Tag Archives: Vegetarian

Boost Your Vegetable Intake in Four Easy Steps

Macaroni and cheese, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, steak and potatoes, Thanksgiving dinner: these are the answers you’ll likely hear when you ask almost any American what her favorite meal is. What do they all have in common? They’re all based off of huge portions of starchy carbs and protein — and don’t include a vegetable in sight. Even vegetarians’ and vegans’ favorite dishes — lasagna, enchiladas, grilled cheese — are sorely lacking in produce. And despite the urging of nutritionists and dietitians everywhere to eat more vegetables, only 23% of American meals include a serving of vegetables in their dinner.

But according to a recent study published in Public Health Nutrition, adding vegetables to your meals won’t just add valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamins and antioxidants — it actually makes those meals taste better. In the study, subjects rated dishes that included a vegetable as significantly higher on dimensions like “tasty” and “complete.” In addition, when a vegetable was included in a meal, subjects rated the meal preparer as more thoughtful, attentive, and capable. Overall, participants believed that vegetables  “made the meal.”

Even though the study didn’t focus on the nutritional benefits of vegetables, this research indicates that adding vegetables to a main course makes diners perceive both the cook and the meal as more enjoyable. So how can you add vegetables to your favorite meals?

Sneak them in:
If you (or your children) don’t enjoy vegetables enough to get the recommended three to five servings per day, try sneaking them into your favorite foods. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects who ate comfort food meals enhanced with pureed vegetables doubled their vegetable intake, perceived the meals as more satiating, and cut their calorie intake by up to 360 calories.

  • Add grated squash, carrots, eggplant or zucchini to pasta sauces and casseroles
  • Add pureed cauliflower or butternut squash to macaroni and cheese; their mild flavors are lost in the cheesy sauce, but they add fiber and vitamins to a nutritionally empty meal
  • Add mild-tasting vegetables — like carrot, squash, cucumber, and zucchini — to fruit-based smoothies and drinks
  • Add pureed pumpkin to muffins, pancakes and quickbreads in place of half of the oil called for (muffins and quickbreads still count as dessert — but at least you’re getting some nutrition out of them!)
  • Add chopped mushroom to burgers; their meaty texture and flavor will displace some of the meat, cutting out calories and saturated fats

Put them on top:
Bump up your favorite meals by adding vegetables on top (or under or inside). No matter what you’re having — pizza, pasta, burgers, soup — there’s a way to add vegetables to the main dish (as opposed to eating them as a separate side).

  • Add chopped veggies to your morning omelet
  • Add any vegetables you can to your pizza. Either go for a traditional veggie pizza, or try these interesting combinations: olives, sundried tomatoes, and spinach; fennel, roasted tomatoes, and artichoke hearts; or butternut squash, mushroom, caramelized onions, and arugula
  • Serve your soup over a bowl of greens; the steaming broth will wilt the greens, making them just another fiber- and vitamin-rich component of the soup
  • Dress up a burger with more than just romaine, tomato slices, and red onion: try avocado and mango salsa; pineapple and beets (popular in Australia); or roasted red bell peppers and basil


Add tasty sides:
Serve these as sides in addition to the main meal, or serve them as appetizers or hors d’oeuvres for a gathering.

Make them the main course:
Instead of relying on proteins or starches as the basis of your meal (even if they’re vegetarian, like tofu or beans), make vegetables the main event in your meal. The USDA recommends that adults get between 10% to 35% of their calories from protein, which equals out to 46 grams for women and 56 grams of men (although other factors come into play, like if you’re an athlete or if you’re pregnant). A three ounce piece of chicken contains 21 grams of protein (almost half of the daily recommended amount for a female) compared with more than 50 grams for a restaurant-sized piece of meat, so you’ll still get plenty of protein when you plan your meal around veggies.

  • Veggie stir-fry: let snap peas, snow peas, bell pepper, broccoli, mushrooms, bok choy, and carrots take center stage; add protein with a small amount of tofu, chicken or shrimp
  • Hearty salads: add bulk to your typical spinach or romaine salad with roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, beans, lentils, asparagus, beets, edamame, and fruit
  • Vegetable curry: instead of building your vegetarian curry around chickpeas, lentils, tofu or potatoes, use bulky vegetables — zucchini, squash, broccoli, and mushrooms — as the base
  • Minestrone soup, vegetable chili, butternut squash soup
  • Shakshouka: cook eggs in a mix of tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, and spinach

 

Meatless Monday: Hummus and Tabbouleh Salad

How do you ensure that your Meatless Monday-inspired salad — without chicken or salmon, of course — provides enough protein to rebuild tired muscles? Add two protein-rich vegetarian (and in this case, vegan) foods: hummus and quinoa. The refreshing flavors from tabbouleh and the creamy taste of hummus combine for a truly flavorful meal — with no need for extra salad dressings.

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
Pinch of salt
2 cups chopped parsley
½ – 1 cup chopped mint
1 ½ cups chopped seedless cucumber
½ – 1 cup chopped tomato
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice, or more to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional
Hummus
Mixed Greens

Method:

1. Rinse the quinoa to remove any saponin, which can make it taste bitter. Add quinoa and two cups of water to a saucepan; bring to a boil. Add salt; reduce heat and cover for about 15 minutes.

