As a vegetablarian, salads represent a great vehicle for my desire to explore. My formula for exploring the art of making salads gives general guidelines to support a novice cook (or aspiring vegetablarian) in making salads at the same time that it offers the seasoned cook(or veteran vegetablarian) a framework to explore new salad options.Read More
You know I am a big fan of eating seasonally and since April brings in the peak season for asparagus, I am excited to bring them to my table this month with a few old AND new recipes. After reading these FUN facts about asparagus, I hope you'll also have more FUN with them this month.
- Get 'em now! Pick the ones that are firm and bright green with closed, firm (no mushy!) purple or dark green tips. When mature, asparagus are thicker which can be more tender, especially early in peak season - i.e. NOW! (http://news.psu.edu/story/186083/2000/03/27/skinny-asparagus-thicker-means-more-tender)
- Try something new! Although green is the most common color for asparagus, there is a more delicate white variety as well as a sweeter (higher sugar content) purple variety.
- Although I am generally an advocate for organically grown anything, asparagus is on the Environmental Working Group's "Clean 15" list of fruits and vegetables that are least likely to be contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals (http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/) which is great news if you don't have access to organics.
- Make it for date night! Asparagus is one of the most famous foods known as an aphrodisiac. This is partly because of its shape (!) and partly because of the nutrient content that leads to increased energy and reduced fatigue (http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/10-edible-aphrodisiacs/).
- Keep 'em moist! Asparagus are more perishable than many of their vegetable peers so eat them within 24-48 hours of purchasing. To best preserve them, keep them moist by trimming the ends and, a) standing them on the ends in water or, b) wrapping the ends in a damp cloth or paper towel, before storing in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic. You may have to use a peeler on very stalky, tough stems.
- That smell? One last thing...I bet you are wondering about that famous (or infamous) smell. You know, the one that everyone says can invade your pee when you eat asparagus? Well, it turns out that researchers still are not sure what exactly causes the odor (they have identified at least 21 potential sources!); as a result, they are not sure how many people actually CAN produce the odor. What clouds the issue even further is that many people do not have the ability to perceive the odor (http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140818-mystery-of-asparagus-and-urine). Either way, it does not affect asparagus' vegetable health benefits. Packed with nutrients such as folate and B vitamins, asparagus has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant (therefore anti-cancer!) benefits, supports your digestion (it's a prebiotic!), heart health, and regulation of blood sugar levels.
How to prepare? Of course, you can eat 'em raw and toss them into salads, pastas, casseroles, omelettes but here are some cooking preparation options too...
- Grill them over medium heat and add olive oil and lemon. Chopping? Do it after cooking.
- Roast them (400 - 500) with olive oil, lemon (slices or juice), mustard, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika or chili powder, and/or parmesan cheese (add just before done). (Wrap them with smoked salmon or prosciutto for a tasty vegetablarian treat! -http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/asparagus-and-smoked-salmon-bundles-recipe.html)
- Pan saute with 1/4-1/2 cup of water and lemon or broth.
Season to taste - just try to avoid the salt so that you get the natural diuretic effects. Here are a couple links to my favorite recipes: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/lemon_lovers_asparagus.html, http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/asparagus_baby_kale_caesar_salad.html
I hope you are now as excited about asparagus season as I am! How will you be bringing it to your table this month?
As a health educator AND vegetablarian, I get excited about National Nutrition Month as a perfect time to spread the word about and celebrate vegetablarianism in the context of overall good nutrition habits. The theme for this year is "Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right" so let's do just that this month.
How? Here are a few suggestions:
1) Consider the vegetables you enjoy the most and look for new recipes and preparations for them. Try something new until you find something you like and master it! Don't be afraid to add your own twist by combining new and old, adding some of your tried and true ingredients to a new recipe!
2) Try 1) above with a group of friends and do a new recipe tasting! Up the enjoyment quotient by adding a social aspect!
3) Do a vegetable audit on yourself. Remember, the "Eat Right" target is at least half your plate as fruits and vegetables. Focusing on vegetables each day, do a daily accounting of what proportion of your meals are vegetables and try to increase that proportion the next day. Another way to do this is to track the number of servings (approximate by using the palm of your hand - 1 hand =1 serving), and try to increase each day this month to at least 6-9 servings.
4) Enjoy! Take the time to enjoy your food. Pick your most vegetablarian meal each day and be sure you are a) seated, b) without distractions (e.g. television, technology), c) using all your senses, which includes taking the time to 1) enjoy the sight and smell of the food before eating, chewing fully and savoring the taste and texture with each bite.
5) Maximize the colors on your plate! Enjoy the taste of eating right by combining as many green and bright colored foods in your plate as possible! Dare yourself to have as many colors during this month as possible - green, purple, orange, red, Challenge your kids and put up a board to see how many you can eat this month!
