Flexitarians: Can You Be a Part-Time Vegetarian?
For the last 15 years, Dawn Jackson Blatner has been what's now called a “flexitarian” or “almost vegetarian.” She eats lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts, barbecued tempeh and veggie burgers with guacamole. But she sometimes indulges in a pork chop or her grandma's pot roast.
It might seem being a vegetarian of convenience isn't particularly inspiring, but a growing number of experts and even some famous foodies are fans. They say that cutting back on meat, rather than abstaining completely, may be a practical compromise that benefits our bodies and our environment.
“It gives you the health benefits of a vegetarian diet without having to follow the strict rules,” says Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of “The Flexitarian Diet: The Mostly Vegetarian Way to Lose Weight, Be Healthier, Prevent Disease, and Add Years to Your Life” (McGraw-Hill, October 2008). “We know that people live longer and live healthier when they eat vegetarian, but it's just too darn hard to do it 100 percent of the time.”
Even gourmet food writers, used to nightly courses of filets and pates, are advocating the eat-less-meat movement. In January, Mark Bittman, author of “How to Cook Everything” (Wiley, 1998), is coming out with new book called “Food Matters,” (Simon & Schuster) about how our diet affects global warming and “globesity” (global obesity).
Bittman has been very critical of what he calls America's “meat guzzling” tendencies. “I am an advocate of what I to think of as a much saner diet—a largely plant-based diet,” he says. A meat-based diet is, he says, “not even close to sustainable.
” Last year, Bittman published “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian,” (Wiley, 2007), though he is not a vegetarian himself.
Bittman notes that Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish a year—twice as much as the global average. He argues that not only is a heavily vegetable diet healthier for us physically, but that it's also true that the industrial production and processing of grain-fed livestock consumes a huge amount energy and has a negative impact on the environment.
It's unclear how many people are official “flexitarian” converts, but nutritionists believe there are a growing number of people who are simply eating fewer meat entrees whether it's for health, or economic reasons or because there are more good meatless dishes on offer. Think how many Americans regularly eat peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, pasta, bean burritos and cheese pizzas as their main courses, says Blatner. “I do feel that is a shocking thing, when you think about how much vegetarian food we eat without even trying.”
And while only 2 to 3 percent of Americans are traditional vegetarians, who shun anything that ever had a face, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group, vegetarian foods have become increasingly popular among non-vegetarians.
“If you look around at every regular, mainstream grocery store, you have soy milk right next to regular milk, you have veggie burgers in the frozen section, and tubs of tofu sitting there in the produce section,” says Blatner. She suggests that many of those who buy these products may be flextitarians and not even realize it. Even dedicated vegetarians say they are somewhat flexible.
A 2003 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that two three vegetarians say they can't stick to a pure veggie diet all the time.
Some vegetarian advocates hope that a movement that begins with eating less meat might lead to more people embracing a no-meat, no-fish and no-fowl lifestyle. Vegetarian Resource Group co-director Charles Stahler, calls it a “step in the right direction.
” It should also inspire even more restaurants to create veggie options, and more people to realize that it's “easy to be a vegetarian,” he says. In fact, it already has become a bit easier for gourmet food lovers to find good meatless entrees.
Last year a National Restaurant Association survey found that more than 50 percent of chefs rate vegetarian entries among their top 10 trendiest menu items.
Still, not everyone agrees that it's a great idea to be mostly vegetarian instead of going whole hog—so to speak.
“Given the environmental, cruelty and health impact of a meat-based diet, going vegan is best, going vegetarian is good, and being a flexitarian is smoking two packs of cigarettes instead of ten, beating one pig down the slaughter ramp instead of two, and pouring a pint of gasoline down a drain instead of pouring down a gallon,” says Kathy Guillermo, director of research for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Blatner disagrees with the meat-is-immoral crowd. “It's not that meat is some sort of evil,” she says. “It's just that we eat excessive amounts of it.” She does agree that a plant-based diet is healthful, decreases the risk of cancer, and increases longevity.
Many big-name vegetarian cookbook authors the idea of flexitarianism–though they tend to dis the name. “How about just moderation?” says Deborah Madison, author of “Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.
