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Wegmans Food Markets is now carrying kits offering vegetables as replacements for pastas and rice in meals. The latest to join the produce department lineup are Sweet Potato Noodles, Beet Noodles and Butternut Squash Noodles. Featuring no grains, these thin spiral cuts of uncooked sweet potato, beet or butternut squash can be sautéed or roasted in a matter of minutes.
Also new is cauliflower “rice,” which can stand in for actual rice in such dishes such as beans and rice, or peppers stuffed with meat and rice, as well as being added cold to salads.
These items join Veggie Spaghetti (green and yellow zucchini and red bell pepper, cut in thin strands), and Veggie Noodle Kits (spiral cuts of green and yellow zucchini).
“Most Americans don’t eat enough vegetables,” acknowledged Wegmans Nutritionist Kirby Branciforte. “That’s true for both genders, across all age groups. Most people know they should eat more vegetables, and the kits make it easy to do that. I think the kits are here to stay, because the vegetables taste great in so many different preparations.”
Added Branciforte: “If you compare same-size portions of one of these veggies with a grain-based food like rice or pasta, the veggie serving will have about half of the calories. Of course, grain-based foods, especially those from whole grains, can also be part of a healthy diet. But these veggie kits are just one more way to help people keep a check on calories when they want to.”
“We’ve experimented with new ways to cut and finish vegetables so they pack a lot of taste appeal,” said Wegmans Produce Category Merchant Joe Pucci. “We started with squash planks -- squash cut the long way and thin, that you can grill or use to replace broad noodles in lasagna. That idea set off a chain reaction of new ideas from different areas of the company. Our Harrisburg team started making veggie spaghetti. Our New Jersey team came up with the cauliflower rice.”
Attributing the current flurry of interest in veggies among shoppers to the arrival of the Veggetti spiral vegetable slicer, Pucci noted that the new veggie offerings have been a hit with customers.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans operates 91 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.