On the Table

On the Table: 5 healthy ways to enjoy tomatoes

CorrespondentJune 17, 2014 

In the spirit of pushing produce this season, this is your reminder that it’s tomato time. Take full advantage of one of the tastiest, most versatile and nutritious vegetables in the garden.

Interest in heirloom and locally grown vegetables also means that many varieties of tomatoes are available. The differences in shapes, colors, flavors and textures makes experimenting fun and can help inspire new ways to work tomatoes into your diet.

Eat tomatoes with abandon. They’re high in water content, so they’re low in calories, and they’re so nutritious. Tomatoes are rich sources of vitamins A and C, lycopene and other health-supporting phytochemicals.

Look for ways to work more into your daily diet. Try some of these ideas:

• Incorporate tomatoes into appetizers. Use chopped tomatoes as a base for the topping on bruschetta, toasted bread brushed with olive oil and garlic.

Serve whole red, yellow and orange cherry tomatoes with hummus or a yogurt dip. Note, though, that cherry tomatoes are on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list, so only buy organic varieties.

• Sliced and served simply. An Italian caprese salad is typically served as an appetizer, too.

It’s a simple arrangement of sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with olive oil, a dash of salt and perhaps a splash of balsamic vinegar.

You can also serve plain heirloom tomatoes, richly colored in orange, yellow, green, purple and red with deep ridges and grooves that give thick slices interesting shapes on a plate.

• Add tomatoes to pasta. Seeded, chopped fresh tomatoes are good tossed with cooked pasta and olive oil, chopped walnuts, basil leaves, shredded mozzarella cheese and toasted pine nuts.

Add chopped fresh tomatoes to pasta salads, too.

• Garnish liberally. Many salads, sides and main dishes could use a spot of red. Add cherry tomato halves to green salads, bowls of cooked spinach or a dish of macaroni and cheese.

Add tomato slices, cut into halves, or tomato wedges to plated meals or sides such as platters of corn on the cob.

• Make tomato sandwiches a mainstay. Vary them by adding chutney, sliced low-fat cheese, hummus, mustard, lettuce or grated carrots.

Treat yourself to tomatoes.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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