” Though she eats mainly a plant-based diet, she indulges in meat about once a week. “I've always had a hard time saying, 'I can't eat that meal you made for me,'” she says. “I just think it's rude.” Many of her readers, too, are not strict vegetarians.
“They want to be able to have a vegetarian meal a couple times a week,” she says.
Mollie Katzen, author of the well-known veggie bible “Moosewood Cookbook” (Ten Speed Press, 2000) says she, too, is a flexible eater—indulging in occasional bites of her mom's brisket.
“I'm very happy that people can make the definition of 'vegetarian' be a positive statement about vegetables rather than a negative statement about meat—'I don't eat this, and I don't eat that.' I'm sick and tired of the no's.” That said, she believes a plant-based diet is good for people and for the environment.
“The environmental impact of meat and livestock raising is severe,” she says. “I'm not against eating meat or salmon, but I believe people should be responsible and limited in their consumption.”
It's important to remember, as well, that it's possible to be vegetarian and unhealthy.
“If you fry tempeh and fry tofu, and eat baked goods, you're going to be less healthy,” says registered dietitian Mary Russell, director of nutrition services at the University of Chicago.
But a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, done properly, should help protect the heart and lower blood pressure, she says.
Many former vegetarians turn to fish or meat because they feel they need more protein.
Katie Petersen, 25, a personal trainer, became a vegetarian when she was 14, largely because she didn't the texture of meat or the way it made her feel. But about two years ago, she started adding tuna and salmon to her diet.
She participates in “figure” competitions, a type of lightweight bodybuilding, and felt she wasn't getting enough protein from veggie burgers.
Sometimes people start adding a little fish or meat to their diets because the entrée their friend or roommate is cooking in the kitchen simply smells too good to resist.
Katelin Domanski, 21, a senior at Northwestern University, gave up meat completely when she was 13—after she had some pieces of chicken with “blood veins” in them, she says. But just this month, she started eating a bit of chicken prepared by her gourmet roommate.
Domanski also thinks it may be easier, when she graduates in June, to be flexible about her diet when she is in the workplace. “You don't want to be the person at the business dinner who only eats salad,” she says.
Of course, if vegetarians and gourmets Mark Bittman have their way, most restaurants will someday offer enough meatless entrees to satisfy vegetarians whether they're part-time or 100 percent committed. The good news is, the days of veggie lovers being confined to the 'tofu surprise' are over.
Be a Part-Time-Vegetarian
From the WebMD Archives
By Jenn Sturiale
Good news: You don't need to declare yourself an anything-arian to be a part-time vegetarian.
There are plenty of good reasons to occasionally skip animal-based food in favor of plant-based alternatives, including better health, a lighter impact on the environment, compassion towards animals and smaller grocery bills.
It's surprisingly easy to make part-time veggie food choices without sacrificing pleasure or health in the slightest.
Not quite convinced? Read on and see if you can get past these excuses…
But… I absolutely love meat. If you grew up eating meat and animal products, those flavors and textures are deeply ingrained in the pleasure center of your brain. An occasional switch to a veggie-based meal will introduce you to new dishes and foods while waking up your taste buds.
The best part is that you get to make the rules. You can skip animal-based foods at one meal per day. Or, try observing Meatless Mondays (which even the Norwegian Army is giving a whirl).
Or, try the “flexitarian” Vegan Before 6[pm] plan that's espoused by renowned food writer (and avowed omnivore) Mark Bittman.
But… being a part-time vegetarian won't make a real impact. “Anytime we can switch over from animal products to plant products, we're going to benefit nutritionally,” says Gayl Canfield, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
“There's no cholesterol in plant products and there's far less saturated fat content in most plant products, so we benefit cardiovascularly.” Vegetarian diets have been conclusively linked to lowered blood pressure.
Research has shown that vegetarians and vegans are less ly to be obese, and vegetarians have a lower all-cause mortality rate. The environment also benefits, as the production of red meat has been found to create 10 to 40 times as many greenhouse-gas emissions as the production of vegetables and grains.
Nearly all of the deforestation in the Amazon has been linked to beef production, and the water pollution from a factory farm can produce as much waste as a small city. So, yes, tweaking our food choices can make a real difference!
