On the Table

On the Table: Pile on the produce for light, healthy meals

CorrespondentJune 24, 2014 


Spray your grill with cooking spray before it heats up to help the dough flip easy for this grilled pizza recipe. When it's finished, the pizza easily lifts off the grill with a spatula and tongs.


The push for produce continues.

That’s because it’s such an ideal time to improve the quality of your diet. The combination of warm weather, a more relaxed pace and an abundance of fresh, locally grown produce make the idea of simple, light meals particularly appealing.

The health benefit for you is that the more fresh produce you can feature in your meals now, the easier it will be to control your weight and boost the nutritional value of your diet.

And there are so many ways to do it. Here are a few of my favorites:

• Pile it on your pizza. Make the crust from scratch or buy one ready made. Top it with a colorful mix of summer veggies.

Go easy on the cheese.

Try thinly sliced zucchini and summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, fresh basil and whatever is ready in the garden or available at the farmers market.

• Grill it. Make grilled corn on the cob, or use skewers to design veggie kabobs using mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, chunks of squash and potatoes, onions, bell peppers, beets and carrots.

Brush kabobs with balsamic vinegar before grilling. Serve them with rice pilaf, fresh pita bread and yogurt sauce.

• Toss it with fettuccine. Cut zucchini into long ribbons, steam and add to pasta.

For color and flavor, add other ingredients such as olive oil, red pepper flakes, fresh basil, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped walnuts or toasted pine nuts.

Or make fettuccine primavera using any of your favorites – carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms and bell peppers.

• Mash it. You can mash cauliflower to make a side dish that has the look and texture of mashed potatoes. Delicious!

• Vary it with salad. Don’t limit yourself with lettuce as a base.

Grated carrots or cabbage, for example, can be the foundation of a salad, and you can add other ingredients – bits of fruit, fresh herbs, croutons, nuts or seeds for crunch – and a yogurt-based or vinaigrette dressing.

Other ingredients can also stand in as the main ingredient. Watermelon chunks or sliced heirloom tomatoes are two examples. They are delicious together with sliced red onions and a vinegar-and-oil dressing.

Don’t stop there. Compare notes with your family and friends and search online for inspiration.

Load up on fresh produce.

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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