5 Things You Do That Make Your Vegetables Ridiculously Unhealthy

Smothering them in cheese is just the beginning.

There's broccoli in there, er, somewhere. | Ezume Images/Shutterstock.com

There’s broccoli in there, er, somewhere. | Ezume Images/Shutterstock.com

First off, kudos to you for eating vegetables. As children, many of us did not appreciate the pile of green or orange stuff our plates. We were always told to eat it, but why on Earth did we have to do such a thing? Experts say it can take up to 10 attempts after a new food is introduced for a child to truly determine whether he loves it or hates it. And because those 10 attempts can be, well, painful for parents to bear (Remember all that dinner table whining? Your parents sure do.), kids’ veggies are often topped with a heap of melted cheese or drowned in a stick of butter in an effort to get the kiddos to lift up their forks. Unfortunately for many of us, those unhealthy veggie habits linger on well into adulthood.

When I travel out on the PGA Tour (yes, my job is pretty awesome), there are some tournaments where the golfers are offered wonderful food selections: the veggies are stir-fried or steamed, and the salad bar is full of freshly picked local produce. However, in some cases, the choices saddle us with weeks of legit detox afterwards: Yeah, there’s a steamer full of vegetables, but it’s corn – swimming in butter. Or, sure, there’s a salad bar, but it’s stocked with full-fat dressing, croutons, iceberg lettuce and bacon bits — and that’s it.

So while the notion of eating your veggies is wonderful, veggies are actually pretty easy to screw up. Here, five ridiculously unhealthy veggie-eating habits that should be limited or halted altogether. Any of them, er, sound familiar? 

1. You say: “I like white potatoes and corn.”
Okay, great – so you acknowledge that you eat vegetables, but unfortunately these veggies are not the most nutritious. White potatoes and corn offer very little nutritive value in terms of vitamins. They remind me of 14 karat gold-plated bracelets. Yeah, it’s technically a gold bracelet, but the inner layers are kind of, eh, not good quality. You want something like a plate of beets. Beets are like gold. They are a rich source of fiber and vitamin C, and help reduce inflammation and potentially high blood pressure.

2. You say: I like to dip my carrots in ranch dressing.
Bravo! You’re kiiiinda having a healthy snack. Carrots are loaded with beta-carotene, which is great for our vision and a power antioxidant. But the hiccup is the dipping. Full-fat ranch dressing is high calorie and provides little nutrients. Also, an actual serving size of ranch dressing is quite small: two tablespoons, about the size of your thumb. Consuming just two tablespoons of ranch dressing gives you 12 percent of your daily value for saturated fat (the bad artery clogging kind) and 140 calories, which is equivalent to 1.40 miles of running. Thing is, most of us overconsume portions, so now you’re looking at doubling all of that. Put plainly, you just wasted a lovely 5K on friggin’ ranch-dressing calories. Womp womp.

A great substitute? Hummus! Whether made with chickpeas or edamame, hummus gives you lots of fiber and protein, and, thanks to the olive oil, healthy fat. While it can be comparable to ranch dressing calorie-wise, the substitution is much more meaningful.

3. You say: Broccoli-cheddar soup is, like, the best thing ever!
No, no, it’s not. When you consume creamy based soups, you are most likely consuming very little of the vegetables and more of the saturated fats. Cheese is naturally a saturated fat, but other things like cream or butter is added to the product or recipe for flavor and consistency. Stick with hearty vegetable soups with clear broth and added foods such as black beans and lentils. You will up your fiber and vitamin intake, while lower your total saturated fat and calorie totals for the day.

4. You say: I use fat-free dressing because I am saving my calories!
I bet you’ll be surprised to hear me say you should steer clear of fat-free salad dressings. Why? Because there’s actually a nutritious upside to using low-fat dressings over fat-free ones. When we use dressings that contain heart-healthy oils, such as olive or walnut oils, they actually assist in the absorption of the nutrients that come from the vegetables we are eating in the salad. Opt for non-creamy dressings, such as balsamic, oil and vinegar or Italian, and limit French, ranch, thousand island (i.e. the ones that are not somewhat clear). The truth is, we need some fat in our diets. Healthy fats help increase absorption of other nutrients while helping our hearts, improving brain function, boosting immunity and reducing inflammation.

5. You say: I don’t try very many vegetables. I like what I like.
When we eat the same foods day in and day out, we limit ourselves from a variety of vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Let’s go back to the blah-type veggies: potatoes, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, corn, lima beans. These vegetables have limited nutrients, so you aren’t doing yourself any favors by eating them over and over again. A colorful diet is a healthy diet. Think about eating a rainbow. Peppers have so much vitamin C — you may almost get your day’s worth. Broccoli is a great source of fiber, which helps reduce your cholesterol and maintain satiety. Sweet potatoes offer a huge boost of beta-carotene and carbs to fuel a workout. Spaghetti squash is a ridiculously healthy substitute for pasta because of its low calorie, high fiber, vitamin C, and B-6 properties (energy metabolism). All you have to do is bake it and fork it when finished to mimic pasta noodles.


Jenna Stranzl is a registered dietitian in Philadelphia and consulting sports nutritionist for athletes of all types including the PGA Tour golfers, NY Islanders NHL organization, Vincera Institute, and Velocity Sports Performance Cherry Hill. To find out more about Jenna’s services and blog posts, visit jennastranzl.com.

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