Carrot sticks are good for you. We’ve known that forever. Right?
I can remember when I was just a little girl, being thin was really the “in” thing. I mean uber thin. Like Twiggy thin.
All the women were dieting so they could be thinner – even though most of them were pretty darned thin by today’s standards. It seems like half the teenage girls and women at that time were living on “diet platters” consisting mainly of carrot sticks, celery, and cottage cheese.
Carrot sticks were a dieter’s best friend. Everyone knew that they were low in calories, even though most of us had very little idea what a calorie was! Most of us didn’t understand that a calorie is just a measurement of energy. And we had no idea how many calories were in a healthy meal, let alone how many we needed to consume in a day.
We just had this vague idea that eating too many calories made you fat. So, of course, the best possible thing was to consume as few calories as we could. (Notice that nobody ever talked about our minimum caloric needs. But then again, this was before most of us had ever heard of eating disorders like anorexia. And malnutrition was something that happened in faraway places like Ethiopia – wherever that was!)
But let’s get back to the carrot sticks.
Carrots were supposed to be really low in calories. Nobody talked about them being very healthy (even though they are.) It was just important that, as food goes, they were low-cal. So eating lots of carrots was good for you. It could help to make you really skinny.
Girls as young as 7 or 8 were being asked if they could “pinch an inch” and were bombarded with messages about dieting to get thinner. Carrot sticks were one of the few foods we didn’t feel guilty about eating. So inevitably, they became the stuff of urban legends.
Some people said one carrot stick had only 5 calories.
I heard people say a carrot had 15 calories.
I even heard rumours that it took more calories to chew and digest the carrot than the vegetable actually supplied! This “negative calorie” myth was applied to several other veggies that are commonly eaten as a raw snack, though nobody ever came up with any actual support for it.
Never mind, though! The dieters wanted to hear stuff like this. It made them feel better about passing up the foods they really wanted to eat, in favour of their platters of rabbit food and curdled milk. And it made all the little girls feel there was at least one “safe” food that we wouldn’t be chastised for eating.
The Truth About Calories and Carrots
Despite all the hype, those carrot sticks really are good for you. A medium carrot has just 25 calories – a bit more than legend had it in the 70s, but still very reasonable. It has just the teensiest amount of polyunsaturated fat, no cholesterol or trans fat, and low sodium. It also supplies enough vitamin A for two whole days!
Carrots are a source of calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins C and B6. And one medium carrot fulfils the daily requirement that we eat one dark orange vegetable or fruit.
Carrots are one of the least expensive vegetables on your grocer’s shelf. They are versatile and they store well, and they are really easy to prepare. Raw carrots are the easiest, of course. Just wash them well and cut off the ends before eating (keep these for your soup bag, instead of throwing them away.) There’s no need to peel them unless the skins are really thick and nasty.
Carrot sticks are a great thing to have in your fridge. If they’re already prepared, you’ll be more likely to reach for them instead of an unhealthy snack like chips. And your kids are more likely to pack them in their school lunches or to grab a handful when they’re hungry after school.
Some people worry that cutting carrots ahead of time will rob the carrots of vital nutrients. But actually, it’s not that bad. Prepare what you need for a few days at a time and store in an airtight container in the fridge. As long as you keep your carrots cool, and away from water and light, they’ll hold their nutrients pretty well.
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