Health experts consistently recommend that most Americans should try to eat more vegetables. For one reason or another, most people do not want to hear this advice, much less practice it.

When it comes to eating vegetables, raw or cooked really doesn’t seem to make a difference. Keep reading to learn about preparing vegetables in a way that may just change all thoughts about eating them.

To get rave reviews for serving vegetables at the next meal, try grilling them. Grilling vegetables is a good way to meet the health goal of eating more vegetables. The smoky smell and taste of vegetables cooked on the grill make them appealing to even the pickiest eater.

Common sense may lead us to think cooking decreases nutrients in vegetables. Interesting studies conducted at the Cornell University Department of Food Science by Rui Hai Liu determined cooking actually releases nutrients from the softened cell walls of many different vegetables. The release of these nutrients leads to better absorption and thereby contributes to better health.

For example, studies on human health suggest regular consumption of high levels of lycopene provides protection from certain cancers and may lower the risk of heart disease. When quartered tomatoes are cooked by simmering, roasting or grilling at 190 to 200 degrees for 30 minutes, the lycopene becomes up to 30 percent more concentrated and is more readily absorbed. Research also indicates the availability of the antioxidants and phenolic acid in asparagus increases when asparagus spears are cooked.

Ready to give grilled vegetables a try? Here’s how to do it:

• Clean and trim your favorite vegetable(s) and cut into bite-sized pieces or leave whole. Prepare sturdy salad greens (such as romaine, kale, baby bok choy or small head lettuces, like butter lettuce) by cutting in half or quarters.

• Oil the grill rack or grill basket. Dip a paper towel in olive or vegetable oil and wipe over the surfaces where the food will touch. Do not use cooking sprays.

• Toss the prepared vegetables in olive, corn or your favorite flavor-infused oil or drizzle the oil on the flat surface of lettuces to be grilled.

• Grill salad greens with the cut side down until smoky and wilted. Grill other vegetables by first considering the density of each. Potatoes, for instance, will require a longer grilling time than asparagus or tomatoes. If you choose a mixture of vegetables, start by grilling the more dense choices until almost tender, then add the rest of the vegetables until desired tenderness is reached, turning as needed for even cooking and browning.

• Using skewers or a grill basket is another option for perfectly grilled vegetables.

 

Grilled Asparagus and Carrot Spears

Ingredients:

Carrot-top gremolata

• 3 tablespoons carrot tops, or fresh parsley, minced

• 1 tablespoon olive oil

• 2 teaspoons garlic, minced

• 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Asparagus and Carrots

• 1 pound thin carrots with tops, peeled and trimmed (rinse and reserve the tops)

• 1 pound asparagus, trimmed

• Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

• Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

1. Prepare charcoal or gas grill with greased grill rack for direct cooking over medium heat.

2. Prepare carrot-top gremolata: In a small bowl, mix together carrot tops, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest. Set aside.

3. Halve carrots lengthwise. Lightly coat carrots and asparagus with cooking spray. Grill vegetables 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned and tender, turning once. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Serve sprinkled with carrot-top gremolata.

Carrot-top gremolata: In a small bowl, mix together 3 tablespoons of minced fresh carrot top (or 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley), 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 teaspoons minced garlic and 2 teaspoons lemon zest.

– Tracey Shaffer, RD, LD, is a  Hy-Vee dietitian at the Blue Springs location The information provided should not be construed as professional medical advice. Email her at tshaffer@hy-vee.com.