Nutrition experts may quibble over some things. But there’s one piece of advice they all agree on: Eat your vegetables.
Vegetables are among the healthiest foods. They’re brimming with vitamins, minerals, and other substances our bodies need for optimum performance and robust immunity. The more vegetables people eat on a regular basis, research shows, the lower their risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
Why do so many Americans fall short on even the minimum recommended numbers of servings? One reason may be that preparing and cooking vegetables can seem complicated and intimidating.
It doesn’t need to be, says Amy Myrdal Miller, RD, a dietitian at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. “These days, convenience foods such as pre-washed greens and frozen vegetables like spinach and corn make preparation a lot easier.”
As for cooking vegetables, any technique is great, expect for deep frying of course. “I think most nutritionists would agree that any way you cook vegetables is fine, as long you eat plenty of them,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, RD, a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and instructor at California State University, Sacramento.
By experimenting with a variety of techniques, you’ll find fresh ways to entice everyone in the family to come back for seconds.
The word sauté comes from the French verb meaning “to jump.” It refers to the way foods added to a hot, lightly-oiled pan tend to jump. Sautéing is a quick and easy way to cook vegetables with relatively little oil. Sautéed vegetables retain their vitamins and minerals, as well as taste and color. This method is best suited for tender vegetables, such as asparagus, baby artichokes, snow peas, sweet peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
Kitchen Tip: Cut vegetables into bite-sized pieces so they can cook all the way through quickly. Heat the pan first over relatively high heat. Add oil. Wait until the oil begins to shimmer before adding the vegetables. Cooking time depends on the desired tenderness.
Stir-frying is very similar to sautéing, with two important differences. Stir-frying is done over very high heat, and the food is constantly stirred to prevent it from burning on the hot pan. Stir-frying is often done in a wok, the classic utensil of Chinese cooking. But you can also stir in a sauté pan, as long as the bottom is thick enough to distribute the high heat evenly.
Kitchen Tip: Sautéing and stir-frying are best done with a cooking oil that stands up to high heat, such as canola oil. Once vegetables are done, you can toss them with a flavored oil such as olive or sesame oil.