But don't despair! As we wait to reap the first rewards of spring, you can still find tasty ways to incorporate vegetables into your diet.
Year round, come rain, snow or sleet, vegetables are a vital component of healthy eating. Because of their vitamin-rich, anti-aging nutrients, I recommend consuming four cups of vegetables per day, far more than what’s in the typical American diet. To boost your veggie intake in early spring, try these strategies:
- Go frozen. It's perfectly fine to scour the frozen-foods aisle for vegetables; they provide as much nutrition as fresh produce, even if they aren't quite as flavorful. To preserve flavor and nutrition, steam or microwave frozen vegetables to thaw, rather than boiling extensively.
- Can it – with caution. Canned goods can be another source of vegetables in lean months. Just be sure to read labels carefully for sodium content; opt for low-sodium versions, and rinse and drain the veggies before using. Choose unseasoned tomatoes, tomato sauce or paste; pre-flavored varieties often contain added salt.
- Choose the right seasonal veggies. Not all vegetables are alike. Some early spring favorites, like potatoes, are higher in calories and carbs than other produce, so limit consumption to a couple of servings a week. Better are greens like spinach and kale, along with asparagus, broccoli and carrots – all of which pack a vitamin punch with few calories.
Here's a recipe to power you through early spring:
Broccoli Salad with Caramelized Onions and Toasted Almonds
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
2/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup water
1 teaspoon agave nectar
4 cups broccoli florets (about 12 ounces)
1 tablespoon top-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons lightly toasted almonds
1 tablespoon fresh lemon peel, grated
In a small saucepan, place the onion, vinegar, water, and agave. Bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, or until the liquids have nearly evaporated. Watch carefully, stirring occasionally so the mixture doesn’t burn. Let cool.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil. Blanch the broccoli 3 minutes, or until just al dente. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain well and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Drizzle the oil over the broccoli and toss lightly. Add the onions and toss again. Season to taste with the salt and pepper. Divide among four plates. Sprinkle with the almonds and lemon peel.
BROCCOLI FACTOID: This veggie is an excellent source of vitamins A, B, and C as well as iron and potassium. Its powerful antioxidants (beta-carotene, indoles, and isothiocyanates) help prevent carcinogens from forming.
NUTRIENT ANALYSIS PER SERVING
100 calories, 4 g protein, 14 g carbohydrates, 4 g total fat, < 1 g saturated fat, 3 g monounsaturated fat, 130 mg omega-3s, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 323 mg sodium