Have you taken a look at Canada’s Food Guide lately? If you have, you must have noticed the new simplified style that focuses on a balanced plate. Half is filled with vegetables and fruit, a quarter with a source protein and the last quarter with whole grain cereal products. A kaleidoscope of colours, flavours and textures – in other words, everything you need to satisfy your taste buds and your body’s needs.
I’d also like to bring your attention to one last thing before getting to the more tangible part of the article. Have you noticed that the guide says, “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits” and not “fruits and vegetables” like in the 2017 version? That wasn’t a typo. It wasn’t an accident either. Members of the Health Canada team responsible for creating the guide deliberately used “vegetables” as the first word in the text to emphasize the importance of this food group in our lives. Fruits have always had their place in our menus, but it’s the veggies that should make up the biggest part of our meals.
Eat more veggies – but why?
Veggies have tons of vitamins, fibre and lots of other really good things. Unfortunately, not everyone finds them as delicious as I do. For many people, veggies just aren’t appetizing, so that makes it hard to eat enough.
If we look at their nutritional profile, it’s clear that veggies are super nutritious. But that’s not the only thing they’ve got going for them. Since they’re low in energy density, they’re visually appealing and have textures and flavours covering a complex range of original nuances. So you can add as much volume and colour as you want. That’s how you can transform a monotonous meal into an appetizing and satiating one. They also act as food for the good bacteria living in our intestines. Without them, many of our bodily functions would be compromised. To me, living without vegetables is just about impossible.
How to make your veggies more appetizing
To appreciate them properly, I think you just need to know how to showcase them. I propose 3 quick tricks to do just that:
Choose different cooking techniques
Everyone knows that variety is the spice of life, so why prepare your veggies the same old way all the time? There are a million ways to cook vegetables and each cooking method gives a totally unique flavour.
For more delicate flavours, choose steaming. This gentle cooking method preserves the subtle flavours of some vegetables such as edamame, snow peas and asparagus. For the more adventurous, you can always add your favourite herbs to the pot. A dash of salt, a clove of garlic or a slice of lemon can give your vegetables a little boost.
If you’re looking for flavours that are a bit more complex, you could roast them in the oven or sauté them in a pan. Through this more vigorous type of cooking, the sugars and proteins found in food undergo significant, gradual changes. Sugars are reduced by caramelization and react with protein molecules to create a nice, brown sear that’s accompanied by a variety of new flavours. This is called Maillard’s reaction.
At the extreme end of flavours, you’ll find barbecuing. With this method, you obtain interesting smoky, burnt flavours that blend perfectly with the sweeter flavours of some vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes.
Add a bit of oil and salt
Oils and salt are ingredients that aren’t necessarily unanimously accepted nowadays. For me, I think they’re simply misunderstood and the myths that circulate in the media don’t help. However, consumed in adequate quantities, your body needs them to function properly. So it’s time to make peace with these two elements.
There’s a wide range of oils on the market, all with different tastes and flavours that can be used to enhance your meal. Just think of roasted sesame oil, an almost essential addition for Asian cuisine. However, be aware that even the most neutral oils, such as soybean or canola, can significantly affect the way food’s aromas, flavours and textures are perceived.
As long as you lead an active life and don’t have any health problems, there’s no reason to deprive yourself of salt. When we say to be careful with sodium, we’re talking mainly about processed commercial products. It’s important to understand that the pinch of salt you add to your homemade dish contributes very little to the total sodium consumed in a day. So don’t be afraid to add a little salt to your recipes. It’ll not only act as a seasoning, but as a flavour enhancer for all other ingredients. Obviously, you have to be a bit more careful if you have high blood pressure. In this context, consult your doctor to avoid taking the risk.
I assure you that if you know how to use them properly, oils and salt will enhance your cooking without any risk to your health. You’ll enhance the flavour of your recipes and obtain a result that’ll make people jealous!
Add a good sauce or dip
Dips are an excellent way to add veggies to your diet. The classic crudités, or raw vegetables, are full of flavour and easy to adapt to what you’re in the mood for. As well, as you’ll see a little further down in this article, they’re more versatile than you think. Their only problem is that they’re often mistakenly thought to be unhealthy. You just have to make the right choices. If you choose a low fat option with a short and simple list of ingredients, I don’t think you can go wrong.
5 quick recipes to showcase them
These appetizers, consisting of a little pita heaped with a small mountain of southwestern toppings, are full of flavour and just too cute. They contain corn and red peppers, two veggies that add a nice texture to the stuffing. In the southwestern dipping sauce which also garnishes the bites, you can also find these two vegetables in addition to tomato paste and a variety of legumes. Because of this, it’s already easy to get a good amount of vegetables as soon as the appetizers come. With a little extra dip to complete the whole thing, you can clearly impress your guests by spending only a few minutes setting up.
Plus, if you’re like me and you LOVE veggies, you can serve the appetizers for dinner, accompanied by a beautiful, colourful salad (or enjoy a triple serving of appetizers!).
By using the pepper dip as a pasta sauce, you add a good number of veggies that’ll pass unnoticed. Broccoli florets, red onion, mushrooms and yellow peppers will also add a rainbow of colours, as appetizing as nutritious.
Take a classic and transform it completely: wonton pasta will no longer be recognizable! To create the stuffing that will be put in the middle of the wonton wrapper, I also added a little corn and spaghetti vegetables to the southwestern dip. The wonton can be served in the evening as little bite-sized appetizers or eaten as a meal with a colourful tossed salad.
Accompanied by the spicy Arctic Gardens dip, it’s an extra way to fill up on greens. For a quick option, you can also freeze them before cooking and heat them in the oven just before serving. You have no reason not to eat good things anymore!
Coating the fish with the dip, then the toasted breadcrumbs, really camouflages the veggies well. For an extra bit of crunch, I’ll throw some asparagus, broccoli or green beans onto the baking sheet before putting the whole thing in the oven (and a drizzle of flavoured oil and a dash of paprika, it’ll be delish).
Tofu. Even though it’s becoming more popular, many people still haven’t added it to their regular diet. However, I must say that tofu is my life. I just love it! It’s so versatile, I could eat it every day if I let myself.
This wrap recipe is easy, full of flavours (because of the dip) and can be whipped up even by beginners. It makes a gourmet lunch that people will envy (I wish I still went to school to be able to put this in my lunchbox and make other people jealous!)
How can Arctic Gardens dips help you?
I had the chance to use the dips in a number of recipes, as well as eat them as is, with pita chips or tortillas and raw veggies. I just love the way they taste, that’s for sure. Another thing that really appealed to me about this product is the fact that it’s super easy to avoid food waste. Since the dip is portioned into 20 g nuggets, you can thaw only the amount you need and keep any extra for future use. And because you store it in the freezer, you can use the leftover nuggets a few months later, no problem – that’s if you can resist them before then. I have to warn you that you can become slightly addicted to them!
The other interesting thing about the product is that among the main ingredients, you find vegetables (yes!) and legumes. With this type of product, you can easily incorporate food you don’t enjoy, see or know as much, onto your plate. For you parents our there, it’s also a great way to get the kids to eat them, seeing as they tend to be a little less adventurous with whole veggies.