Israel has been called the land of milk and honey, but after a week there, I began thinking of it as a vegetable oasis. Delicious vegetables, including beans and lentils, are the stars of most meals.
The first vegetable experience was picking beets with the community organization Leket.
Leket Israel’s mission is not merely to provide food to Israel’s needy but to deliver fresh, nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste. It rescues 22 million pounds of fruits and vegetables each year and has a weekly distribution to more than 140,000 people.
Eating fruits and vegetables improves health and ultimately lowers health care costs. I hope our government keeps nutritious food in mind as it revises the food stamp (SNAP) program.
The Israeli breakfast is a banquet of vegetables. At a hotel breakfast there are at least 15 veggie choices. Compare this to the typical simple-carb American breakfast of cereal, bagel or pancakes.
Starting the day with a cup of vegetables boosts potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and K. If one of those morning veggies is beans, at least 20 percent of fiber requirements are met.
Breakfasts here also included fresh sardines and salmon for protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Eggs are also on the menu. They pair well with all vegetables and are a good source of choline, selenium, iron and vitamin A.
Research by Dr. Barbara Rolls of Penn State demonstrated that eating fluid-filled foods such as a salad reduces the amount of food eaten at a meal while maintaining satiety. I saw this in action at a Jaffa restaurant, where lunch began with eight salads. I was with some hearty eaters, and even they suggested we skip the main course because they felt full.
The bottom line is to discover creative ways to add vegetables to every meal. For tips on shopping, cooking, storing and much more, go to fruitandveggiesmorematters.org.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine.