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Nebraska Department of Education
Nutrition Services
301 Centennial Mall South
PO Box 94987
Lincoln, NE 68509-9487

(800) 731-2233 (Nebraska Only)
or (402) 471-2488
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Child & Adult Care Food Program

Child Caring Online - information about the Child and Adult Care Food Program

Making more of vegetables

The important role that vegetables play in a healthy diet is undisputed. As recent changes have taken place in our society to move toward more fast food, convenience items, and spending less time preparing meals at home, vegetables may be taking the back seat. The meat and two vegetables tradition seems to have been greatly criticized from all sides, with more emphasis being placed on pasta and rice.

vegetablesVegetables provide the satisfying bulk in the diet. On a practical level, they enhance the appearance of protein foods, such as fish, poultry and meat, and make them more palatable. In the context of balanced eating, we already know that vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals as well as protein (particularly in the case of peas and beans) and valuable fiber. Fresh raw vegetables offer the greatest source of nutrients and fiber; the loss of nutrients can be kept to a minimum by preparing the vegetables just before cooking, cooking them only until they are tender and in as little water or other liquid as possible.

The cost and effort of eating well can also affect elderly people from shopping for a variety of foods and preparing some of the old favorites that they grew up with. The adult care food programs are as important as ever in planning, preparing, and serving well balanced meals, including a variety of vegetables and other foods.

Back to the Basic Cooking Methods

Boiling

It is important that the boiling process is only long enough to make vegetables tender.

There are two methods of boiling. The first involves covering vegetables with water, which is then brought to a boil. The heat is reduced and the pan is covered so that the water just boils. This method works best for vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, beans and cabbage. The liquid from cooking may be used for soups, sauces and gravy.

The second method of boiling is when a small amount of water is brought to a boil, then the vegetables are added and cooked more fiercely with or without a lid on the pan. This method is suitable for quick cooking vegetables such as cabbage, green beans, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.

As a reminder, never add baking soda to the cooking water for green vegetables. In the days when vegetables were regularly overcooked, this was regarded as a good way of preserving the color; however, it destroys the vitamin C content of the food and should be avoided.

Steaming

This method gives similar results to boiling. Nutrients are lost from the vegetables through he steam and then to the water. Again, steam vegetables only until tender, and as close to serving time as possible. The flavor of some vegetables is much better after steaming. Vegetables such as broccoli and carrots are more flavorful when they are steamed lightly, then "shocked" immediately in cold water. They can be served on a fresh vegetable plate with a dip.


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