Summer is filled with the smells of happiness wafting through the air: suntan lotion, salt water, fresh seasonal fruits and veggies cooking on the grill. These summer fruits and veggies not only taste juicy and delicious, they are packed with antioxidants and a plethora of vitamins that contribute to disease prevention. Pulse spoke with Chef AJ—a chef, culinary instructor, author and co-producer of Healthy Taste of LA, an annual event in Redondo Beach—to bring you some fun facts about these wonderful produce.
Pulse: What are some healthy ways to prepare vegetables?
Chef AJ: I think the healthiest ways to prepare veggies are raw in salads or lightly steamed without added fat like butter, oil, cheese or salt.
Pulse: Does the same go for fruits?
AJ: Yes. Fresh, raw fruit is best. It is always superior to eat your food whole and unprocessed.
Pulse: Are there any methods of preparation that should be avoided when cooking fruits and vegetables?
AJ: Frying for sure, and dousing healthy veggies in high-fat toppings. I also avoid all processed sugars when using fruit and use only fruits like dates or pears to sweeten.
Pulse: What are the healthiest oils to use when sautéing vegetables?
AJ: In my opinion and that of many medical doctors, there are no healthy oils, as they all are 4,000 calories per pound and contain no fiber or nutrients and contribute to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. It is easy to dry-sauté veggies, water-sauté or use liquids like no-sodium vegetable broth, water, fruit or vegetable juice—or even wine. You can also use waterless cookware.
Pulse: What are some unexpected ways to prepare fruits and veggies?
AJ: I like to use a dehydrator and make them into chips. You can make delicious healthy chips out of carrots, beets and sweet potatoes and fruit leathers without added sugar.
Pulse: Do you have any tips for getting kids to eat their vegetables?
AJ: Don’t feed them unhealthy, sugar-laden, processed foods, and they will develop a taste for veggies early on. Hide the veggies in foods like soups and green smoothies.
Pulse: What are your favorite in-season summer fruits and veggies?
AJ: My favorite is something called the Sugar Kiss Melon. It’s an insanely sweet cantaloupe that is guaranteed sweet.
Pulse: Do you have any tips for keeping fruits and veggies fresh?
AJ: Yes, eat them every day, several times a day, so they don’t go bad! Those green bags also help.
To view Chef AJ’s entire “Food Is Medicine” lecture online, visit torrancememorial.org/ChefAJ