To the delight of elementary school children and college frat boys everywhere, pizza can officially be considered a valid part of an everyday diet.

Congress declared pizza – or, more specifically, the tomato paste on pizza – a vegetable this past Monday, after it finalized a version of a spending bill that would reverse the Agriculture Department’s proposal of healthier school lunches.

Potatoes (read: french fries) were also on the edge of extinction in the Agriculture Department’s proposition for school lunches that would ultimately limit sodium intake and push children to consume more whole grains and actual vegetables.

Thank goodness for the Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee, who saw error in the Agriculture Department’s plan of keeping children healthy.

While money is at the center of this school lunch fiasco (Republicans want to “prevent overly burdensome and costly regulations”), another driving force is the fear of government becoming too powerful. Conservative thought behind the regulation of school lunches finds fault with the government telling children what to eat.

Hey, here’s a thought: maybe if parents weren’t so quick to buy their kids a Happy Meal for dinner, then the government wouldn’t be so tempted to improve the nutritional quality of school lunches.

Luckily, as college-aged students, you can think for yourselves. Ditch the pizza and french fries in the dining hall and opt for some healthier options.

Here are some of the healthiest vegetables you can find, according to Incorporating these highly nutritious foods into your diet is the first step to a healthier you.

  • Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage): Not only are these vegetables packed full of anti-aging, cancer-fighting and immune-boosting qualities, but they also contain vitamins C and K, as well as potassium, calcium, iron and folic acid.
  •  Carrots: Your mom wasn’t lying when she told you carrots are good for your eyes. But the health benefits of carrots don’t stop at improving eyesight. They also protect against cancer and are a good source of vitamins A, B, C and K as well as fiber, potassium, magnesium and folate.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (Kale, Spinach, Swiss chard, Collard greens): My current favorite vegetable is kale, so I’m obviously a proponent of its inclusion on this list–I like to sauté it with some olive oil and garlic. These vegetables, aside from being delicious, are high in iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, carotenoids and B, C, E and K vitamins.
  • Tomatoes: As long as they’re not pureed, paired with oodles of sugar and used atop french fries, tomatoes are some of the healthiest vegetables around, filled with lycopene and vitamin C. (I don’t buy that they’re actually a fruit.)
  • Beans and Peas: A staple of any vegetarian’s routine, beans not only pack a protein punch for those who steer clear of meat, but they also contain fiber, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
  • Asparagus: In addition to the nutritional benefits of asparagus (it contains potassium, fiber and vitamins A, C, K and B), it can also help reduce weight, inflammation and even depression. Oh, and it’s delicious when roasted. Talk about a triple threat!
  • Allium foods (Garlic and Onions): Sure, Edward may not want to come around you after consuming some garlic with your dinner, but it’s really for the best. Plus, who needs a vampire when you can boost your immunity, reduce inflammation and fight infection from these antioxidant rich vegetables?
  • Sweet potatoes: As long as you don’t bathe them in butter and mix them with marshmallows, you’ll benefit from the nutritional benefits of these better starch options. Rich in carotenoids, vitamins A, B6 and C, as well as potassium, iron and fiber, sweet potatoes are best when made into oven-roasted french fries.
  • Bell peppers: Aside from adding a pop of color to any dish, peppers are also great sources of potassium, manganese, fiber and vitamins A, B, C and K.
  • Summer and winter squash: Rich in carotenoids, potassium, magnesium, fiber and vitamins A and C, squash is an extremely versatile vegetable; it can be added to just about anything. If you’re feeling culinary, try making a butternut squash risotto. Delicious!

–Amber Brenza

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