Whether it’s a pyramid, pie or whatever other weird shape they try to cram a food chart into, you’ll notice that vegetables always take up plenty of elbow room. Veggies provide fiber, minerals and a bursting cornucopia of vitamins that every body needs. But even the healthiest person can have a tricky time when it comes to eating the proper amount of them. Finding fresh produce, worrying about spoilage, the debate over organic vs. non-organic food and just the hassle of cooking at the end of an exhausting day can make the siren song of take-out junk food even more irresistible. Add in the joint pain and added fatigue that can come with lupus, and you’ve got a recipe for disastrous eating habits.
Eating Healthy Doesn’t Have to be a Chore
As a kid, the only veggies on my plate were those little cubed carrots and lima bean mixes frozen from the bag. Ugh. It was a long road to overcome those first (bad) impressions of vegetables and start actually enjoying them.
My biggest obstacles in my leafy green path to better eating were my beautiful fresh produce spoiling before I could use it all, and the washing, chopping and prep that some veggies involved.
Frozen vegetables are good vegetables.
Frozen veggies are a god-send. They are not only pre-washed, skinned and chopped, but frozen veggies might also contain more nutrients than fresh ones. Buy them loose inside a bag (instead of in the small boxes) and you can scoop out a cup at a time for any meal. No soggy leftovers, no spoilage because you forgot they were there. Supermarket choices are wide-ranging – you can buy a bag of only one vegetable or pre-made mixes. Buyer beware though; frozen mixes that include seasonings and/or sauces can add unwanted sodium and sugar (and calories!) to your meal. For the healthiest results, get your veggies dressing-free and add your own fixings.
However, frozen veggies have their limits.
If you like a good stir-fry, frozen veggies can actually add to your cooking time, since after defrosting them, they will likely be soggy and not fry-friendly. Also, there are some veggies that just don’t do well once frozen. The taste and texture just don’t measure up when compared to their fresh-shipped counterparts. Some veggies that I think are worth the extra prep to enjoy are:
- Spinach. Frozen spinach tends to clump and wind up more like shredded mush. Get a bundle of fresh spinach – it’s super easy to cook and requires a minimum of prep.
- Mushrooms. I’ve never actually seen frozen mushrooms, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were pretty pricey.
- Garlic. Delicious and one of the body’s superfoods. When roasted, it’s mellow and buttery – just the thing for home-made garlic bread. Ditch the jar stuff – seriously there’s no comparison.
- Onions. Frozen onions are a great option if you really have trouble chopping, but they don’t caramelize well when cooked – or at least I haven’t figured out how to do it yet.
Slowly, I’ve noticed bagged fresh veggies making an appearance on supermarket shelves. Some even come vented so that you can toss the bag in a microwave and steam them. These are fabulous products that any lupie should keep an eye open for. Keep in mind, these are fresh veggies, so they will spoil and go soggy if you forget about them. If you can’t bring yourself to have some greenery every day, stick with buying smaller amounts or getting them frozen to avoid waste.
Another way to cook fresh or frozen veggies without the hassle of too much chopping and peeling is by using a slow cooker. A slow cooker can make even the toughest fresh veggies tender enough to fall apart with a fork. I’ve often thrown in veggies whole or very roughly chopped, skin on and all. Make a nice homemade vegetable soup by letting chicken and carrots slowly simmer in broth while you’re out at work or throw in a small beef roast and flake it over rice.
What other tips are there for making cooking with vegetables easier?
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