11 Fresh Veggies for a Fresh Start to Healthy Living

Article posted in: FreshStart
fresh start veggies

Today, as they say, is the first day of the rest of your life. You’re making a FreshStart™, which happens to be the name of your first week on Nutrisystem.  It’s the first step in your journey to become a weight loss success story. Your menu for the week includes only Nutrisystem foods, with one exception. Every day you should be eating at least four servings of Fresh Start veggies. One reason: Fresh Start veggies provide certain important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, including fiber, which aids in weight loss. Supplements are fine in a pinch, but they don’t contain the complex combinations of nutrients and antioxidants that these fresh veggies do. Reason two: Real food has fiber, which will help fill you up as you’re dropping pounds.

So, fire up your NuMi app so you can track everything you eat and head to the grocery store to lay in some produce for the week to come.

6 Sneaky Ways You’re Ruining Your Veggies

Read More

Check out 11 Fresh Start veggies and simple ways to make them even more delicious!

1. Asparagus—2 g fiber per 5 spears

asparagus

These tender stalks of goodness are a harbinger of spring, but now available year-round in most markets—which makes them a top pick for Fresh Start veggies. While 2 grams of filling fiber per serving sounds a bit stingy, asparagus contains a form called inulin, which is not only fiber that can potentially lower blood sugar and cholesterol, but is also a prebiotic. According to research conducted by Ohio State University, prebiotics are substances that help populate your gut with beneficial bacteria (yes, there are good bacteria!) which can help with digestion. Asparagus also have more than half the daily value of folate you need as well as betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are plant chemicals that protect your eyesight.

How to Serve: Roasted, steamed, sautéed.  Eat them while they still have some snap.   You can also serve them lightly cooked and cold in salads.

What You’ll Need:

  • Zero-calorie cooking spray
  • Lemon juice or lemon pepper
  • Vinegar such as Balsamic or red wine
  • Your favorite herbs and spices
  • Garlic or garlic powder

How to Make: To roast these Fresh Start veggies (which brings out this veggie’s sweetness like you wouldn’t believe), place spears on a baking tray. Spray with zero point cooking spray. Spritz with a little lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. You can also shake on some lemon pepper, garlic powder, minced garlic or any herb or spice you like. Bake in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until the spears start to wilt and the edges get a little crispy.

2. Bell Peppers—2 g fiber per one medium

Colored peppers

Peppers are low-calorie way to “taste the rainbow.” Along with green, they come in red, yellow, orange and even purple. The brighter colors are sweeter than the green and make a great vitamin C-packed snack or nacho substitute for dipping into salsa. The Center for Nutrition, Diet and Health explains that red bells have nine times more betacarotene (which turns into vitamin A) and twice the vitamin C as green peppers but all peppers provide more than 200 percent of your vitamin C needs for the day. Vitamin C boosts your immune system and helps repair your tissues.

How to Serve: Raw, stuffed, roasted,  grilled, stewed, stir-fried or even pickled (according to Peter Piper). Roasted peppers are easy to make in minutes.

What You’ll Need:

  • Peppers
  • Gas range or grill
  • Long-handled fork

How to Make: Cut a small slit near the end of the stem of the pepper and turn the pepper over an open flame until the skin is blackened. When black, remove from heat and place in a small plastic bag to let them steam. That helps remove the skin, which you can remove with a knife or your fingers. Stem and core and serve as a side dish.

Another suggestion: Consider stir frying these Fresh Start veggies with a little zero calorie spray with some of the others veggies from the Fresh Start veggie list, such as asparagus, carrots, onion, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach.

3. Broccoli—2.4 g fiber per one cup

broccoli

One cup of this “powerhouse food”—as identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—is only 31 calories but supplies almost 100 percent of  the  DV for vitamin C. It’s probably better known for its abundant carotenoids, chemicals linked to plant color and antioxidant content. Broccoli contains the eye-protective plant nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin as well as beta carotene and other chemicals that may prevent cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

One study published by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that a chemical in broccoli called sulforophane may not only help protect you from cancer, but can lower blood sugar in some people with type 2 diabetes.

How to Serve: It’s delicious raw, steamed and microwaved, but like most veggies, it’s heavenly when roasted.

What You’ll Need:

  • Head of broccoli
  • Zero-calorie cooking spray
  • Salt
  • Pepper

How to Make: Cut the these Fresh Start veggies into medium-sized floret and spread evenly on a baking sheet. Spray lightly with cooking spray and season lightly with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges start to brown.

Veg Out! 6 Simple Ways to Sneak in More Veggies

Read More

 4. Carrots—2 g fiber per ½ cup (1 medium carrot)

Roasted carrots

Bugs Bunny’s favorite snack—his only snack—is another of the CDC’s powerhouse foods. It’s nutrient dense yet ultra-low in calories. One medium carrot packed with betacarotene, the pigment that gives the carrot its color and its abundant vitamin A—more than you need in a day!

