Want a hamburger? Try a turkey or veggie burger on a whole wheat bun and double any fresh vegetables available - lettuce (I prefer fresh spinach), tomatoes, avocados, mushrooms, cucumbers, sprouts, shredded carrots, etc. Oh, and skip the cheese, especially if it’s good ol’ American processed cheese. If you must have cheese, add a good sharp cheddar and avoid any cheese which requires the removal of the individual wrapping.
Soaking your vegetables in melted butter and/or cheese? I found if I added my raw or frozen veggies with rice or noodles just before they were finished cooking, I was able to first reduce the butter and finally omit it all together. Even my six year-old grandson loves some whole wheat pasta, fresh broccoli stirred together with sauteed diced onion, garlic, and mushrooms. Do I still love broccoli buried in processed cheese sauce – I can honestly say I do not. But the best way I've found to incorporate vegetables into my meals is with a stir-fry. Here's a great tofu and broccoli recipe.
Need cookies? Chips? Cookies? Chips? Try pretzel rods dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in crushed walnuts or sprinkles. Or how about salted almonds, some dark chocolate chips and raisins (or dried cranberries) and satisfy both cravings at the same time. Again, serving sizes are key ... even healthy food can be high calorie and even high fat if you’re not careful. I find it’s best to note the serving size and put that amount in a very small container so it appears to be overflowing ... somehow I feel like I’m indulging if I have more food and less container ... make sense?
Want chips and dip? Try carrots sliced to a coin-shape or sticks, zucchini rounds, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, either slice in rounds or sticks, peppers, fresh broccoli and/or cauliflower and bring on a good low fat dressing or hummus. Watch your serving size on the dips, even hummus is only two tablespoons, but that should be enough if you plan it right.
Need a microwave popcorn fix? Do you love the movie theater double buttered version? Honestly, there’s nothing to compare but I’ll give you three options ... 1.) Switch to air-popped, lightly salted popcorn, 2.) Eat the movie theater double buttered version but only have a true serving size (about 1-1/2 cups) or less - no seconds, or my choice 3.) Skip popcorn all together because options 1 and 2 are just plain too difficult for me!
I’m pretty good about drinking low calorie drinks, if you’re not, well .........stop it! You know water is the best thing to drink, don’t you? I hate to drink water unless I’m really, really thirsty - which is rarely. I do like filtered water over crushed ice with a twist of fresh lime and a straw. But, I’m more likely to down a bottle of Propel, or some diet, caffeine-free soda, like Canada Dry ginger ale ... but I only allow myself one soda a day, 2 bottles of Propel and one lovely glass of red wine before dinner. The rest of the time I drink water. Oh, I forgot to mention the volumes of herb tea I drink, from my breakfast green tea to my Sleepytime tea at bedtime with peach orchard, rooibos, peppermint, and fennel teas throughout the day. Sometimes I even ice the herb teas ... a refreshing treat!
So there it is ... we’re back to making choices! Remember the days when you could order a quarter-pounder with cheese, fries and a Coke and thinking nothing of it? Hmmm ... I do. Now that I’m a flexitarian I have learned a lot about myself and the food I eat.
_So you want to add more vegetables to your meal plans but don’t want to go full vegetarian? That’s a great way to start and if you prefer to eat meat, it’s a great place to finish!
The best way I can share some of the easy ways to incorporate more vegetables into your diet is to share how I do it. There are web sites all over the place with ideas, but since you’ve landed here, I’ll be happy to share!
A good example would be my lunch today. My husband, a born meat and potatoes guy, isn’t too thrilled with no meat and I do eat fish, so today was a broiled salmon and a salad. The difference between his salad and mine is simple. He likes iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, a few slivers of carrots, and some black or green olives. Then he covers the whole thing in a fat-laden dressing. For the record, he’s only a teeny bit overweight and as healthy as a horse. I, on the other hand, have had high cholesterol, which after changing my lifestyle is now perfect, and to pump up my salad I added a few more ingredients. A word of warning here ... when you have multiple ingredients planned your salad can go from a reasonable size to a monster salad if you’re not careful! Since iceberg lettuce has little healthy benefits, I opted for fresh baby spinach, some fresh pineapple, grated apple (with the skin), shredded carrots, green and black olives, diced avocado, tomatoes, dried cranberries, a few currants, homemade whole wheat croutons and a tablespoon of Ken’s Lite Honey Mustard dressing. Park a beautifully broiled piece salmon and top and enjoy.
It was so filling but I didn’t find myself stuffed and with a tall glass of freshly brewed green tea with honey and lemon I was all set.
