• Courtney Penny

Once Upon a Vegetable

As February comes to an end so do a lot of our New Year’s resolutions… don’t panic, I have an easy one you can stick to that will improve your skin, overall health and make you feel fabulous all year round. EAT MORE VEGETABLES.

Since January I have made vegetables the main ingredient in my diet and had three vegetarian meals a week. Already I have noticed my skin is less congested, I’ve lost weight (while eating a larger volume of food!) and I sleep better. This is a New Year’s Resolution I plan on sticking too!

As a nation we do not eat enough vegetables. Due to our classic Kiwi farming culture meat has always been the star of the meal while vegetables are usually boiled to death and hidden understandably under the mashed potato! Well I tell you, vegetables are making a comeback.

Our body needs vegetables, it is designed to process them as our main food source. Vegetables provide a range of vitamins and nutrients essential for cell function and health. View them as a higher performance fuel your body will run better on.

I have said this before but the best healthy eating tip I can give is to eat a natural rainbow. Vegetables come in all colours, purple eggplants, leafy greens, orange carrots, yellow capsicums etc. Each colour provides the body with different minerals and nutrients so by eating a NATURAL rainbow, (fruit loops or a party bag of lollies do not count) you are ensuring your body gets a wide range of these essential ingredients.

The minerals found in vegetables often surprise people. We all know dairy is a source of calcium but so are leafy greens. Yes spinach, broccoli and silver beet are good sources of bioavailable calcium your body can easily process and utilise.

Vegetables are also high in fibre. This is a good thing as insoluble fibre provides us with roughage which we need to get everything moving through the bowels. Our bowels are our bodies waste disposal, we want them functioning at an optimal level to maximise nutrient extraction and toxin removal. You should be doing ‘number twos’ at least once a day, if not you need to assess your diet and water intake. A sluggish bowel leads to waste and toxins sitting in the body, this has many negative consequences from mood and energy levels to skin health.

The last (and as a foodie I think the best) thing about vegetables is that they are low in energy/ calories so you can eat heaps of them! Processed food and takeaways are packed with energy but it is energy from bad fats and sugars. These foods can be described as energy rich and nutrient poor. In New Zealand there is an obesity epidemic where people are overweight and yet malnourished at the same time! People don’t realise that fast foods are designed not to fill you up. They are high in calories but usually very low in fibre so you need to eat (and therefore buy) a lot more to feel full. Vegetables are the opposite, they are packed with fibre, minerals and nutrients while being relatively low in energy.

So how do we get more vegetables into our diets?

Eat in season. The vegetables will be fresher and cheaper.

Learn to cook and have fun experimenting with vegetables. Roast beetroot, carrot and feta with a honey glaze… Grilled asparagus with garlic, olive oil and lemon rind… BBQ eggplant and chargrilled capsicum… Corn on the cob with salt, pepper and butter… Roasted cauliflower and broccoli with spices, garlic and olive oil. Trust me if you get creative vegetables are delicious!

Grow your own vegetable garden or planter box. It is an amazing feeling picking fresh veg straight from garden to plate.

Get pickling and preserving. Pickled onions and beetroot have been delicious staples in my diet of late.

Add vegetables to everything. Having a ham and cheese omelette? Panfry spinach or silverbeet with oil, garlic, salt, pepper and nutmeg, add mushrooms and tomato get that rainbow going. It is also amazing the vegetables you can hide in mince, grated carrot and zucchini are excellent for this.

Get creative with salads, they are more than iceburg lettuce and a watery tomato. I like to make a range of them on Sunday (a coleslaw, a roast veg salad, a green salad) as it makes work lunches throughout the week a breeze.

Up the flavour. Spices, garlic, lemon and olives are awesome at bringing vegetables to life. If you make the vegetables the star you won’t miss meat.

In my last article I mentioned Janine Tait from Bestow and her amazing range of cookbooks. Her latest book is called ‘Savour’ and it is jam packed full of awesome dairy free, sugar free and vegetarian meals. It will help you eat ‘in season’ and get you thinking out of the box in ways to cook vegetables, no over boiled grey mush in sight!

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