2. Turn off heat; let quinoa stand for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Let cool.

3. Add quinoa, parsley, mint, cucumber, and tomato to a mixing bowl; mix until combined.

4. Add olive oil and lemon juice, plus salt and pepper to taste. Chill until serving.

5. Toss mixed greens with olive oil, if using. Top with tabbouleh and hummus.

Why Should You Eat This?

Going meatless – even if it’s just once a week — has major health and environmental payoffs (it can reduce your saturated fat intake by 15%, enough to reduce the risk of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and obesity; in terms of the environment, it greatly reduces our carbon footprint).

By replacing the typical bulgur used in traditional tabbouleh recipes with quinoa, the protein content is boosted dramatically: quinoa contains 8 grams per serving, compared to bulgur’s 4 grams. Quinoa also contains more copper, magnesium, phosphorus, folate, zinc, and iron; it’s also gluten-free. (But don’t discount bulgur: it contains about half the calories of quinoa, cup for cup, and boasts more fiber).

What quinoa lacks in fiber, hummus makes up for: chickpeas are rich in slow-digesting complex carbohydrates that help maintain steady blood sugar levels, reduce hunger, and promote satiety. And even with its rich, creamy taste, almost all of the fat it contains come from healthy sources, like olive oil and tahini, that provide omega-3 fatty acids.

Meatless Monday: Chickpea Tagine

Originally hailing from North Africa, a tagine is a slow-cooked stew made with meat, vegetables, or legumes and seasoned with aromatic ingredients like olives, apricots, ginger, dates, nuts, herbs, and lemons. Most use a variety of spices, including cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, cumin, paprika, saffron, and pepper. This recipe is vegetarian, but because of its long simmering time and intense spice blend, it’s plenty hearty for carnivores. Chickpeas are a complete protein (with 8 grams per half cup), but you can bump the protein up even more by serving the dish over barley, farro, or other whole grains.

Ingredients
Olive oil
1 white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, mashed
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 carrots, chopped into coins
4 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 – 2 cups vegetable stock (more or less depending on thickness)
2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cinnamon
10 dried apricots, halved
Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
1 lemon (zest and juice)
Chopped parsley
Salt and pepper, to taste
Kale

Method
Heat a large pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onion; saute until soft. Add garlic and half of ginger.

Add chickpeas, carrots, tomatoes, vegetable stock, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and apricot halves.

Cover and simmer for 30 minutes (add more vegetable stock if it gets too thick). Add lemon zest, rest of garlic, and juice.

Simmer 5 more minutes, or longer if softer texture is desired.Serve over a bed of kale (or your favorite green) and garnish with parsley.


Why Should You Eat This?

Going vegetarian just once a week can have major health payoffs. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, eliminating meat from your diet just one day of the week can reduce your saturated fat intake by 15%, which is significant enough to deter the development of “lifestyle diseases” like heart attacks, strokes, and cancer. Limiting meat intake can also fend off obesity and increase longevity. But going meatless just once a week has a huge environmental impact, as well: according to the Environmental Defense, if every American substituted a meat-based meal for a plant-based one each week, the carbon dioxide emission savings would be equivalent to taking half a million cars off the road for one day.

Chickpeas are high in fiber and protein, making them a great pick for regulating blood sugar, increasing satiety, and decreasing total caloric intake. If you’re a snacker and processed foods are your weakness, add this legume to your diet: a study published in the journal Appetite found that participants who supplemented their diet with chickpeas decreased their consumption of high-calorie, low-fiber snack foods.

The turmeric and chickpeas in this meal contribute an advantageous blend of antioxidants to the dish: curcumin, found in turmeric, and quercetin, found in chickpeas (as well as onions and garlic) have been found to reduce the size and quantity of precancerous lesions in the digestive tract. Chickpeas also contain the phytonutrients kaempferol, myricetin, ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid as well as molybdenum, manganese, and iron.

30 Days to Better Health: Part IV

23. Add yogurt to your diet. If you’re not already eating yogurt regularly, start today: research shows that it improves digestion, strengthens the immune system, lowers cholesterol, protects against osteoporosis, promotes fat loss, and may reduce the risk of ulcers, arthritis, and colorectal cancers. Yogurt’s health-boosting properties come mainly from its probiotics (the live and active cultures like Lactobacillus acidophilus) and calcium content. In numerous studies, high calcium intake is correlated with lower body fat accumulation; it does so by limiting the ability of fat cells to store fat. Look for yogurt with “live and active cultures” on the label to get the most benefit, and avoid fruit-on-the-bottom flavors or brands with added sugars.

24. Think of food in terms of its nutrient density. If you think of food as fuel your body can use – to repair damaged skin cells, to power you through a workout – instead of simply in terms of taste, you’ll naturally begin to choose healthy, functional foods. Compare 100 calories of an avocado and 100 calories of candy: in terms of just numbers, avocado might lose out because it has much more fat. Even so, the avocado will give you lasting power until lunch, while the candy will immediately spike your blood sugar and then send you into a crash, leaving you more hungry and more irritable than before. But food can do more than keep you satiated. The lycopene found in tomatoes, watermelon, and papaya, for example, literally adds SPF to your skin by preventing DNA damage from the sun. And research shows that a balanced diet of healthy fats, fruits and vegetables, fiber and lean protein can reduce the risk of heart disease by up to 80% – a number that is certainly tangible.

