One inquisitive omnivore’s journey towards healthier and more compassionate eating…
Eat your vegetables! This is something I heard a lot as a kid, just as I’m sure you did. Who can blame us? Kids just don’t like vegetables. However as we grow-up our taste buds are supposed to mature so that we now enjoy and even crave them. I think my taste buds never quite made it through puberty. As I mentioned before, it’s not that I hate vegetables, I just never really want them. At the same point, I know now is the time to start taking better care of myself. Let’s face it, I’m not getting any younger!
I’d like to say this realization was what finally pushed me to eat more vegetables, but it wasn’t—it was my dog Monty. He was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease last October; an illness that not only makes him constantly hungry, but one he could die from if it’s not kept under control. I had to figure out how to satisfy his hunger in a healthy, low-cal way—vegetables! He loves them, he’s since lost his weight, and at eight years old, he has more energy now than he has in years. That was all the proof I needed to get my butt in gear and start taking as good of care of myself as I do my dog. That’s when I went looking for ways to make my vegetables more satisfying and appealing. Here’s what I came up with:
1. Veggie & Fruit Smoothies
I figured, why not get most of my fruits and vegetables for the day in one swoop? And you know what? It worked! My mom raved about her new Nutribullet (mixer,) so I figured I’d try one for myself and I actually love it! I mix kale, spinach, blueberries, strawberries, melon—whatever I feel like! Not only does it fill me up, but I really do have more energy in the morning
My go-to recipe is:
- 1 cup spinach
- 1 cup kale
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 med apple
- 1 scoop soy protein powder
- 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
- 1 cup water
It may not look very pretty but it tastes great! And if I didn’t eat another fruit or vegetable all day (I’m not saying I won’t) it would be okay since it covers all of my daily recommended amounts. Also a good tip: I clean my spinach and kale on Sunday and then put them in zip lock bags (make sure to suction out all of the air so it lasts longer,) and if I’m using fresh blueberries I clean them, divide them by cups into small Ziploc bags, and throw them in the freezer. That way, I just take out what I need each morning. Trust me, it saves so much time, and now I have no excuse not to make my smoothie.
2. Better Quality Produce
I wanted to see if organic fruits and vegetables would taste any better. Turns out…not so much. I know choosing organic is considered healthier because they’ll be contaminated with less pesticide residue, but ultimately they tasted pretty much the same. That said, now that I am eating more fruits and vegetables it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG,) a non-profit concerned with public health and the environment, released this list of foods as having the highest level of pesticides: Apples, strawberries, grapes, peaches, celery, spinach, bell peppers, nectarines, cucumbers, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, squash, kale and collards
And these have the least levels of pesticides: Corn, onions, pineapples, avocados, sweet potatoes, kiwi, sweet peas, papaya, mangos, asparagus, mushrooms, cantaloupe, cabbage, egg plant and grapefruit
My old way almost seems healthier. Just a little wishful thinking…I know that even with the risks of pesticide exposure, eating lots of fruits and vegetables is still the way to go. As to whether or not it’s organic? I’ll try, but sometimes I admit it’s hard to spend two bucks on a cucumber when I can buy one across the aisle for just 99 cents.
3. Spicing Up My Veggies
Something a lot of people would be surprised to know about me is that I’ve been collecting recipes for years. Hoarding them from magazines, websites, television shows…if it looked tasty, healthy, and simple then I saved it. Some I’ve tried out—even adding my own twists—but most of them remain untouched. Now seems like a good time to check them out since adding the right herbs and spices just might enhance or disguise my veggies enough that I’ll really enjoy them. Here are three vegetable recipes I chose:
Green Beans w/ Crushed Walnuts
- 1 lb green beans (I actually cheat and use 1 can of french style beans w/ no salt)
- 2 tsp of olive oil (I made it lighter & used spray oil)
- 2 tbsp finely crushed walnuts
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I don’t like nutmeg so I used cinnamon)
Heat oil in large skillet (or spray oil) over medium heat. Add walnuts; saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add cooked beans (or drained canned beans,) salt and nutmeg (or cinnamon); cook for 1-2 minutes.
*I’ve actually cooked this recipe a few times…wasn’t crazy about the nutmeg, but I like it with the cinnamon a lot. It’s light, tasty and only takes minutes to make.
Sweet Potato Wedges w/ Sesame-Soy Dipping Sauce
- 4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch wedges
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tsp sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss sweet potatoes with the oil and salt and place on baking sheet lightly sprayed w/ cooking oil. Spread in even layer and roast, turning halfway through; until tender and slightly brown, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame oil in a bowl.
Put potatoes on dish and immediately sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with dipping sauce.
*This is a recipe from Martha Stewart on the Today Show and it’s delicious! I mean how can you go wrong with sweet potatoes and the dipping sauce was surprisingly a nice addition — both sweet AND savory.
Sauteed Spinach w/ Garlic
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 lb fresh spinach
- salt and black pepper to taste
- 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sauté garlic in oil for about 30 seconds over medium heat or until lightly golden. Add spinach and sauté until just wilted. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with Parmesan.
*This one’s okay. It’s easy to make, and the Parmesan cheese gives it a little more oomph (though obviously a no-no for vegans,) but nothing I would run back to.
So I think I’m off to a good start on my quest for healthier eating:
- Smoothies are a simple, tasty, and healthy way to eat more fruits and vegetables.
- The green beans and sweet potato fries are two healthy and delicious vegetable side dishes—and as an added bonus the sweet potatoes are on the EWG’s less pesticide exposure list.
- Knowing what herbs and spices you like, what your favorite foods are is a great starting point…use those flavors to enhance your vegetables and make them more appealing for you to eat.
- As far as organic, knowing which foods are safer and which have more risk of pesticides helps us to make more informed choices on how we spend our money.
Let me know if you have any other suggestions or favorite recipes to recommend, I’d love to try them out!
— Lisa Singer, exclusive to Global Animal