If you're stuck in a menu rut, think purple. The jewel-toned eggplant is often overlooked, but offers many possibilities.
Kids are drawn to this fruit (eggplant is technically not a vegetable), and it's in season right now, says Gila Daman RD, CDN. She's a dietitian at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City. "It's purple and glossy and pear-shaped, and that makes it sort of funky and exciting," she says. "We encourage families to increase variety and texture, and eggplant is a fun one to explore."
It's the central ingredient in baba ghanoush, a Middle Eastern purée that doubles as a kid-friendly dip for raw veggies. And eggplant is delicious after cooking a few minutes on the grill, making it a great summer option for meatless meals.
The purple color comes from a chemical that protects cells from damage, Daman says. Eggplant also has an antioxidant that may lower LDL (or "bad") cholesterol. A very good source of fiber, eggplant also delivers other important nutrients that support the immune system, help brain function, and promote blood clotting and healthy bones.
So brighten up your diet this summer with some purple eggplant. "As dietitians like to say, 'It's good to taste the rainbow,'" Daman says.
1. Take a Wok
If you're trying to get more veggies in your diet (and who isn't?), this stir-fry is a delicious way to do it. Red pepper flakes give it a little kick -- add more if you prefer more heat. Serve over brown rice.
Szechuan Eggplant Stir-Fry
Makes 4 servings
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp rice vinegar
⅓ cup low-sodium chicken stock
1 tbsp canola oil
1 yellow bell pepper, cut in 1-inch pieces
1½ lbs Japanese eggplant, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 large zucchini, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 large yellow squash, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp fresh minced ginger
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup chopped, unsalted peanuts
4 green onions, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil