The new year is bright and fresh and filled with good intentions. New Year's resolutions abound, so I'll add one to the list: Eat your fruit and vegetables, not because your mother told you to or because the food pyramid prescribes it, but because it's the simplest and most delicious way to keep all those other pledges to lose weight, eat better and feel better.
They also taste great.
I have seen the wrinkled noses when I extol the virtues of Brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I have watched children eat doughnuts while they lob apples and oranges in an impromptu game of catch.
I also know that when the same fruit is turned into kebabs, the kids will eat it.
Setting out a fruit bowl or a vegetable platter is not going to change eating habits in your house. The way to lure takers is to make those foods appetizing. Preparation is key, so here's my list of suggestions to get you started.
*Always have fruit ready to eat. Cut oranges, apples, pears, bananas and pineapple into bite-size chunks or slices before you offer them. Wash and quarter big strawberries. Separate a bunch of grapes into small clusters and offer them like gifts.
*Do your vegetable prep in the morning. What takes 15 minutes when you get home at night takes less time in the morning; I'm not sure why, but I know it works for me. So trim the green beans, wash and dry the salad greens, shred the cabbage and dice the onions. You'll be about a thousand times more likely to cook the vegetables when you get home.
*Buy prepped items. Find vegetables cut, sliced and diced -- in packages in the produce section and in the supermarket salad bar. Fresh fruit comes in snack packs. Frozen vegetables come in steaming bags ready for the microwave.
*Give vegetables some love. Simple steps can make a huge difference with relatively little effort. Roasting vegetables enhances their flavor. Fast dressings made with a little oil and some citrus juice can enliven humdrum salads. Chopped garlic, cooked slowly in olive oil that's then drizzled over almost any steamed green vegetable, can make that vegetable happy.
*Liberate fruit from the dessert course. Mix diced fruit into salsas; serve with grilled fish. Saute and season apple slices as a side dish or sandwich topping. Puree leftover fruit for a first-course soup. Add orange wedges and strawberry slices to salads. Roast pears, then toss them with bitter greens and a slightly sweetened vinaigrette.
*Be crafty. On cold days, make simple vegetable soups with whatever you have on hand; who can tell what's in a pureed version? Packaged low-sodium chicken broth tastes better when it is simmered with added onions and diced vegetables. Use vegetable juice as a cooking liquid; it counts as a vegetable serving. When diners are hungry they tend to be less picky, so serve the salad before the main course instead of after.
*Try new things. Broccoli might be more appealing when it is incorporated into a pasta dish. Quick sautes of cabbage have lighter flavors than long-cooked versions.