Ask the nutritionist: Don't count on veggie wraps for nutrition boost

Updated 12/27/2012 12:02 PM
  • Red and green tortilla chips are really no healthier than the white or yellow varieties.

    Red and green tortilla chips are really no healthier than the white or yellow varieties. Thinkstock

Q. Are the green and orange colored tortilla wraps more nutritious than regular tortillas since they are made with vegetables?

A. No. So little spinach and tomatoes are used to make spinach and tomato tortillas that the nutritional difference between colored and regular tortillas is negligible. The 4 to 6 percent of daily value for vitamin A or C that may be found on labels of some of these specialty tortillas is not enough to qualify them as a good source of these nutrients.

It's more important to choose tortillas that are made from whole grain and not refined flour, and to pay attention to calorie differences stemming from tortilla size and the amount of fat added.

Make vegetables a major part of the filling, and perhaps have an extra salad to accompany your wrap to get the important nutritional value vegetables provide.

Q. You talk about changing the proportions of meat and vegetables in stews and casseroles to make them more healthful. How do I do that to my favorite recipe?

A. Start with your usual stew or casserole recipe and check how much meat, chicken or seafood it contains. If the recipe calls for more than 2 or 3 ounces per person, reduce the amount.

For dishes that contain dried beans, you can reduce the meat even further or omit it completely because beans are good sources of protein and key minerals that meat provides. If your recipe doesn't contain beans, feel free to add them anyway. Aim for about a cup of cooked beans per serving.

Next, increase the amount of vegetables to make up for the amount of meat you eliminate. If the recipe calls for only a few vegetables, add one or two other vegetables for better variety and more nutrients. Aim for at least a cup -- preferably one cup or more -- of vegetables per serving. You may need to add a little more broth, tomato sauce or other liquid in the dish to keep the same consistency.

If you need ideas, check plant-focused recipes like those at the American Institute for Cancer Research. You can use them as is, or feel free to play with them, making a sort-of hybrid between something that's been your usual and the healthier, more plant-based dish.

• Provided by the American Institute for Cancer Research.

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