Sugar and Spice Advice on flowers and veggies

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We know that nutrition experts are telling and encouraging us to eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. The recommendation is 2 fruit servings and 3 vegetable servings.
Sometimes people have no problem with adding fruit to the diet. It isn’t hard to put an apple or an orange in your lunch. A small baggie of grapes or cherries is also quick and easy to add to a lunch. Add a banana to your cereal.

Vegetables, though, seem to be harder to work in. You have to cut broccoli or clean the lettuce, etc. I think you understand what I am saying. But vegetables have essential nutrients and phytochemicals that are necessary ingredients for a healthy body. So what to do?

Add fresh produce to canned or frozen soups. Processed soups are not as good as homemade, but when you are busy, the convenience can be nice. Try adding chopped tomatoes, green onions, snap peas, zucchini slices or other bite-sized veggies you enjoy while the soup is simmering. All of these sound like tasty ideas to me. They will help to fill you up with a lot fewer calories than throwing in cheese or crackers.

I have found something I prefer on my hoagies much better than lettuce. Baby spinach is a great source of iron, which many women need, low in calories, higher in fiber, and tasty. Spinach has more nutrients than iceberg lettuce. (No, I am not saying ditch the iceberg. But spinach adds a great flavor.) Of course, add spinach into your iceberg lettuce salad. I haven’t tried arugula and some of those other fancy greens on a hoagie, but in a salad they are yummy.

Who says you can’t have your dip and eat it too? Just watch what your dip is made of and what item you are dipping. Why not add seasoning to your plain yogurt? Or how about hummus? Hummus comes in many great flavors. I would bet you could find something to suit your taste. Now what to dip? Not crackers or chips! What about jicama? Jicama is also delicious with a shake of Tajin on it. (Tajin is a mild Mexican spice that brings out the juiciness of jicama. (And for a special treat – shake some Tajin on your slice of watermelon. I am serious when I say you will love it.) Try baby carrots, celery, zucchini spears, or bell pepper wedges in your healthy dips.

Interested in weight loss along with getting your veggies? Start your meal with a sizable salad and you will be less likely to eat more of the entrée. Just remember to watch the amount of dressing you use and hold the croutons. Try a squeeze of lime for a little added zest.

Now you know how to get your 5-a-day in without a lot of thought or extra work. However, if you are feeling adventurous, you might want to add flowers to your foods. Yes, I said flowers like the ones you grow in your garden or get from a florist.

Day lilies, impatiens, and herb flowers (think chives, basil, and mint), are edible flowers that not only make your plate look pretty, but they have nutritional value. Okay, I have enjoyed mint leaves, but I can’t say I am ready to jump into lilies and impatiens. But perhaps you aren’t as wary as I am, and are ready to give it a whirl.

Gladiolus petals taste like lettuce. So add some to your salads. Other good salad flowers are borage and nasturtiums. Borage is said to taste like cucumber and the latter like watercress.

Shrinking violets are no more. Add them as a sweet garnish to ice cream and other desserts. Lilac blooms can be used as garnish as well. I am guessing that something that smells so heavenly might taste so as well.

A word to the wise if you suffer from asthma. Calendulas and chrysanthemums are edible, but are dangerous for people with asthma.

When choosing to add flowers to your meals for beauty and flavor, makes sure you pick varieties that are safe. Don’t buy your flowers from florists or plant stores as these may have been sprayed with pesticide. Check out your local produce store or farmers market. Or use your green thumb to grow your own colorful edibles.

Enjoy! And if any of you try the flowers, please let me know how that worked out. I then may be brave enough to try something other than a mint leaf myself.

Here’s to your health!

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