Don’t ‘turnip’ your nose at these healthy veggies

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. She is also a member of the St. Louis Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

Summer Soul Food: that is my new term for the abundance of produce exploding on the scene this time of year. Everyone looks forward to the summer months, when it is easy to take advantage of the variety of nutrient-packed fruits in the produce aisle.  After all, what would summer be without a good old-fashioned watermelon seed-spitting contest… seconded only by cherry pits? Blueberries and blackberries, too, still top the list of fresh, delicious antioxidant choices.

Does anyone pay attention to the fresh vegetable aisles, with all of nature’s sweetness tied up in the fruit section?  Sadly, much nutrition gets overlooked when we turn up our noses at some of those long- forgotten veggies.  If your reason for walking right past some of these is due to preconceived childhood notions of “yucky-tasting” side dishes, pause and reconsider.  We have ways of making them delicious!

Cooked cabbage has always been a stinky undertaking.  Granted, there is no denying this fact!  However, at a mere 22 calories a cup, packing high doses of fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin K, we really ought to give this versatile veggie a second chance as adults.  Rather than boil it (or risk over-boiling it) and ending up with smelly slime, cabbage can be sautéed in olive oil to a level of sweetness never before anticipated.  Add in some thinly sliced apples, chopped yellow onion and rich apple cider, dash in some salt and pepper, and you have a delicious, nutritious side dish to accompany your next summer meal.

If firing up the backyard barbecue is on your agenda, consider grilling sliced heads of cabbage. Season the entire head, including the stem; slice thickly; drizzle with olive oil and add your favorite spices (oregano, rosemary, garlic salt, etc.)  Place the slices directly on the grill rack.  The smokiness complements the tartness of the vegetable while roasting out all the bitterness, leaving this often- overlooked option redolent with flavor.


Turnips had always been among my late mother’s favorite root vegetables. Growing up, my sister and I refused to try them.  Perhaps we were stubborn.  However, many individuals find it challenging to get past the bitterness, derived from a compound called cyanoglucosides. There is actually a gene that confers a predilection to hypersensitivity to this chemical, so perhaps we might have used that as an excuse, had we known!  What we were missing out on, though, was a fabulous source of folate, and Vitamins A, C and K.

If adulthood has mellowed your childhood taste preferences and you are willing to give turnips another try, they can be deliciously prepared as a mashed dish. Simply boil the vegetables until they are soft, and transfer them to a blender or food processor. Meanwhile, sautee yellow onions in low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth.  Pop these into the food processor, along with freshly minced garlic, a bit of olive oil, and a healthy dose of black pepper.  Hit the “Blend” button and puree the mixture until it is smooth, the consistency of mashed/whipped potatoes.  Serve with a sprinkle of parsley and Parmesan cheese, and watch your family flip…and ask for seconds!

No matter what your culinary goals are – nutrition, ease of preparation, calorie-conscious — these 2 vegetables are ready to help you step up your game this season!