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Preschoolers eat more veggies with dip
Parents, you know how hard it can sometimes be to get your preschooler to eat vegetables. One study estimates that they average as little as 1/2 serving or less per day! Even using a combination of strategies like repeated tastings, peer influence, and pairing new flavors with familiar ones can come up (nearly) empty when it comes to eating more vegetables.
How to get pre-schoolers to eat more vegetables
A few months ago I shared a study that illustrated one way to get kids to eat more vegetables: hide the vegetables in other foods by adding pureed vegetables to foods like zucchini bread, pasta with tomato sauce, and chicken noodle casserole.
Does washing fruit and vegetables remove the pesticides?
This is a challenging question and I will admit that over the last few years I have personally been moving more and more toward consuming organic products. There is clear evidence that consuming organic products leads to a decrease in pesticide consumption.
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A couple of weeks ago I responded to an Ask Dr. Gourmet question about microwaving. The letter writer was concerned because she'd been told that microwaving fresh vegetables "destroyed up to 95% of the nutrients." I responded by saying, essentially, that there is some bad news/good news here: the bad news is that all cooking processes affect the amount of nutrients in foods. The good news, however, is that microwaving actually affects nutrient loss the least.
I posted a link to two studies on the subject. Today's Health and Nutrition Bite is one of them, from the Journal of Food Science (2009;74(3):H97-H103).
Vegetables (along with fruits) are an important part of the diet because of their high levels of antioxidants - molecules that essentially help stop the process of cellular damage. This cellular damage has been connected to illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease and diabetes. We've discovered that antioxidants in pill form may actually be harmful - making it even more important that you eat your veggies. Researchers in Spain experimented on a variety of vegetables by testing them, fresh and uncooked, for their antioxidant activity, then cooking them in various ways and testing them again. The cooking methods and vegetables they tested were:
Boiling until tender
Generally speaking, as I said in the Ask Dr. Gourmet question, microwaving the vegetables without added water affected the vegetables the least. The cooking methods that affected antioxidant activity the most negatively were boiling and pressure-cooking, although boiling beets, garlic, and green beans did not meaningfully affect their antioxidant properties.
Carrots, celery, and green beans actually increased their antioxidant activity after any type of cooking, and artichokes did not seem affected, positively or negatively, by any of the cooking methods tested.
The real question here, for me, is why worry about what cooking method is going to affect the vegetables the most? It's far more important to eat them: cooked or uncooked, vegetables are great for you and no doctor is going to tell you to eat fewer vegetables. Cook them however you like them, just eat them!
First posted: January 23, 2013