Eat more vegetables, its something that’s almost on everybody’s list with the start of the New Year. We don’t eat enough, according to CDC only 26% of adults eat vegetables 3 times a day and a recent report from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) showed that most Europeans don’t consume enough fruits and vegetables either, although we do have to mention that there were no statistics from Greece and Spain, countries that have high intakes of fruits and vegetables. According to another report, Greeks consumed 500 grams (17 oz.) of fruits and vegetables a day, surpassing the W.H.O. requirement of 400 grams (14 oz.).
How do Greeks manage to eat a pound of fruits and vegetables every day?
Well they cook their vegetables. Sure they eat salads and have plenty of vegetarian appetizers, but the vegetarian main course is what really sets them apart from other cultures. Most Greeks consume vegetables as a main dish 2-3 times a week. When I say cook, I don’t mean a plate of boring steamed vegetables with a lump of butter or melted cheese. These dishes are a combination of vegetables, herbs, tomatoes and olive oil, delicious and healthy. Common vegetables used are green beans, peas, eggplant, leek, artichoke, cauliflower and okra. Or they may eat beans (legumes) cooked with oil, onions and tomato. One serving is a large plate, which is about 3 servings of vegetables. Not only do you eat plenty of vegetables, but you also eat “difficult” vegetables such as artichokes and okra that you would otherwise not eat. One of my favorite dishes as a child was -believe it or not- a big plate of okra cooked in tomato sauce with a chunk of feta.
The Greek orthodox religion may be responsible for the large variety of vegetarian dishes, since there are over 180 days of fasting – no animal products – so there were plenty of vegetarian recipes to get them through all those days. Today many Greeks unfortunately do not fast, but these vegetarian dishes continue to be part of their diet.
Before you think that these recipes are just too time consuming or difficult, there are plenty of Greek vegetarian recipes that require only a few minutes preparation. I often use frozen vegetables, which maintain much of their nutritional value, add the tomato and onion and I’m done. Check out the next post for 3 easy Greek vegetarian recipes that require only 10 minutes preparation and are ready in less than an hour.