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How to Prepare Healthy Vegetables

written by: Melanie Greenwood • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 7/1/2011

Everyone who wants to eat healthy needs to eat vegetables, but sometimes the methods used to prepare vegetables contain more fat than is desirable. Here's how to make healthy vegetables soups and salads without using a lot of fat.

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    Veggies are in

    First Lady Michelle Obama recently turned part of the White House lawn into an organic vegetable garden (Burros, 2009). The fashionable First Lady knows healthy vegetables are key to a healthy diet, and joins health professionals all over the country in urging the American people to consume more of them.

    However, sometimes the methods used to prepare vegetables add more fat than people should be eating on a regular basis. Read on to learn some easy, low-fat methods to make vegetable soups and salads.

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    Vegetable Soups

    Soups are a great way to eat healthy vegetables. However, the problem with soups is the amount of oil required to soften the aromatic vegetables (such as celery, carrots, and onions) that make soups smell and taste so good. No-stick spray is an option, but it can cause scorching, and not everyone is comfortable with the chemicals used in the propellants.

    Fortunately, there are tricks to reduce the amount of oil needed to properly soften vegetables without the use of no-stick spray. One method involves a basting brush, a little salt, and a spritz bottle. To use this method, start with a soup recipe that calls for sautéing onions, carrots, and celery (or bell pepper) before adding water or broth.

    Put one to two teaspoons of oil into a saucepan (one teaspoon for a recipe that serves two, two teaspoons for one that serves four), and then use a basting brush to spread the oil over the entire cooking surface. Add minced aromatics, sprinkle with salt, and place the pan over medium-low heat. Stir often, and spritz with water every 30-60 seconds. Once the aromatics are soft (which should take about five to seven minutes), proceed with the recipe as written.

    Here is a recipe for healthy vegetable soup, which can be adapted using the technique described above.

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    Making Lower-Fat Salad Dressings

    Hot soups are wonderful on a cold winter night, but when the weather turns warm, thoughts turn to fresh salads. Unfortunately, many salad dressings have so much fat they turn salad into a decidedly unhealthy option. One way around this is to make dressing rather than getting it out of a bottle.

    Vinaigrettes are often the healthiest (and easiest) option for homemade salad dressings. Unfortunately, a vinaigrette dressing recipe calling for 3/4 cup of oil, which can be very high in fat and calories.

    America's Test Kitchen, authors of the cookbook The Best Light Recipe, recommend replacing 1/2 cup of oil with six tablespoons of water, which they say will retain the dressing's ability to cling to salad leaves. A dressing made like this contains just 35 calories and 3.5 grams of heart-healthy fat per tablespoon.

    Here's a recipe for healthy vinaigrette, adapted from the America's Test Kitchen recipe.

    Those without the time or inclination to make dressings themselves can "doctor" bottled salad dressings with hot sauce, herbs, dried onion flakes, minced shallots or onions, lemon juice, and vinegar. As a general rule, start with 1/4 teaspoon of "add-in" per tablespoon of dressing, then increase the add-ins to taste.

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    Further Reading

    Want more information about healthy eating? Check out the cookbook in the “References” section, or head over to http://www.sparkrecipes.com for instant, free access to lots of healthy and tasty vegetable recipes.

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    References

    Kimball, C. (Ed.) (2009). The Best Light Recipe Cookbook. Brookline, MA: America's Test Kitchen Publishing.

    Burros, M. (2009, 19 March). Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House. The New York Times Online. Retrieved 29 May, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/20/dining/20garden.html