Nutrition: Your mother was right — eat your veggies

The goal is to eat 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Meeting that goal takes some work.

person pours oil onto colorful vegetables arranged in parchment-lined pan
No single vegetable provides all of the nutrients we need. That’s why we need to eat a wide assortment of vegetables in a variety of colors.
Daisy-Daisy / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Your mother really did know what she was talking about. When she made you eat your vegetables every day, she was watching out for your health. She was helping you establish healthy eating habits that would help you as an adult.

What’s the big deal about vegetables? Vegetables are excellent sources of certain vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. Research shows that diets rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure; reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke; prevent some types of cancer; lower risk of eye and digestive problems; and have a positive effect upon blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.

Patti Urbanski.jpg
Patti Urbanski.
Contributed / Jeff Frey and Associates

Vegetables get their color from phytochemicals — natural bioactive substances that protect against cancers and chronic diseases. Fiber helps keep our gastrointestinal tracts running smoothly, and appears to protect against colon cancer. Most vegetables are low in calories, and the fiber in vegetables can help us to feel full when we’re trying to eat less in order to lose weight.

Are vegetables better than fruit? When vegetables are compared to fruit, the 10 most commonly eaten vegetables score higher in providing more nutrients and fiber than the most commonly consumed fruits. In general, we get more minerals from vegetables than we do fruit.

No single vegetable provides all of the nutrients we need to stay healthy. That’s why we need to eat a wide assortment of vegetables in a variety of colors. Vegetables may be raw or cooked and can be fresh, frozen, canned, or dried. Canned vegetables usually contain more sodium than fresh or frozen vegetables. So, fresh, frozen or dried vegetables are better choices.


The goal is to eat 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables every day. Meeting that goal takes some work. Try to include vegetables in at least two of your meals per day. Have raw vegetables cleaned, cut and ready to eat in the refrigerator for snacks. Toss vegetables in with your eggs, hot dishes and soups whenever possible.

Old-Fashioned Beer Beef Stew and Beer Chocolate Cake hit the spot.

You may find it takes some effort to stay excited about eating a variety of vegetables during your main meal of the day. At this time of the year, we don’t have farmers markets to find really fresh, local options. But grocery stores offer a variety of vegetables at all times of the year, and frozen vegetables are an affordable option.

Now is the time to try some new recipes that include seasonings and other flavors to make your vegetable dishes interesting. Roasting vegetables can add great flavor and is an easy way to try something different than the plain, and sometimes boring, steamed vegetables that our moms served to us.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey Mustard

  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, bottoms trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarse Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss the trimmed Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread the sprouts on the parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.
  3. Roast the Brussels sprouts for about 45 minutes or until crispy, shaking the sheet about every 15 minutes.
  4. Mix together the mustard and honey in a small bowl. Place the browned sprouts in a serving bowl and add the honey mustard mixture. Toss well and serve immediately.

Source: American Diabetes Association Food Hub,

Don't miss out on eating winter vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, squash and Brussels sprouts.
Dreamstime / TNS

Roasted Green Beans in Champagne Vinaigrette

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1.5 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon artificial sweetener or 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss the green beans with 1 teaspoon olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Spread onto the baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until cooked through and starting to brown.
  3. While the beans are cooking, whisk together 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, mustard, sweetener and crushed red pepper flakes. Set aside.
  4. When the green beans are roasted, drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat.

Source: American Diabetes Association Food Hub,

Patti Urbanski is a registered and licensed dietitian and a certified diabetes care and education specialist at St.Luke's. She has a Master of Education degree.

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