But… people need protein from meat to be healthy. “We do need protein, but it doesn't need to come from meat,” says Canfield. “There's actually no physiological requirement for a human to eat animal protein.” A small mental shift and some information is all it takes to start getting your protein (and other important nutrients) from plant-based sources.
In fact, you may already be getting lots of protein from vegetarian foods without realizing it. “When people have a bowl of oatmeal in the morning, they don't assume that they've had any protein, so they put an egg with it,” says Canfield. “When we think protein, we think meat, eggs, dairy, chicken and fish. But 14 percent of the calories in oatmeal are in the form of protein.
But… vegetarians are pasty and weak. Vegetarians who eat improperly balanced meals can most definitely be pasty and weak. But those who eat a well-rounded diet can easily be very strong and stalwart. Check out GreatVeganAthletes.com for a roster of superstar athletes who are vegan — including Olympians Meagan Duhamel and Carl Lewis.
But… I don't vegetables very much. Lots of foods you're already eating are meat-free, including hot and cold cereals, fruit smoothies, salads and bean-based burgers.
Stick with the vegetables you do , and start preparing them in new and creative ways. Try a grain salad instead of tuna fish or spicy black-bean soup instead of beef chili.
Chances are you'll never even miss the meat.
© Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
Confessions of a Part-Time Vegetarian
Living a vegetarian lifestyle is easier than you might think. Read on to learn more. | Source
I confess. I want to have it all.
I want to enjoy the delectable, savory aromas that waft from the kitchen as meat is being cooked, tempting and enticing me to want to eat beef, pork, fish, and chicken.
And I don't want to stop at simply enjoying the aromas. I also want to enjoy the delicious and satisfying taste of meat, fish, and poultry.
To me, nothing smells better or tastes as good as meat when it's being cooked and served as part of a meal.
Then again, I know about the perils of eating too much animal flesh, and I desperately want to fill my body with high-quality and naturally grown food, food that I believe is pure and good and oh, so nourishing and so perfect for my body.
I want to feed my body and my soul in ways that say I love me and want only what is best for me. And that means I want to eat food that is low in fat content, with nothing added that might harm my body.
Is that too much to ask? I think not, but no matter what I want, I know there are challenges associated with eating meat, and challenges associated with becoming a vegetarian. As with other aspects of being human and being alive, all diet choices have both pros and cons.
With this in mind, I have decided to work hard to benefit from both worlds by being a “part-time” vegetarian. What does that mean? For me, it means choosing to eat, several days a week, a diet that is more consistent with the vegetarian and/or the “vegan” alternatives. I still eat meat, fish and poultry, but not as much, not as often, and not every day of the week.
And, I sometimes go days or even weeks without eating a morsel of meat, fish or poultry.
The term vegetarianism came into use in the late 1840’s, but the idea of choosing to live on such a diet is actually hundreds of years old. The word diet is derived from Medieval Latin, from the word dieta which means “daily food allowance.
” And, dieta is derived from an even earlier Latin word, diaeta, which was transcribed from Classical Greek, meaning “way of living.
” In the final analysis, what we choose to include or exclude from our diet dictates a lot about our lifestyle, or “way of living.”
Vegetarianism is the practice of living on a meatless diet, and, while I realize there are many variations of vegetarianism, I'm only looking at several in this article.
Most people I know (including some family members) who are vegetarian consider all animal flesh as meat, including the flesh of fish and fowl. For these people, it is important to exclude meat from their diet. I know other people who consider themselves to be vegetarian who will still eat butter, cheese, eggs, and milk.
Then, there are people who are what I think of as “extreme vegetarians,” and they are called vegans. Vegans eat only food from plant sources, and they exclude from their diets both meat and animal products such as butter, cheese, eggs and milk.
Vegetarian stuffed tomatoes (stuffed with hard-boiled egg and Parmesan). | Source
Vegetarians and vegans have many different reasons for making their daily food allowance meat-free, and for choosing a plant-based way of living. Health is probably the most important reason.
