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 Veg It Up 
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Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:47 pm
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Veg It Up
by: Nick Vassilev

We all know that we need to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. At the very least, we should be eating five servings every day of fruit and vegetables - if not more (each serving size should be the size of your fist.). And canned stuff, for the most part, just won't do. Fresh or frozen is the way to go with fruit and vegetables.

The benefits of getting more vegetables in your diet are many. They contain a large amount of fibre and fill you up, so you reduce your desire to consume more high-calories foods than you really need to. They contain vitamins, trace elements and antioxidants that are hard to get from other sources, and some vegetables may have cancer-fighting properties.

The one exception to the "fresh or frozen" rule is tomatoes. Tomatoes are a rich source of the cancer-fighting antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is made more bio-available by cooking, so tinned tomatoes still have plenty of this property. Even tomato sauce and tomato puree contain lycopene. But tinned tomatoes are better and are less likely to have hidden sugars in them and they haven't been quite so processed.

Soups, salads and smoothies are the easiest way to get all your vegetables (or fruit, in the case of smoothies) in one go. For a good basic soup, start with fried onions (that's one vegetable) then tossi in whatever other vegetables you can find - potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, pumpkin, spinach, parsnip, beans... even lettuce (but not eggplant). Boil it, add a splash of vinegar and salt, mash or blend it, then serve topped with grated cheese - it couldn't be easier! Salads are simple - and they don't even need to contain lettuce.

But for many busy people, getting more fruit and vegetables into your diet can be hard. If you're in a rush, it's easy to fall back on good old standbys like macaroni cheese, scrambled eggs or spaghetti bolognaise if you're having to prepare a meal and you can't think of anything or just don't feel like soups or salads. This is where you need to have some quick and simple ways to "veg it up" and add veggies into these good old favourites.

To be able to add more vegetables to basic staples, then you will need to make sure your pantry, fridge and freezer and well stocked. Frozen vegetables are great - they don't go off and because they are frozen quickly as soon as possible after harvest, many of the vitamins and antioxidants are preserved, as they do not have time to break down. Good frozen vegetables include peas, sweet corn and green beans, but these days, you can find a huge range of frozen vegetable mixtures. And don't forget frozen fruits, especially berries! Of course, if you can grow your own vegetables, this is even better. Staples that should always be on hand from the vegetable department include potatoes, onions and carrots, plus a green vegetable or two.

Let's take some basic favourite meals and see how they can easily have vegetables added in...

Lasagne: If you're cooking the mince from scratch, add some onion and garlic before browning the meat. Throw in a tin of tomatoes (but you're probably doing this anyway). You can also add capsicum (bell pepper), fresh oregano, spring onions or zucchini (courgette) to the meat mix. The cheese sauce can also have onion added to it if you haven't added this already. And you can even leave the lasagne out of lasagne and substitute thin slices of potato (leave the skin on and boil first) or slices of raw zucchini. If you substitute fried eggplant for the lasagne and top the finished dish with natural yoghurt, you have made moussaka.

Macaroni cheese: While the macaroni is boiling, add a few vegetables into the pot to cook alongside them. Suitable vegetables include green beans, peas, diced carrots or even spinach and silver beet (Swiss chard). Add onion to the cheese sauce. After all the cooking is done, sprinkle chopped raw tomatoes, parsley, spring onion and garlic over the top.

Scrambled eggs: This can easily be transformed into a vegetable-rich Spanish omelette (sort of). Fry onions, tomato, zucchini, celery, green beans, herbs and garlic in the pan before adding the eggs and salt. Top with grated cheese and black pepper.

And for dessert....

Custard: Add chopped raw fruit into the cooked custard. Bananas and apples are great, but berries, oranges and fresh apricots are lovely, too.

Spotted dick: Instead (or as well as) using dried fruit like raisins or currants, add frozen berries. Diced apple or rhubarb also works well.

Bread and butter pudding: layer fruit with the bread. Blackcurrants are especially delicious, as are apples, pears and apricots.

About The Author
Nick Vassilev runs a successful London carpet cleaning firm called CarpetFirst!. Being in the cleaning industry for more than 12 years, Nick has built a substantial knowledge base, which he wants to share with everybody with passion for carpets, cleaning and... guitars.

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Sun Nov 28, 2010 11:49 am
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