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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Vegilicious: 10 Ways To Veg Out

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.  ~Jim Davis

I believe vegetables are the cornerstone of my healthful lifestyle.

I know there are countless doctors who emphasize the importance of eating your veggies.  Moms throughout history have known, and stressed, the importance of eating your veggies.  Diet books, magazines, blogs, and fitness sites all stress the importance of eating your vegetables. It's all so clinical and proven.

My take, however, is strictly from personal experience.

If I eat healthy foods (fruits, meats, complex carbs) but I omit my veggies for a couple of days, my body does not feel like it should.  My energy is lower, my mental sharpness decreases, the speed at which my body processes it's output (yeah, I went there) slows way down and gets all sludgy, and I get physically and emotionally fatigued much easier.

I NEED MY VEGGIES - the dark leafies like spinach - or other greens like broccoli, brussells sprouts, or green beans. (We should also have a variety of colors and textures to balance the nutrients.) This is especially true when I have big tasks to undertake like business trips, courses I am taking, or when I anticipate an overloaded or hectic schedule.  The vegetables help keep me moving, focused and energized. Omit them, and I am less able to tackle the challenges at hand.  I don't need a doctor to tell me that.  I just need to listen to my body and watch the results.

There are so many ways to get the vegetables in, even if you are not particularly fond of them.  I wasn't a couple of years ago ("my goodness, who wants to do all that prepping and chewing," I used to think.)  Here are some ways I used to, or continue to, get those vegetables in every day:

  1. Many pumpkin recipes don't overload the calories but still offer the benefits. Pumpkin Fluff  is one example that tastes like pumpkin pie without the guilt.
  2. Shred carrots or zucchini and add them to your beef or turkey meatloaf.  Kids don't even know they are in there and you won't really notice, either.
  3. Hide spinach in a smoothie
  4. Toss a cup of spinach into your fruit smoothie.  If you have a magic bullet or oster or other good blender, it will liquify and you'll never even taste it.
  5. Buy pre-cut carrot sticks and celery and put them in  baggies to take to work.  Yeah, they cost more, but if I don't get them pre-cut they will probably sit in my fridge until it's time to toss them out, so pre-cut is economical for me, and I will actually eat them.
  6. Speaking of celery, try PB2.  Instead of regular peanut butter to dip them into, It is only 45 calories for 2 tablespoons and it can be used in smoothies, with protein shakes, in recipes, etc. and a little peanut butter flavor sure makes the celery go down easier! (It's also great with apples.)
  7.  PB2 on celery
  8. Zucchini Boats or Stuffed Peppers.  I hollow them out and fill them with a mixture of sauteed onions, mushrooms, zucchini, shredded carrots, veggie crumbles (or ground turkey or beef, but this post is about the veggies) and a tomato base - diced tomatoes or tomato sauce.  Sprinkle them with a little parmesan and bake until the boat or pepper is soft.  Super tasty!
  9. Instead of pasta, use Spaghetti SQUASH as the bottom base.  You can just cut the squash in half the short way (not lengthwise) and pop them in the microwave or stand them side by side in a pot of  boiling water for 15 minutes. You can also bake them for extra nuttyish flavor. Once cooked, scrape the insides of the squash out with a fork and it fluffs up like spaghetti.  My son loves this!  And of course, veggie-up the sauce!
  10. Replace pasta w/squash
  11. Roast your Roots!  Root veggies like carrots, parsnips, squash or potatoes are extra tasty when tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted in a 375 degree oven for about a half an hour.  Experiment with spices, too, like garlic, parsley, rosemary etc. to boost the antioxidant levels in your meal.
  12. Stir Fry.  Most grocery stores have a pre-cut section with stir fry vegetables.  You can cheat and do it that way (I often do), or just chop up yellow squash, peppers of any color, asparagus or broccoli or cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, grape tomatoes...really anything you have on hand!  Put it in a container with a lid and add a jar of stir-fry sauce.  I prefer Kikomen LITE terriyaki sauce as it's less sodium and less calories.  Throw the veggies and stir-fry meat in one tub in the morning.  That night, dump it all in a wok or big pan and cook it over medium heat until the meat is totally cooked through.  So easy and so tasty!
  13. Substitute mashed potatoes with Mashed Cauliflower.  Cook the cauliflower then mash with any combination of milk, half and half, butter, cream cheese, sour cream - plus salt and pepper and a little garlic.  I use the handheld Braun blender for the creamiest texture.  They are so good and no one misses the starch in the meal.  I didn't even tell my son it was cauliflower until after his second helping!

Bon Appetit!


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