By Daisha Cassel
Eat your vegetables! If you feel like a broken record giving your kids this command, try taking some of your own advice. Indulging in—and enjoying—vegetables along with your kids is more than just a great way to lead by example. You'll also reap some very specific health benefits to help you be a better dad after the dinner table is cleared. Melissa Joy Dobbins MS, RDN, LDN, offers some advice for men who are interested in making the best veggie choices.
Whether it's for playing on the weekends, or rounding up the kids to get to school on time, it takes a lot of energy to be a dad. The vegetables that will give you the best energy boost? Potatoes and sweet potatoes. "Both provide carbs for energy," explains Dobbins. While both white and sweet potatoes give a carbohydrate boost, sweet potatoes have a higher amount of Vitamin A than white potatoes. Try them mashed (their naturally complex flavor may negate the desire for butter) or cut into strips and baked like French fries.
Veggies for a Healthy Brain
Want to score an A in brain power? "Vegetables that are good for the heart are also good for the brain," says Dobbins. Veggies such as broccoli, carrots, corn and beans are high in soluble fiber and therefore may lower blood cholesterol. (Tell Oz-loving kids these veggies would be good choices for both the Tin Man and the Scarecrow to dine on!)
A healthy dad means happy kids. If having kids has made you even more aware of staving off issues such as heart disease or diabetes, your nutrition choices are wide. "All vegetables are good for heart disease and diabetes prevention because they are low in calories and high in fiber," says Dobbins. Even though vegetables are a great source of vitamins and nutrients, water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C, riboflavin, thiamin and folate can be destroyed by exposure to air, water or heat. To keep the vitamins in your vegetables from escaping:
- Cook vegetables in a small amount of water, just enough to keep the pan from scorching.
- Steam, microwave or stir-fry vegetables instead of boiling to reduce the amount of time they are exposed to heat.
- Cooler temperatures help preserve vitamins, so store produce in the refrigerator.
Looking for veggies with the highest antioxidant potential? Try asparagus, beets, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Want the best Vitamin C bang for your bite? Try yellow bell peppers and chopped broccoli. Just one cup of either veggie exceeds your daily minimum requirements of the vitamin.
How Much Do You Need?
Adult men should consume 3 cups of veggies daily, but many dads fall short in their diets. Make a game with your kids of trying a variety of vegetables and experimenting with different preparation methods. "Some people prefer a vegetable raw versus cooked or vice versa," notes Dobbins. Try veggies such as roasted red peppers—a Vitamin C powerhouse—and sautéed mushrooms as sandwich fillings and burger toppings. You can easily add a ½ cup of vegetables to a sandwich. Mixing raw spinach—which Dobbins says is very mild in flavor compared to the cooked version—into salads is another way to pump up the vitamin content. And the whole family can try one of Dobbin's favorite tricks and add steamed cauliflower to macaroni and cheese. "You may not even realize it’s in there," she says.
Chew Before You Swallow
Think taking a multivitamin has you covered? Dobbins reminds men that vitamins are supplements, not substitutes for whole foods and vegetables. Important phytonutrients, such as antioxidants, and fiber are two components of vegetables that make them irreplaceable by a pill. (Besides, a grilled ear of corn tastes so much better!)
Reviewed April 2013
Daisha Cassel writes about topics ranging from food to finance for publications including Every Day with Rachael Ray and The Wall Street Journal.