If nothing else, use this month to think about how you can incorporate more healthful eating into your everyday life and lifestyle. Take this month to try a vegetablarian lifestyle with us! Stay tuned for more posts this month with ideas to take advantage of National Nutrition Month and "enjoying the taste of eating right!"
For more information and promotional and education materials, click on the link to the right for eatright.org.
Change your mindset and improve your health! Improving your health is usually about changing habits. Vegetablarians change the traditional habits of basing meals around protein or pasta and having vegetables as a side dish, afterthought, or requirement. Vegetablarians use vegetables to build a meal. In fact, according to myPlate, the Harvard Healthy Eating Plate and Pyramid, and the African American Heritage Pyramid, 1/2 (or more) of your plate should be vegetables (especially green, leafy); that sure sounds like the main portion! Just like a main course salad, switch it up and feature your vegetables as the highlight with protein (lean fish or poultry) or starch (brown rice, quinoa or potatoes) as "mere" accompaniments. The first step? When planning your next meal, skip that habit of thinking about which fish, chicken or pasta, and start with: what vegetable(s) do I want? Don't limit yourself to a single vegetable - mix it up with a fun medley! Any vegetables in season will likely taste the best and be easiest to find - use a seasonal vegetable guide for your area (see Regional, Seasonal Eating) - or, do what you feel and choose that vegetable you love and maybe haven't had in a while. Experiment with various ways of cooking it; you just might discover something new you want to keep in rotation!
For the up to 75% of Americans that are chronically dehydrated (http://miami.cbslocal.com/2013/07/02/chronic-dehydration-more-common-than-you-think/), vegetablarianism can help. Eating more vegetables is a great way to get up to 20% of the 10 glasses of water recommended daily by the Institute of Medicine. Dehydration is easy to reverse by drinking more water AND increasing vegetable intake. All vegetables are high in water content , but particularly those high in water content (> 90% water) are best for helping remedy the situation. Some great examples include: baby carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, zucchini, celery, green peppers, radishes, spinach, tomatoes, and yes, iceberg lettuce (http://www2.ca.uky.edu/enri/pubs/enri129.pdf). So, eat up...or should I say...drink up?!?! ;-)
One of the hardest parts of a healthy lifestyle is figuring out to start. That's what I love about vegetablarianism. It can be a baby step or a giant leap, whether you start fron "junk food junkie" or "eating healthy most of the time." That's because vegetablarianism does not require you to give up anything; the eventual strategy is to crowd unhealthy stuff out with healthy vegetables and fruits. "Baby steppers" can start by simply adding a small amount of vegetables to their existing diet as-is. "Giant leapers" can strive for an extremely significant increase in the proportion of vegetables in their diet. Becoming a strict vegetablarian, where you eat vegetables and other healthy foods to the exclusion of unhealthy foods, would be considered a giant leap for most. What is important about this is that research has proven that the most effective way to to achieve permanent behavioral change (for example in your behaviors around eating, especially eating healthy) is to create new habits slowly and incrementally. For this, vegetablarianism fits perfectly. It's easy to add a vegetable here and there, becoming gradually more and more conscious of eating more and more vegetables. It is also psychologically easier (read: creates less stress) to create positive change (eating more vegetables) than negative change (not eating something in your current diet).
So, if you are looking for a jumpstart to making a lifestyle change, join the vegetablarian movement! And take your baby step to a healthier lifestyle!
As a nutrition educator and someone who loves to cook, I have never been a big fan of being strict with recipes and not leaving room for some level of creativity. Maybe it's the part of me that learned from my grandmother that "real" cooks don't measure and cook to taste. At the same time, I know that there are those who do better with more guidance (not less) when it comes to cooking. To that end, when I help others learn to cook, I like to give guidelines without being too prescriptive, as the saying goes, teaching how to "fish" not just giving a fish. One of the guidelines I share and use myself is a "formula" recipe for any roasted vegetable (leafy vegetables not included)... The cook just has to plug in the vegetable and herb of choice... The "formula" recipe has 5 basic ingredients and 3 basic steps and is as follows:
ROASTED VEGETABLE RECIPE FORMULA =
+ + + +
VEGETABLE (fresh or frozen) +
OLIVE OIL (organic EVOO preferred) +
GARLIC AND/OR ONION +
HERB(S) OF CHOICE +
LEMON OR LIME
1) Preheat oven to 350 (or 375 for frozen).
2) Toss above ingredients in a roasting pan.
3) Roast in oven for at least 15 minutes (to desired tenderness).
Here are some favorite examples of my tried and true versions of the "formula"...YUM!
BROCCOLI + olive oil + garlic + red pepper flakes + lemon (HAD THIS TONIGHT!)
