Have a Plant: Fruits & Veggies for Better Health

Saving Time Semi-Scratch-Style

Do you ever feel like you are stuck in a rut and don’t know what to have for dinners let alone the sides to go with them? You know fruits and veggies should be half your plate, but are running short on ideas, no need to mention the lack of time to prepare them! That is why I am happy provide you with some refreshing new ideas with bountiful produce! As a dietitian I can tell you there is no such thing as too many fruits and veggies!

First, some tips to help you save time with your side dishes, especially when it comes to adding fruits and veggies — I want that to be the easy part!

  • All forms Matter! Did you know that you can get great nutrition from fresh, canned, frozen and dried fruits and veggies? So, save yourself TIME and MONEY, buy canned and frozen. I always have them in my cart, especially this time of year. As a busy mom this saves me so much time and I have no mom guilt as I know my kiddos are getting all their fruits and veggies!
  • Utilize your local grocery store’s chop shop (that’s what we call ours, yours may have a different name) but basically my favorite spot in the grocery store, where I can go and get all the fruits and veggies prewashed and prechopped all I have to do is add them to my dishes! #WINNING

Here are my go-to side dishes that include lots of produce:

Whole Grains like brown rice, quinoa and farro are my go-tos. I almost always choose the instant or the microwavable versions, why not? So what veggies do I add to this? For quinoa or brown rice I like to add canned corn, canned black beans, canned diced tomatoes, and squeezable or freeze dried cilantro, all this requires is opening cans, a jar and rinsing the black beans. Look all those veggies and that beautiful color to otherwise bland looking, yet nutritious whole grains. Another option to add to your whole grains is riced veggies. You can find fresh riced veggies and keep them fresh in the grain dish for texture variation or you can buy frozen and steam them in the bag.

My latest whole grain obsession has been farro. I love seasoned varieties, butternut squash and kale farro and porcini mushroom farro. Yes, they do have sodium, but it’s all about what else you are adding to that meal – you can make the sodium fit.  I take the easy way out and just add the fresh versions of the produce they call out on the front of the package. For example, with the butternut squash/kale version, I add precut butternut squash from the chop shop and precut and washed kale from the packaged salad section. You can also but frozen microwavable butternut squash saving even more time. For the porcini mushroom version, I buy pre-sliced mushrooms and just wash them and add them to my farro dish! EASY PEASY, just the way I like it! And it tastes great!!

Potatoes anyone? I love the tomato basil baby red potatoes that come in a package in our produce department from the little potato company, you just microwave them and top them with either fresh prechopped tomatoes and basil or try the canned sundried tomatoes and add freeze dried basil – YUM!

How about beets? I LOVE beets roasted in the oven with goat cheese, but let’s be honest, beets can be a pain to wash and peel and cut. So, you guessed it, I buy precooked (pre-peeled and pre-steamed) ones in our produce department. All this busy mama has to do is slice them and add the goat cheese with a little olive oil and slide it in the oven!

Let’s not forget fruit! Take a variety of canned fruits like papaya, mango or a tropical blend packed in 100% juice. Drain the juice and add a dollop of yogurt to the top with a sprinkle of coconut. Or how about pre-sliced apples topped with cinnamon and baked for 20 minutes? These serve as a great side or a healthy dessert!

I hope I have inspired you to add more produce to your meals via side dishes in an easy way!

Here is one of my favorite recipes:

Curly Sweet Potato Fries
2-4 servings

Ingredients:

1 container of sweet potato veggies spaghetti cut into 6-inch strips

  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Make seasoning by combining and mixing sea salt, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder
  3. Toss veggie spaghettis with a very small amount of olive oil. About 1 tsp or so. If you use too much, they will become soggy
  4. Place on a flat sheet pan (cover sheet pan with parchment or foil, & lightly spray with olive oil)
  5. Sprinkle with seasoning blend
  6. Bake 10-15 minutes in your preheated 400 f degree oven, until they begin to get crispy – per your personal preference
  7. Flip
  8. Bake for 10-15 minutes on the other side.
  9. Serve with ketchup or an aioli sauce

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