How to Serve: Raw, boiled, broiled, roasted, microwaved or grilled. Keep raw sliced or matchstick carrots on hand for snacks. You can use “baby carrots,” which are actually mature carrots that are trimmed to make them snack sized.

What You’ll Need:

  • Carrots, cut the way you like them
  • Zero calorie cooking spray
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Zero-calorie sweetener such as Splenda or stevia
  • Thyme

How to Make: Slice up carrots, place them on a baking tray and spray with zero calorie cooking spray. Sprinkle on a little thyme and non-calorie sweetener, or drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

5. Cauliflower—2.1 g fiber per half cup

cauliflower

More than just broccoli’s pale cousin, cauliflower is a nutrient dense veggie on its own, supplying almost the amount of vitamin C you need daily, as well as carotenoids such as betacarotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Like broccoli, the chemicals that give cauliflower its pungent odor also may offer protection against cancer, reduce inflammation (which is linked to everything from Alzheimer’s disease to heart disease), and help protect against viruses and bacteria.

How to Serve: Roasted, steamed, boiled, stir-fried or raw. Smart chefs have discovered how versatile cauliflower can be.  Toss some steamed cauliflower into the food processor or blender, whir, and there you have it: rice!  You can top it with your veggie stir-fry or make this delicious side dish:

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • Zero-calorie cooking srpay
  • 1 lime, juice and zest
  • ¼ cup cilantro, minced

How to Make: Check out this video for the easy instructions on how to enjoy this nutrient-dense veggie >

6. Lettuce and mixed greens—as much as 2.1 g of fiber in a cup

mixed greens

Lettuces aren’t a great source of fiber, except for romaine (that’s what accounts for the numerical figure above). But the USDA has found that lettuce is a fiber magnet. We rarely eat it by itself. Instead, we invite all kinds of higher-fiber veggies to join it in the salad bowl, a little trick that can significantly boost your fiber intake.

It’s also listed as a “powerhouse food.” Naturally low in calories (at seven calories a cup, you can pretty much eat a whole head of romaine at a sitting), all lettuces—iceberg, green leaf, red leaf, romaine, butter etc.—are high in vitamin A (romaine leads the pack with 8710 international units, or IU) and provide significant amounts of betacarotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, the last two being vital for lifelong eye health.  Leafy greens are high in potassium, folic acid, niacin, and vitamin K, too. Research conducted by Colorado State University has found that red leaf lettuce is the highest in antioxidant compounds derived from plant pigments (phytochemicals)—it’s that red coloring that gives it away.

How to Serve: Chopped or ripped into salad, use as a bread substitute when making sandwiches

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 head or more of lettuce
  • Most of the other veggies on your list

How to Make: It’s easy enough to pull together a chopped salad in minutes. Chop up your favorite lettuce with mixed greens, bell peppers, broccoli florets, carrots, onions, mushrooms and plenty of tomatoes which, with the juice from lemon and/or a drizzle of Balsamic or other vinegar and some herbs, will serve as your salad dressing.

What the Heck Are Non-Starchy Veggies, Anyway?

Read More

7. Mushrooms—Roughly .7 g to 1.3 per cup

mushrooms

Another one of our favorites from our list of Fresh Start veggies—mushrooms. Mushrooms are the one thing on this list that’s not like the others. Technically speaking, they’re not vegetables, but a form of fungus. They also have their own brand of dietary fiber called chitin—which according to the USDA is something they share with crustaceans—which gives them their meaty texture.  Chitin is an antioxidant as well as being an anti-inflammatory. Unlike most veggies, mushrooms also supply some protein (1 to 2 g per serving), and are one of the few natural food sources of vitamin D. (Like us, mushrooms make vitamin D in their skin when exposed to sunlight.)

Mushrooms are high in the B vitamins riboflavin and niacin, as well as the minerals selenium and potassium. Scientists are studying various chemicals in mushroom for their anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties, according to the International Journal of Molecular Sciences.

Look for a variety of mushrooms in the produce section, including white button, maitake, enoki, oyster, shiitake and the super meaty portobellos. You can also buy dried mushroom mixes that you can quickly reconstitute in water.

How to Serve: Sautéed, added raw to salads and soups; roasted, microwaved, grilled or broiled—a whole portabello mushroom cap can make a great burger substitute.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb fresh green beans
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms
  • balsamic vinegar
  • thyme
  • garlic powder
  • sea salt

How to Make: Once you’re able to have a little oil and honey, you can make the original version of Balsamic Green Beans and Mushrooms. To jumpstart your weight loss, stick to substituting zero-calorie cooking spray for the oil in this delectable side dish. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a  baking sheet with foil. Spray with cooking spray.  Spread green beans and mushrooms in an even layer and spray with cooking spray. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with thyme, garlic powder and sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until beans are tender-crisp.

