Meatless Monday: Start National Nutrition Month with a Visit from the Veggie Queen

03/02/2015 08:37 am ET | Updated May 02, 2015

March is National Nutrition Month, and we're kicking it off with a visit from the queen -- the Veggie Queen, Jill Nussinow. Every month's nutrition month for Nussinow, registered dietician, cookbook author, pressure cooker princess and beloved instructor at healing spots including the McDougall Center and Rancho La Puerta. Her new book "Nutrition CHAMPS" means every month can be nutrition month for you, too. And it can be a good time. "Food should be pleasurable."

Nussinow doesn't tell her students -- or you -- what to eat. "We don't all need the same things. Our bodies run on different foods." Some foods, though, are more nutrient-dense than others. "They're really healing foods. They bring so much to the table." They're Nussinow's nutrition champs. CHAMPS stands for:

Cruciferous Vegetables
Herbs and Spices
Pulses (beans, peas and lentils)
Seeds and Nuts


"Nutrition CHAMPS" offers the lowdown on these plant-based whole foods and 200 delicious ways to get more of them into you more often. Oh, but you say, you already eat like a nutrition champ. At least you think you do.

Nussinow groans. "People think they're doing well, but they don't understand." She's been there. "In high school, I woke up one day and realized, hmm, I eat every single and and nobody has taught me a thing about a food. Maybe I should learn a little about this."Nussinow researched a lot on her own and eventually got her masters degree in nutrition. Her books including "The Veggie Queen" and "The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks" show the woman knows from nutrition.

Nussinow wanted something different with "Nutrition CHAMPS," though, something "more collaborative." While half of the recipes are hers, she also invited more than 40 vegan and nutrition peeps including Chef AJ , Miyoko Schinner, Fran Costigan, Robin Asbell and um, me, to provide recipes rich in Nutrition CHAMPS. "There's so many people doing such great work, providing such good information," says the Veggie Queen. "I really wanted a way to showcase them. It felt good to do that."

Cooking and eating your way through "Nutrition CHAMPS" will make you feel good, too. "I want people to realize their health and happiness go together. If you are not healthy, you cannot have true happiness," she says. "You're suffering." This doesn't mean a life of steamed broccoli. That'd be suffering, too. "I'd be gagging," admits Nussinow. "Steamed broccoli is okay but what if you added some chopped up walnuts and lemon zest and lemon juice? Now you've got something you can eat."

Health, happiness and pleasure all come from Nutrition CHAMPS. A little, though, should come from you."You can buy all this frozen and prepared stuff, but what you cook is going to be better. When you cook for yourself, when you have that intention of nourishing yourself, you get it back when you eat it." Nussinow pauses."I'm from California, I can say anything."

Nussinow's pressure cooker recipes mean "everyone has time to cook," including one of her students, a long haul trucker. "He cooks his food in the cab of his truck. If he can do it, other people can do it," she says. "Really, what could be more of a priority than taking care of yourself?" And what better way to celebrate National Nutrition Month?


Balsamic-Glazed Roasted Root Vegetables

Recipe reprinted by permission from "Nutrition CHAMPS" by Jill Nussinow, copyright 2014.

serves 8 to 10

2 onions, cut into quarters
10 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
1 medium celery root, peeled, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
3 small turnips, peeled and cut in half to about 2-inch pieces
1 to 2 Japanese or regular sweet potatoes (not yams), peeled and cut into 3-inch pieces
1 cup winter squash, peeled and cut into 2-inch cubes
2 to3 potatoes, cut into quarters, about 2-inches
1 to 2 white or gold beets, peeled and cut into quarters (optional)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
3 sprigs rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
2 tablespoons neutral oil
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh or dried rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all the vegetables in a large glass baking dish. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and toss well. Add the herb sprigs. Be sure that the vegetables are spread out so that they roast and not steam. Use more than one baking dish if you need to. Cover the dish. Bake for 40 minutes.

Remove the cover and check vegetables for tenderness. Continue cooking for for another 5 minutes, if necessary, or until the vegetables are done but not mushy. Remove the herb sprigs and add salt and pepper.

While the vegetables are cooking, combine the neutral oil, maple syrup, balsamic vinegar and rosemary in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high heat for about 5 to 10 minutes until thickened and syrupy. Pour over the vegetables right before serving and stir to combine. Serve hot on a large platter.