When I told a friend about my marvelous salad her response was a bit sad in my opinion. She said it sounded like too much trouble to be worth it. Really? I thought since when are YOU not worth it? I asked her why not and she said it was just easier to pop a box pizza in the oven. Do you feel that way, too? Are you worth the extra effort? I know I am but I have an added benefit - I love to cook and create beautiful and colorful dishes, and if you don’t ... well ... I’m not sure what I can say to change your mind!
Another favorite lunch (or dinner, if your prefer) is a stir-fry. The oriental stir-fry can be filled with some wonderful vegetables. Everything from marinated tofu (or shrimp or whatever protein you love), shredded cabbage, carrots, onion, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, bok choy (or celery if you can’t find bok choy), edamame, mushrooms, baby corn, the list is endless! If you don’t have a great stir-fry recipe is doesn’t get any easier than this:
In a large frying pan or wok, heat about 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil or olive oil. Add the drained and marinated tofu (dice some firm tofu and marinate for thirty minutes in whatever seasoning you like - teriyaki, Bragg’s liquid aminos, soy sauce). Toss in the drained tofu and cook on high heat for about 3 minutes and remove from pan, setting aside.
Add whatever hard vegetables you have (carrots, celery, bok choy, onion, garlic) to your pan/wok and saute until almost done. Push aside and add the softer vegetables (bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, mushrooms, baby corn). Saute for two minutes or until almost done and push aside.
Add very soft vegetables - those needing to only be heated - (edamame, cabbage); push aside and add the shrimp and tofu. Stir to mix and pour stir-fry sauce over all and remove from the heat.
Serve over steamed brown rice and offer more Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce.
Enjoy! There are so many variations one only has to have an imagination to succeed in stir-fry cooking. You can add rice to the recipe above and after mixing, add some beaten eggs for a fried rice variation.
The trick is keeping it heart healthy ... watch your oils and meats, double up on veggies and have a glass of iced green tea! It doesn’t get any better than this!
_In the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding (I couldn't resist posting a clip from the movie), and upon hearing that Toula’s intended is a vegetarian, her Aunt Voula says, “What do you mean he don't eat no meat?” The entire room stops, in shock and she says, “Oh, that's okay. I make lamb.”
I laughed out loud when I heard that line, and realized the world of meat-eaters must think eating a vegetarian diet is absolutely crazy! We are carnivores, after all, right? Well ... Wikipedia says, “Vegetarianism is the practice of following a plant-based diet including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds, mushrooms, with or without dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat meat, including red meat, game, poultry, fish, crustacea, and shellfish, and may also abstain from by-products of animal slaughter such as animal-derived rennet, found in some cheeses, and gelatin. Vegetarians may unknowingly consume animal-derived rennet, gelatin, or other unfamiliar animal ingredients, however.
Vegetarianism is adopted for various reasons: ethical, health, environmental, religious, political, cultural, aesthetic, economic, or other reasons, and there are a number of vegetarian diets. A lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, such as dairy products, eggs, and usually honey.
Semi-vegetarian diets consist largely of vegetarian foods, but may include fish or poultry, or other meats on an infrequent basis. Those with diets containing fish or poultry may define "meat" only as mammalian flesh and may identify with vegetarianism. A pescetarian diet, for example, includes "fish but no meat. The common use association between such diets and vegetarianism has led vegetarian groups such as the Vegetarian Society to state diets containing these ingredients are not vegetarian, because fish and birds are animals.”
So, is vegetarianism really the way to go? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Personally, I am more vegetarian than not, I do eat fish and eggs. But, honestly, if I saw a perfectly roasted leg of lamb or pork roast ... yeah, I’m not sure my carnivorous side wouldn’t be salivating. Once I realized how I’d have to eat meat in order to regain and retain my normal cholesterol, I decided it just plain wasn’t really worth it! If I couldn’t taste that crusty, salt and peppered bit of fat with a bite of pork roast, well, I didn’t really want it at all. OK, I’m a baby, but I want what I want or I’ll take nothing at all.
I had to change my attitude to make my new lifestyle really work for me. I found some marvelous vegetarian recipes and love to experiment with new ideas so it was a match made in heaven. I still cook meat for my meat and potato husband, but even he’s enjoying the new vegetables I prepare for him.
All in all, it’s a choice we all need to make for ourselves. Do it or don’t ... it’s your choice ... just don’t let it be a decision you have to make at the last minute ... it might be too late.
I am ...
... a former blogger for a health site, which means eating healthy aka heart smart
which has become a passion for me. I will start at the beginning when I first
discovered I had high cholesterol.