GREEN BEANS + olive oil + onions and garlic + parsley + lemon
CAULIFLOWER + olive oil + garlic + smoked paprika + lime
ZUCCHINI + olive oil + garlic and onions + curry + lime OR + white pepper + lime
Do you have a favorite version of the "formula?" Don't keep it a secret! Share yours!
YES! ... AND!... WHY NOT BOTH? I often get the question about raw vs cooked vegetables. The question usually goes something like this: "I hear raw is better. Is that true? Can I cook my vegetables and still be healthy?" Now, since every-body is different, my question back is often: "How do YOU like YOUR vegetables?" And, recently, I started thinking "why choose?" If you're cooking vegetables, you can always reserve some of the vegetables uncooked to serve on top of the cooked versions. In other words, why not have both?
A perfect example was tonight's dinner: sauteed tomatoes and arugula with brown rice quinoa pasta in a red wine sauce...topped with...(drum roll please)... fresh raw tomatoes and arugula (oh yeah and some "raw" red wine too ;-)) (see below)
I love to cook so, for me, vegetables cooked just the right way with just the right type and amount of seasoning can be fantastic! At the same time, as a vegetablarian, I LOVE the taste of vegetables raw and uncooked! So most of the time I DON'T choose - I have them both! (sounds like a sexy option, huh?!).
The simple fact is, depending on the vegetable, if you (and your body) like it cooked, then eat it cooked. If you like it raw, then eat it raw. The bottom line is whatever makes your vegetables taste good to you and keeps you eating lots of them consistently, do that. Because, in truth, raw vegetables are not always healthier (see http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=raw-veggies-are-healthier). So rather than try to remember which are better cooked and which are better raw or eating something a certain way ONLY because you think it is healthier, go for enjoyment AND variety and "go both ways!" Share what vegetables (and how) you enjoy both ways!
Sauteed Tomatoes and Arugula with Brown Rice Quinoa Pasta 1 lb Brown Rice Quinoa pasta 6 tomatoes, diced 1-2 onions, sliced or chopped (I love onion always use a lot) 4+ cloves garlic, chopped (I love garlic and can always add more) 3+1 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil 1 1/4 lb baby arugula 1/2 cup red wine 1/2 cup red wine vinegar 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper Salt and dried basil or oregano (optional)
1. Boil pasta in a large pot of boiling water until al dente, stirring occasionally. Drain and keep warm in colander on side. 2. Meanwhile, dice tomatoes and divide into 2/3 and reserve 1/3 to side. 2. Slice or chop onion. 3. Chop garlic (as fine or as chunky as you like). 4. In the same large pasta pot, heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. 5. Add onions and saute until translucent. 6. Add garlic and stir until fragrant. 7. Add tomatoes and sauté briskly, stirring and shaking frequently, until tomatoes begin to burst and release their juices, 5 to 8 minutes. 8. Add 1 lb of the arugula, red wine and red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes and saute again just until fragrant. (taste sauce now and alter to taste) 9. Turn heat to medium and add remaining tablespoon of oil and pasta and combine well. (If dry, you can add more oil.) 10. When serving, top with reserved diced tomatoes, arugula and basil. Add salt, dried basil or oregano and additional red pepper flakes to taste.
As a wellness coach, it is always so important for me to respond to the unique situations of my clients… So writing a blog is interesting because it requires me to try to distill key concepts that can be considered almost universal. Having said that, I have to re-emphasize to anyone reading this blog that “every-BODY is different.” One-size-fits-all rarely works when you are dealing with health and wellness. Just think about how complex are bodies are…how, from person to person, so many things that seem “universal” can vary. For instance, people walk differently, the sound of talking varies from person to person, the way our bodies react to physical situations is based on our unique genetic and biological makeup. As I like to say, “we are all perfectly imperfect.” That’s why I like the concept of vegetablarian vs vegetarian. I know many people, client included, that do not do well on vegetarian diets. On the other hand, I know few people that don’t achieve at least some benefit from a vegetablarian diet. The funny thing is I think we all know this intuitively; after all, one of the first things you are taught is to “eat your vegetables.” Mom and Dad got it right with that one! I would love to hear from you. If you are not a vegetablarian, try it for a week and see if you feel differently. Let me know! If you are a vegetablarian, share why you are!
According to holistic health belief, eating local and seasonal fresh vegetables optimizes the nutrient AND flavor content of your vegetables (assuming they are ripe ;-)). During one season, you can try different recipes AND different vegetables and, before you know it, it will be a new season and you'll have a whole new set of recipes and veggies to explore! As a busy vegetablarian, my farm-to-door delivery service is a lifesaver!! It makes it so easy! Without having to go to the store, I always know I will have fresh veggies on hand! With most of these services, you can pick the contents of your weekly delivery OR you can request that the service just send you whatever is in season and available (within a certain price point) and every box is like a surprise gift bag! (of course, you can tell them if there are things you absolutely, positively don't like :-)) Here are a few, helpful guides to make it easy.
