Okay, I have a confession to make. Even though I'm a dietitian and love eating healthy, I purposely eat my leafy greens first, before moving on to the "better" parts of a meal. Yes, vegetables are good for us, and it's important to hit the mark of eating three to five servings per day; but in most cases, we eat vegetables because we have to, not because we enjoy them the most—although some are better than others.
Yet, since vegetables are so crucial to an athlete's diet, why not make them the tastiest part of your meal?
I believe the trouble arises from steaming or boiling vegetables. Both cooking processes result in a mushy texture and a bland taste, tempting us to add butter, salt or sugar for flavor. While adding spices can help improve taste and appearance, the secret to making vegetables really enjoyable is to roast them in the oven! Roasting helps bring out natural sugars for a sweeter taste and gives veggies a crunchy texture that is fun to eat.
Here are my favorite way to prepare various vegetables:
Carrots are perfect for roasting, because their texture is similar to potatoes, allowing them to crisp nicely. Adding rosemary gives them a unique flavor.
Coat diagonally-sliced carrots with olive oil, salt, black pepper and rosemary. Roast in oven at 400F for 25 to 30 minutes.
Coat the spears with olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Then roast at 400F for 20 minutes. Toward the end of roasting, sprinkle feta or goat cheese on top. The lemon and feta work together to create a light, creamy flavor, making this a perfect side dish for spring.
Chickpeas are a starchy vegetable that I like to roast to add to salads or eat as an afternoon snack. Rinse the chickpeas and coat with olive oil, salt, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Then roast at 400F for 20 minutes. This sweet and spicy snack leaves you feeling full, and the flavor will satisfy your cravings.
The texture of this vegetable makes them ideal for roasting. Drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle them with cumin and place them on a roasting pan with a few slices of turkey bacon. Roast at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes. The smoky flavor is wonderful, and you can save the turkey bacon for breakfast the next day, or add to BLTs for a simple, quick dinner, or just eat along with your veggies.
Slow roasting mushrooms give them a deep, meaty flavor that will surely make them the star of your next meal. I like roasting mushrooms at 400F for 20 to 25 minutes with whole garlic cloves, parsley and capers for some salt.