with the chives*, finely chopped ginger and salt. If you are using onion, you could sauté it slightly before adding it. Ideally, Kangsoi is flavoured with ‘ngari’, the fermented fish that is a must in every Manipuri home – but since most of us are unlikely to have a stock of this, you could omit it.
Once the vegetables are boiled, garnish with plenty of coriander, and your stew is ready. The flavours are very South East Asian – delicate and yet amazingly fulfilling!
*I use a Manipuri variety of chives that I grow at home, called maroi, but you could buy chives at any vegetable store that does a good range of ‘exotic’ vegetables.
*Photo credit: Ryasaurus.
Founder & Chief Editor of Women's Web, Aparna believes in the power of ideas
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