DEAR DOCTOR K: I try to cook dinner most nights, but by the end of the day, I’m too tired to make sure the meals are balanced. Can you suggest easy ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into our dinners?
DEAR READER: Start by scheduling a regular time to plan your weekly menu. This will give you a chance to plan nutritionally balanced meals before the kids start asking, “What’s for dinner?” Make a shopping list to help you stock your kitchen with the foods you’ll need to cook these healthy meals.
Now that you have a strategy, here are some easy ways to work more produce into your evening meals:
• Roast vegetables. Bake cut vegetables at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes until they’re lightly browned. You can roast any vegetable – from mushrooms, onions, eggplant and zucchini, to tomatoes, broccoli and carrots. Enjoy roasted veggies as a side dish or toss them into pasta. At the end of the week, puree leftover roasted veggies with chicken broth to make soup.
• Poach vegetables. Boil enough liquid (water or low-sodium chicken broth work well) to cover the vegetables. Add them and turn down the heat. Cook for five to seven minutes, until the vegetables are brightly colored and tender-crisp.
• Smuggle fresh vegetables into main dishes. Add mushrooms, peppers, zucchini or carrots to pasta sauce, casseroles, soup, stews, scrambled eggs and chili.
• Have a salad with dinner most days. Build your salad with dark, leafy greens. Toss in peas, tomatoes, celery, carrots and peppers. Limit yourself to 1 1/2 tablespoons of low-calorie dressing.
• Choose fruit – fresh, frozen, stewed or baked – for dessert. It all counts toward your daily produce quota.