8. Onions—2 g of fiber

onions

An entire medium onion has only 44 calories and 2 g of fiber. Best of all onions contain about 5-9 grams of natural sugar which you an bring out by roasting or grilling them. Onions for dessert, anyone?

Onions are surprisingly high in vitamin C and a good source of folic acid, a B vitamin. Onions are also a leading source of the plant chemical quercetin, according to the National Onion Association. Apples and tea are also high in this powerful antioxidant, but you can absorb twice more of it from onions than from tea and three times more than from apples.

How to Serve: Add to soups, stews, salads; sautéed, roasted or grilled.

What You’ll Need:

  • One medium onion
  • Variety of Fresh Start Vegetables, including garlic
  • Zero calorie cooking spray
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Herbs and spices

How to Make:Sauté the onion and garlic until soft in a pot coated with zero calorie cooking spray. Add a variety of veggies, including carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, celery, zucchini, chopped tomatoes and your favorite herbs and spices, then the contents of one container of vegetable broth. Voila! On very veggie vegetable soup.

Another Suggestion: Make your own salsa with finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, lime juice and fresh chopped cilantro. Use bell peppers or carrot rounds to scoop.

9. Spaghetti Squash—2.2 g fiber per 1 cup cooked

Spaghetti squash

You never have to turn down seconds of spaghetti when you use spaghetti squash as your pasta substitute. At only 42 calories a cup (compared to about 250 calories for a cup of pasta), you can have all-you-can eat spaghetti nights whenever you want. (There’s enough fiber to put some limits on all you can eat too!)

Like other kinds of winter squashes, the USDA explains the benefits of the yellow color of the spaghetti squash—which tells you it’s chock-full of vitamin A in the form of betacarotene.

How to Serve: Roasted, as described in detail in this video >

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • two or more tomatoes
  • 1 cup onions
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • oregano
  • basil

How to Make: Once you’ve roasted your spaghetti squash, use a fork to pull out the meat in strands. Chop up and, in a pan coated with zero calorie cooking spray, sauté fresh tomatoes, onion and garlic until you get a thick, chunky sauce. (You can also make a fresh sauce without cooking.) Add oregano and basil for an Italian flair and pour over your “spaghetti.

How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Fruits & Veggies

Read More

 10. Spinach—1 g fiber per cup

spinach

Spinach’s green color indicates an abundance of lutein and zeaxanthin, vital for healthy eyes. But don’t let that color fool you. Spinach is also packed with the same kind of carotenoids found in red, orange, and yellow foods. It supplies 56 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A. http://farmtotable.colostate.edu/eat-resources/spinach.php#.W8eDVS-ZMWq

One study found that the antioxidants in spinach may reduce the effects on the cardiovascular system of a high-fat diet. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3999804/

Spinach also contains iron and calcium, which are not as readily absorbed into your body as the iron from meat and dairy. There’s a trick to getting your body to absorb both. To coax the iron out, have your spinach with a high vitamin C food, such as peppers. To lure out the calcium, cook the spinach. Cooking breaks down oxalic acid, which prevents the calcium from being absorbed. You’ll also absorb more vitamin A and zinc if you cook your spinach—so add this green powerhouse to your menu for Fresh Start veggies!

How to Serve: Raw in a salad or in a green smoothie, or sautéed.

What You’ll Need:

  • Large container of spinach
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Salt
  • Garlic (optional)
  • Zero calorie cooking spray

How to Make: You can follow the easy instructions in this video to make a simple sautéed spinach side dish (just skip the oi!) >

11. Tomatoes—2.2 g fiber per one cup chopped

fresh start veggies

The USDA details the many benefits of this superfood—which happens to be a top-pick for Fresh Start Veggies. While technically a fruit, tomatoes have no place in a fruit salad. But they’re fabulous everywhere else, from salads to soups, sandwiches to pasta. And let’s face it, they’re just plain awesome all by themselves with a little salt and fresh cracked pepper. They’re only 32 calories per cup so, please, indulge!

High in vitamins A and C, tomatoes contain 340 mg of potassium and carotenoids such as betacarotene and lycopene—linked to lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

How to Serve: Raw, stewed, sautéed, broiled, grilled or roasted. Roasting tomatoes brings out their inner sweetness.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 lb grape tomatoes sliced in half
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 5-10 fresh basil leaves
  • Zero calorie cooking spray

How to Make: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with zero calorie cooking spray. In a bowl, toss the tomato halves with minced garlic and salt and pepper.  Spread the tomatoes on the oven pan in a single layer. Spray with cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until soft. Sprinkle with fresh basil when you remove them from the oven.

Another suggestion: Make your own Fresh Start dressing by whirring chopped tomatoes with chopped onions and garlic, parsley and lemon juice in the blender until you get the right consistency. You can even start with a little vegetable juice for even more flavor.

Jumpstart your weight loss with our Fresh Start veggies and our delicious meals. Get started today! >