Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Cooking: The New RDA Guidelines and You

Photo: Stoxk Xchng

The RDA has recently come out and said that we should be eating 2 1/2 cups of veggies and 2 cups of fruit every day! There was a big discussion of the implications of this recommendation over at Serious Eats that I had a good time participating in. 

The scary thing is that, as a friend of mine responded, "I'm not sure if I eat that in an entire month." And the sad thing is that the produce section of the grocery store can be the most expensive! The RDA apparently did some research before putting the recommendation out there, and calculated that this would cost $2.50 per day. While at first this sounds reasonable, that is per person. So for my family of four, the recommendation of produce alone would cost $300 a month! Yikes!

Right there is a great reason to join me in growing veggies in the backyard this year! Other than that, I can't help you with the financial aspect, but there are couponing sites and such out there that may be of help. I can say that if you shop for produce that is in season and local, such as at farmers markets, then that will be much more economical. Oh, and there are lots of ways to reduce produce waste - that will save a lot right there! For example, buy a bunch of onions and green peppers and when you get home, wash & chop them, then freeze portions in ziplock baggies. They can then be used any time to add in to omelets, hash browns, soups, meatloaf, and lots more recipes, and they won't get rotten sitting in your fridge!

Anyhoo, what I can help with is how in the world to eat lots of fruits & veggies every day! The new recommendation shook me out of complacency and made me realize that we can do much, much better. One idea that I am implementing right away, because it is a cinch, is:

Lunch every day is salad as a base. Don't cringe! There is so much you can do with a salad to make it yummy! I plan to make a different salad each weekday so that it doesn't get boring and gross. Here are three ideas that we do already:

Yikes - this was a day we didn't have many veggies in the fridge!

Salad bar - This actually doesn't take long, and the kids are more likely to eat a salad when they get to pick & choose and put it together themselves! The only thing is that if you let them pick ingredients themselves, you may have to require a certain number of veggies or colors be added or else they will just make a bowl of lettuce, cheese, and ranch! =)

This is BBQ fake-chicken instead of pulled pork, cuz Jill was feeling vegetarian.

Texas Salad - Okay, I totally made up that name. But I think it fits. This one is nice and filling because of the added proteins. You take a bed of lettuce and whatever veggies you want. Add a spoonful of BBQ pulled pork to the top, a sprinkle of cheese, and some ranch dressing. Hard-boil some eggs and add them on the side. You could even add some crumbled bacon, but now we're getting really fatty (And tasty! Tee hee).

Photo: Stock Xchng

Popcorn Shrimp Salad - Simply add some pre-made or homemade popcorn shrimp for filling protein and tasty taste!

By the way, to lettuce you can add: carrots, celery, mushrooms, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, red onion, cheese, croutons or chinese noodles, eggs, meats, tuna salad, salmon salad, seafoods, fake crab meat, sprouts, water chestnuts, those little baby corns, olives, artichoke hearts, asparagus.

An added benefit? If you're eating a salad every day, those veggies won't get spoiled sitting in your fridge!

One note about kids and veggies: if your child still refuses to eat the salad, I err on the side of coercion. I believe that as parents we are responsible for protecting our kids and for keeping them healthy. We sometimes must enforce decisions for them because they simply don't know better. It doesn't have to be a battle though! 

With my now 6-year-old, I matter-of-factly served salad with dinner every day and said simply that he must eat it before he leaves the table. He whined for a couple of days but very quickly realized that I was serious and then just starting eating salad every day like its any other food! I know some people may balk at me for this, but there is a difference between battling over food and simply making a loving requirement. I told him his body needs green veggies to grow big and strong and that I love him and want him to be healthy, so he has to eat his salad. End of story. 

We did the same thing when we started putting broccoli on pizzas. Now all three kids prefer pizza loaded with veggies. Okay, they would totally choose meat-lovers if given the option, but they truly say that our homemade veggie pizzas are better than commercial cheese or pepperoni pizza! =)

More to come on this topic!

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