25. Embrace carbs (of the whole grain variety). Ever since the Atkin’s Diet, an eating plan that emphasizes protein and fat and places the weight gain blame on carbohydrates, Americans have come to fear carbs. In a refined flour and stripped-of-their-nutrients state and in vast quantities, carbs can lead to blood sugar spikes and dips that leave you fatigued, moody, and hungry for more. But whole grains are as much a part of a healthy diet as vegetables, fruits, omega-3s, and proteins. Whole grains contain filling fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, and selenium. Whole grains may also be the key to happiness: whole grains trigger the release of serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood. Look for breads and cereals that contain 100% whole grains; lables like multigrain, 10-grain, and wheat only signify the presence of some whole grains. Breads that are brown in appearance may also be deceitful: food manufacturers use caramel coloring and molasses to tint their loaves, making them appear whole grain.

26. Give in to your cravings…every once in a while. Cravings range from mild to all-encompassing. When a craving strikes, give yourself 15 minutes to try and forget about it (go for a walk, call a friend, read a book). If it passes, your craving was likely a consequence of boredom. If it doesn’t, give yourself permission to have a reasonable portion of the good stuff. By allowing yourself an indulgent treat every so often, you maintain power over your diet by making the conscious decision to eat your treat without guilt. A study from Tufts University found that those who gave in to their cravings were better able to manage their weight than those who always deny their cravings, most likely because abstainers go overboard when they do lose control. When you really crave something, give yourself the green light to enjoy the real thing. If you crave ice cream, don’t settle for no-sugar-added fro-yo; get a cup of real, full-fat ice cream.

27. Experiment with grains. Wheat toast for breakfast; cornbread with your chili at lunch; fish served over rice for dinner. If you’re like most Americans, you’re most likely restricting your grain intake to wheat, rice, and corn. But these grains are often highly refined, removing most of the fiber, B vitamins, and up to 90% of its vitamin E. Next time you’re in the bulk foods section, look for other grains like amaranth, quinoa, teff, kamut, farro, and buckwheat. Each supergrain (or seed) has a unique nutritional profile that contributes to the health benefits of eating whole grains: decreased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some type of cancers, as well as increased satiety and energy. Quinoa, for example, has two times the protein and eight times the fiber as white rice, and teff, a tiny grain native to Ethiopia, is high in calcium and iron.

28. Sub out sour cream for Greek yogurt and coconut milk. Greek yogurt and sour cream offer the same creamy tang, but with far different nutritional profiles: a ¼ cup dollop of sour cream adds 120 calories, 10 grams of fat (7 saturated), and 2 grams of protein; the same amount of Greek yogurt adds 37 calories, 1 gram of fat, and 5 grams of protein. By cutting out sour cream and using Greek yogurt instead, you can cut out unnecessary calories and fat and add muscle-building protein in dips, soups, burritos, pasta salads, and on baked potatoes. You can also use Greek yogurt as well as coconut milk – which helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and increases satiety – in baked goods like muffins, breads, and cakes to strip calories and add moisture.

29. Go meatless once a week. Even if it’s not a Monday, you’ll still benefit by cutting out meat every now and then. Numerous studies document the health benefits: a Harvard University study found that cutting out foods high in saturated fats, like red meat and full fat dairy, and replacing them with foods high in polyunsaturated fats (like nuts and seeds) can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 19%. Another study from Imperial College in London found that vegetarians and those on limited-meat diets had significantly lower body weights and BMIs; and numerous research points out that the consumption of red and processed meats is correlated with increased cancer and cardiovascular disease mortality. Cutting out meat also allows you to add otherwise forgotten beans, legumes, and other alternative sources of protein to your diet, which are nutritional powerhouses loaded with fiber, folate, zinc, potassium, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants.

30. Discover what other cultures are eating. Experimenting with different ethnic cuisines gives you the chance to cook with ingredients you wouldn’t otherwise use. Indian cuisine, for example, uses turmeric (one of the ingredients in curry) in many of its dishes. Turmeric acts as an anti-inflammatory to help control rheumatoid arthritis and other chronic illnesses; its active compound, curcumin, decreases the risk of cancer, improves liver function, and protects against cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative diseases. The Mapuche, the indigenous people of Chile and Argentina, regularly eat piñones, large, protein-rich pine nuts with a host of nutrients (iodine, manganese, copper, zinc, vitamin A, B complex vitamins, and alpha-linolenic acid) and maqui, berries that have more than three times the antioxidant capacity of açai berries. You can also benefit from the eating habits of different cultures as well. Instead of stuffing yourself every night, practice hara hachi bu, a Japanese phrase that means “eat until you’re 80% full.” Experiment with international recipes to discover tasty and healthy new ingredients and to develop healthier eating habits.