October is Vegetarian Month and the perfect time to focus on adding more plants to your plate. Vegetables add color to your meals and offer a variety of vitamins, including vitamin C, which can help enhance your immune system as we enter cold and flu season. Vegetables also provide fiber, a nutrient the Dietary Guidelines report many American’s aren’t getting enough of.
While vegetables offer many health benefits, many do not provide much protein and benefit from being paired with a complete protein like dairy to create a balanced diet. Dairy foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese are the perfect way to incorporate high-quality protein into flexitarian and vegetarian diets. They also provide calcium, potassium, and vitamin D, essential nutrients many American diets fall short on. Paired together, vegetables and dairy make a superfood power couple!
Speaking of power couples, registered dietitian Patricia Petitt and her husband, pediatrician Dr. Bruce Petitt, recently shared how they encourage eating vegetables and dairy together both at home and in the clinic.
“There are so many simple ways to pair dairy with vegetables to make a healthy meal at home,” said Patricia. “My favorite quick, easy and nutritious dinner is a baked potato prepared in the microwave and topped with 1 tablespoon of butter, ¼ cup of extra sharp cheddar cheese, ½ cup of pinto or black beans, ½ cup of broccoli, and 1 dollop of plain yogurt to top it off. Delightfully easy, this power meal is packed with essential nutrients: protein, calcium, riboflavin, and vitamin D from dairy and iron, fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C from the vegetables.”
“When talking to parents of picky eaters, I recommend pairing cheese with vegetables,” said Dr. Petitt. “Adding tomatoes to cheese quesadillas and black beans for extra protein, or making a simple veggie lasagna with eggplant, spinach, and cottage cheese are some meal ideas I share with parents to help children increase their vegetable consumption and ensure they are getting their recommended servings of dairy each day.”
Click here for more recipes to add dairy and vegetables to your plate.