Regional, seasonal map - http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/seasonalcooking/farmtotable/seasonalingredientmap
Local produce delivery guide - http://www.seriouseats.com/2013/07/guide-to-farm-to-door-delivery-services-usa.html
Do you have services or guides you like for regional, seasonal eating? Share!
Another observation I have made in my research and reading on fruits and vegetables and their health benefits is that they never seem to be separated. In other words, fruits and vegetables are usually talked about in the same breath when discussing the health benefits of plant-based foods. However, in practice, I usually suggest taking a "balanced" approach to fruits vs a more "generous" approach to vegetables. Why? Consider the following 3 distinctions (botanical, culinary and sugar) used to separate fruits and vegetables.
Botanical: Botanically speaking, a fruit is a seed-bearing structure that develops from the ovary of a flowering plant, whereas vegetables are all other plant parts, such as roots, leaves and stems.
Culinary: A lot of foods that are (botanically speaking) fruits, but which are savory rather than sweet, are typically considered vegetables by chefs.
Sugar: Most fruits are sweet because they contain a simple sugar called fructose, while most vegetables are less sweet because they have much less fructose. The sweetness of fruit encourages animals to eat it and thereby spread the seeds.
Simplified: if I had to pick one: fruits or vegetables, I would pick vegetables. Why? Because, using the culinary/sugar distinction (which I recommend), vegetables provide the plant food benefits without the increased sugar (which most of us need a little less of in our diets). Having said that, fruits provide an array of their own set of beneficial plant nutrients (i.e. phytochemicals) so we should always eat both fruits and vegetables...but we can moderate our fruit intake in favor of vegetables. (FYI: even the USDA MyPlate model for anyone over age 3 suggests that your vegetable intake should be 1-3 servings greater than your fruit intake daily - see http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/fruitsvegetables/howmany.html)
Hello, world! My name is Tanya and I am a vegetablarian. Huh? There are two major reasons: 1) to find a word that more accurately captured my eating lifestyle (how I eat) and 2) to find a term that I could share with and teach others that could “more easily” translate the how of eating healthy.
As a health professional, many people assume that I am a vegetarian/don’t eat meat. Even, in my personal life, new friends will typically observe what I eat and ask me if I am a vegetarian. I have to laugh when people that I have known for some time express surprise the first time they see me eating meat (yes, I do eat meat! for vegetablarians, that is neither a requirement or a prohibition). It is usually also acompanied by a surprised - “You’re not a vegetarian?!?” or “I thought you were a vegetarian!!” - with that high pitched tone that is usually used when someone has violated some unspoken rule. In thinking about it more, I realized there really was no term for what I was(or at least what I considered myself to be).
As a nutrition educator, I often hear from students, workshop participants as well as friends that use the words vegetarian and vegan referring to people and foods when they really mean “healthy”. I often have to correct the popular belief that vegetarianism and veganism require you to be OR eat healthy. This is BY NO MEANS a requirement in those practices. One woman I met at a health fair even admitted to me that she was a “junk food vegetarian.” Think about it: SUGAR andCHOCOLATE, these are both VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN; so, you can spend all day eating these things, not eat one vegetable, and still be a VEGETARIAN OR VEGAN. Now, would you call that healthy?
Given all this, I found myself wondering why vegetarianism and veganism are practices defined by what a person does NOT eat, not what a person DOES eat. All of my holistic health and nutrition training and experience had shown me that the most important part of eating for your health is how much of the good stuff you do eat, much more than how much of the bad stuff you don’t (more on that later). And, of course, it seemed additionally complicating (and annoying) that there are so many subcategories of vegetarianism based on what the person may or may not be allowed to eat as an exception: vegan (strict –no animal products or byproducts), ovo (can eat eggs), lacto (can eat dairy), ovo-lacto (can eat eggs and dairy), pesco/pescetarian (eats fish).
I have worked with various people at various stages of their wellness journey. What I have discovered is that everyone’s journey is different. Why? Because everyone’s body is different. And that means what is healthy for you may vary slightly than what is healthy for someone else. Vegetablarianism is based on the general fact that almost everyone’s body needs and can use vegetables for good health (I actually have not yet found anyone who doesn’t); at the same time, it does not require (or restrict anything else). “Nutrition science” has just confused the issue – giving us volumes and volumes of magazine articles and news stories, studies and data points that suggest/recommend/define specific foods that you should and should not eat to be healthy. I wanted to define a simple term for a person that eats a generally healthy diet; it all boils down to this - based on sound holistic nutrition principles, a diet that includes a healthy amount of vegetables (and fruits in moderation)is the simplest guideline for healthy eating. And that is how the concept of “vegetablarian” was born…
So, tell me, are you a vegetablarian?