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Matt’s Morsels: Green with envy for those vegetables

Matthew Wallace | Staff Columnist

Vegetables, veggies, that green stuff. Whatever you call it, plants have a crucial role in human diet and are critical in keeping us healthy. But people don’t eat enough of them, why is that? Taste derails many at a young age, availability hinders millions who live in food deserts and many more simply don’t see how important they are in maintaining a working body. College students are especially vulnerable to not getting enough of the green stuff in their diet, so I will use today to show you not only how to make vegetables taste great, but also how they can improve your body and budget.

1. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are commonly used unfairly as the scapegoat for unappetizing vegetables. I won’t lie to you, I did not eat a single one until I was 23, but once it happened, my life changed forever. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and rinse your Brussels sprouts. Always run food under cold water to clean off anything that may still be on it from harvest to packaging. Combine some oil (anything that won’t smoke too much) and whatever seasonings you desire and toss your sprouts in the mixture. Cook in the oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway to get all sides crispy and delicious.

Asset 6Illustration by Brandon Wilburn

2. Broccoli and Cauliflower

Are they little trees? How long do I have to cook them for? Can I season them or are they only healthy when they taste like studying while all your friends at state schools go out and enjoy their weekends? All questions we have asked at some point about these two vegetables that look like half brothers. Surprise, they are the same species with some slight variation! Either way, these funny looking foods can make any pasta next level. Rinse them off and add to a pot with a small amount of water. The goal is to steam them to cook completely while retaining that oh-so-satisfying crunch. Periodically poke them with your fork to check if they have reached your desired doneness and then add to pasta, mac and cheese or any food that needs some color.

Asset 3Illustration by Brandon Wilburn

3. Spinach

First of all, Popeye is a liar and a horrible spokesperson for spinach. It should never come from a can (although when making chili, canned vegetables are a great way to keep it affordable and healthy-ish) and should be prepared with care. When cooked, spinach wilts until an entire bag shrinks to the size that fits in a large cup. Be sure to take this into consideration when buying and deciding how you wish to use your spinach. For my tastes, I like to add a little oil to a pan, add the spinach and let it wilt down until it doesn’t shrink anymore. Add it to something or season it a little to eat it alone, and you’ve got a great source of iron in your diet.

Asset 1Illustration by Brandon Wilburn

4. Fresh Green Beans

When I was a young lad, I hated green beans. They came from a can and nothing about them made it anything other than that disgusting green mush I was forced to eat. But eating them fresh is a whole new ball game. Either steamed, baked or thrown in a pan, fresh green beans will be an excellent contribution to your meal. No need to add them to an existing dish, just rinse, cook and season for this lean mean green machine.

Asset 4Illustration by Brandon Wilburn

5. Asparagus

This is the trickiest vegetable to cook properly. Asparagus is at its best when it still has a satisfying snap when you bite into it, but it will quickly soften if not eaten shortly after done cooking. Some people like that, but most don’t, so be sure to time your cooking to get these on the plate right before you eat. You can oil and season the asparagus before you cook them so these can be prepared before anything else and ignored until the end. Be creative with your seasonings to find out what combinations you like. Pan sear them until the fork check passes your test.

Asset 5Illustration by Brandon Wilburn

Your budget as a college student is probably tight with food sometimes not being the main priority, which causes less nutritious choices for the sake of paying rent. Bringing more vegetables into your diet will not only keep your body full of the vital nutrients it needs to perform at the highest levels, but it also fills your stomach without draining your wallet. I’m the last person who would advocate for a no meat or cheese diet, but something as simple as substituting 20 percent of your meat with some leafy greens will leave you with more of the other kind of green. Being strategic with what you fuel your body with is crucial to keeping off the freshman 15, excelling in class and keeping a little extra cash for more fun activities.