Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

Springtime the perfect time for fresh produce

Are you looking to create some delicious and healthy springtime menus?  If so, consider taking advantage of the vegetables that are in season now.  While many springtime vegetables exist, consider a few of the more common: asparagus, peas, artichokes, leeks, leaf and baby lettuces, mushrooms, rhubarb and fava beans.  Ask your local grocer if you have trouble locating any of them.

Fresh salads, steamed side dishes and nutrient-packed breakfasts are just a few of the many ways you can use springtime vegetables.

Of course, there is always the internet to give you endless possibilities.  Just remember, to preserve the delicate flavor and nutritional benefits of these vegetables, seek simple recipes and use fresh ingredients, avoiding heavy sauces or loads of high fat ingredients.  Also, try to limit the use of salt and sugar when cooking.  While some may be beneficial, too much can be overpowering.  This will help your taste buds appreciate the natural flavors, rather than having them be masked by other flavors or ingredients. 

When you can, buy local or organic spring vegetables, to ensure quality products with high levels of phytonutrients (plant compounds that promote health and help prevent disease).  If you can, start your own vegetable garden.  Spring is prime time for that.  Choose a few favorites to get started.  If you have questions, visit your local nursery or home gardening store and ask informed employees how to get started.

Try this recipe for pea salad from www.cookinglight.com the next time you get together with your family or friends.  You can serve it alongside grilled chicken or with a nice piece of white fish.  If you cannot find fresh peas, Cooking Light recommends using thawed petite green peas.  It has a good blend of healthy ingredients and just the right touch of seasoning.

Fresh English Pea Salad with Mint and Pecorino
 
2 cups water
1 cup shelled green peas (about 1 pound unshelled)
6 cups trimmed arugula
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extravirgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shaved fresh pecorino Romano cheese (or, feta cheese)

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add peas; cook 1 minute. Drain and plunge peas into ice water; drain.
Combine peas, arugula, and mint in a large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper; toss well. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Yield:  8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup salad and 1 tablespoon cheese)

CALORIES 90 (40% from fat); FAT 4g (sat 1.3g,mono 1.4g,poly 0.2g); PROTEIN 5.6g; CHOLESTEROL 6mg; CALCIUM 107mg; SODIUM 342mg; FIBER 3.3g; IRON 1.1mg; CARBOHYDRATE 9.1g

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