EATING LOCAL - County report on diet choices disheartening

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A Feb. 17 article in the Union-Bulletin, a summary of the recently published Walla Walla County Heath Report, caught my eye. As I browsed the results, I was surprised to learn that only 20 percent of local adults eat the recommended five servings a day of fruits and vegetables. And that number is down from 35 percent in 2007, and lower than the state average of 25 percent.

I want to say I'm shocked, but I'm really not.

I think about the people I know, whom I've chatted with about food, how they struggle with getting a homemade dinner on the table and how they run out of healthful meal ideas.

And I think about my own family, coming home late and rushing to get dinner prepared. We're average people with busy schedules like everyone else. We know what healthy is, but don't always get a vegetable in with every meal.

We all know it's difficult, but can't just accept this as the way it is. Maybe all we need is a little inspiration and a game plan.

In my career as a personal chef one of the most popular requests was interesting fresh vegetable salads. This tells me that trying to get the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in a day is a challenge for more than Walla Walla County.

Cooking for others over the years has taught me a trick to meeting our nutritional needs: plan ahead, make a variety of different salads and have them ready to go in the fridge for snacks and mealtime.

Following are some of my favorite vegetable salad combinations. Listed are simply the ingredients. Use your best judgment with cutting and cooking techniques, amount of dressing and ingredients used. Most of these dishes will keep in the fridge for a week, while other need to be eaten within a couple days, as the acid will wilt and breakdown some fragile ingredients.

Cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, thin sliced onion, parsley, olive oil and red wine vinegar

Fennel, red bell pepper, grapefruit, orange, lime zest and juice

Spinach, white bean, tomato, cucumber, parsley, olive oil, pepper

Blanched asparagus, lemon zest, olive oil, salt

Blanched green beans, pine nuts, butter

Roasted eggplant and tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar

Jicama, red bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, lime juice

Shredded cabbage, carrots, snow peas, cilantro or parsley, lemon juice, peanuts

Celery, parsley, lemon zest and juice

Beets, arugula, goat cheese, walnuts

Steamed broccoli and carrots, lemon zest, olive oil

Snap peas, red bell pepper, cilantro, bean sprouts, peanuts, soy sauce, chili oil

Rice or couscous with shredded carrot, spinach, diced cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil

Roasted tomatoes with olive, caper, basil, lemon zest, olive oil

Salt and rosemary roasted baby potatoes

Blanched kale with chili sauce, ginger, garlic

Shaved zucchini with arugula, Pecorino, almonds, lemon juice, olive oil

Roasted pumpkin or squash, snow peas, chili paste, mint, lemon juice, olive oil

Golden beet and blood orange, red onion, mint, white wine vinegar, olive oil

Braised red cabbage with onion, red wine, balsamic vinegar

Chop salad with radish, cabbage, green bean, celery, green onion, lemon, olive oil

Roasted cauliflower with lemon zest, parsley, olive oil

Corn salad with cilantro, red bell pepper, green onion, lime, olive oil

Sauteed kohlrabi with butter, dill, garlic

Shaved radish, watercress, fennel, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic

It saddens me to see fewer people consuming recommended amounts of health-serving fruits and vegetables. With so much information out there, the benefit of fresh foods is well known and understood.

But actually getting those foods into our homes and tummies is another thing. Hopefully, with this list of delicious salad ideas, we will find more people, my family included, meeting their dietary needs.

And maybe the next Health Report will have better news. A girl can dream.

Melissa Davis, a local chef with a bachelor's degree in nutrition, specializes in natural foods. She can be reached at jadenluna@gmail.com. More of her writing is at www.melissadavisfood.wordpress.com.

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