With July Fourth coming up in a few days, we’re finally into the swing of summer. And summertime often means cookouts, barbecues, and picnics. As you enjoy the warm weather festivities, don’t forget about those vegetables! Wait, you’re not feeling very excited about munching on raw carrot sticks? Do you find yourself reaching for an extra helping of potato salad rather than green salad? Maybe you need some fresh ideas for making vegetables more of a focus in your eating plan.
How vegetables can help
First things first. Let’s review a few things about how vegetables can help diabetes:
Blood sugar. Nonstarchy vegetables (like broccoli, green beans, zucchini, and tomatoes) are super-low in carbohydrate. The benefit? They won’t spike your blood sugar!
Weight. Along with being low in carbohydrate, nonstarchy vegetables contain about 25 calories per serving — good news if you’re aiming to stay at your current weight or maybe lose a few pounds. You can fill up on veggies without tipping the scale.
Lower blood pressure. Taking your blood pressure meds and watching your sodium intake is important, but don’t overlook the benefit of vegetables and fruit on blood pressure control. They’re high in potassium and fiber and low in sodium, making them a key part of the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan.
Cataracts. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing cataracts than people without diabetes. Lower your risk by eating green leafy vegetables that contain a substance called zeaxanthin. Find this in broccoli, spinach, and kale.
Five ways to fit them in
Everyone knows that eating vegetables is good for you. When someone tells you to “eat more vegetables,” what often comes to mind is opening a bag of frozen broccoli, spending 20 minutes preparing a salad, or packing celery sticks with your lunch. While there’s nothing wrong with any of these ideas, they’re not very exciting. On the other hand, no one wants to spend hours in the kitchen prepping vegetables for some elaborate dish, either. Here are some ideas to get you feeling more excited about some of the healthiest foods there are.
Oil them. How many times have you heard that it’s important to steam your vegetables? Sure, steaming is a great way to cook, but as far as flavor goes, steamed vegetables can seem a little dull. Cut up your favorite veggie (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with some sea salt and black pepper, or maybe turmeric or cayenne pepper for some zip. Then, bake at 375°F for about 40 minutes. Tasty!
Grill them. Cut juicy, ripe tomatoes in half, grill them for about 4 minutes on each side, and sprinkle with your favorite seasoning. Or, take fresh green beans (ends trimmed) and sprinkle with freshly chopped garlic and black pepper. Fold the beans into a tightly wrapped packet of foil and throw on the grill. Grill for about 8–10 minutes per side. You’ll find a lot of other tips for grilling all sorts of veggies online.
Stir-fry them. Drag out your wok (or just use a sauté pan). Almost any kind of vegetable works well for stir-fry: carrots, mushrooms, snap peas, onions, broccoli… Pair the veggies up with the protein of your choice: chicken, lean beef, pork, tofu, edamame. Add some seasoning and a dash of lower-sodium soy sauce and serve it as is or on top of a healthy, whole grain like brown rice or quinoa. You’ve got a quick, easy meal that tastes good and is good for you, too.
Dip them. Many dips are laden with fat and calories (like cheesy spinach and artichoke dip). But there are plenty of lower-calorie, lower-carb dips to be had (or made), such as a dill dip made with nonfat Greek yogurt, a bit of light sour cream, dill weed, fresh garlic, and some salt and pepper. Excellent with slices or spears of cucumber — or any vegetable, for that matter.
Make them into soup. Who wants soup in the hot weather? You might if the soup is cold. Cold or chilled soups are very refreshing, and many are low in calories and carbs. Try a spicy gazpacho soup. Search online for cold soup recipes and you’ll find plenty to choose from (shy away from those calling for high-fat ingredients like sour cream and butter).
And if you have other great ideas for making vegetables more easily fit into your eating plan, please share! (Editor’s note: Check out some of our delicious and diabetes-friendly vegetable recipes here.)