Many vegetarians point out that animals raised for meat are subject to diseases, and that eating the meat of diseased animals can make people ill. Many of these people claim that since vegetables, cereal grains, and fruits contain all the elements that the human body needs to maintain health, there is no need for humans to eat the flesh of animals.
Black-bean stew. | Source
Another “pro vegetarianism” argument is that meat is expensive, and that it is more economical to use land for growing agricultural products instead of for the raising of animals.
Still other people are vegetarian in their food consumption religious beliefs, or on their own personal moral codes. Many of these people simply believe it is wrong to kill any animal for food.
Vegetarian Quiche made at Up the Garden Path in Motueka, New Zealand. | Source
Although plant-based eating can become very “complicated,” I confess that I am somewhat “fed up” with the dangerous unhealthiness of how the meat industry operates.
Fed unnatural diets and kept in unsanitary conditions, many (and perhaps, most) animals raised for food are injected with antibiotics to curtail disease, and with hormones to speed up their growth.
We're told by the producers of meat that these practices do not pose a threat to humans, but is it naïve of us to accept this as fact? I mean, how many times have we been fed a load of bull by those who stand to profit from selling things to us?
We can opt to purchase certified-organic meat, because it is a healthier option, but it's also expensive and can be hard to find. For these and other reasons, I have given serious thought to the idea of becoming a vegetarian. In fact, I spent at least three weeks this year (2013) trying out the plant-based food lifestyle.
What did I find out? I found out that I had to work much harder, first to plan, and then to shop for every meal. I found out that vegetarians must plan their diets carefully in order to maintain good health. It became more pronounced to me that “fresh” meat can last in the freezer for months, even years, but most “fresh” veggies spoil within a week.
I found that fresh cucumbers can last about two, sometimes three weeks, and so will fresh tomatoes if you keep them in a “crisper” type bin, and the fruits and vegetables I found that last longer than a week (sometimes up to a month or even more in the fridge) included onions, oranges, potatoes, carrots, beets, cabbage, lemons, limes, apples, and celery.
When I was first trying out my “part-time vegetarian/vegan” lifestyle, even when I was eating meat, I still tried to “heavy up” on the veggies, fruit, and grains.
It's true that vegetables are the source of essential minerals and vitamins that the human body needs, and that cereal grains are among the least expensive and most readily available sources of energy.
When I was enjoying longer periods of eating vegetables and fruits, in addition to having to put more time and thought into shopping for my food supply, I also found out that it is possible for diets that include no animal products to lack the amount of protein needed to meet the needs of the human body.
Protein is essential to human growth, and to the repair of human body tissues. Most vegetables, even those that contain protein, are inadequate for supplying all of the protein needs of the human body. In fact, when vegetables are the only source of protein in a child's diet, it is ly they will develop a form of severe malnutrition known as kwashiorkor (kwash-e-OR-kor).
Kwashiorkor is a disease that is common among children throughout the developing world, including parts of Africa, as well as in Central and South America. Caused by a lack of protein in the diet, this disease causes bloated bellies and thin limbs, as well as overall stunted physical and mental development.
The term “kwashiorkor” comes from a word used in Ghana. It refers to what happens to a breast-fed baby/child once the mother gives birth to a new infant.
When a new baby arrives, the older child is “deposed” from the breasts so that the new baby can be fed, and the protein source (the mother's breast milk) is no longer available to the older child.
And, if there is no sufficient replacement of protein in the child's diet once the protein-rich mother's milk is no longer available, the child will be at risk of developing kwashiorkor.
A very big veggie burger. | Source
And while a growing child will face more challenges as a result of a meat-free diet, it's not just growing children who face challenges. It might seem that getting needed amounts of protein would be the biggest challenge for vegetarians, but, for many adults a bigger challenge is how to curb “carb overloading.”
Someone I know who has been a vegetarian for a long time told me he has to work hard at keeping his weight down.
When I asked why, he told me that he has to watch his intake of refined carbohydrates, such as white flour (which includes bread and pasta), sugar, and rice.
Once digested, these foods turn into sugar and can cause spikes in insulin, which can and often does lead to weight gain, inflammation, and digestive problems.
Most vegetarians try to get the proteins they need by eating the seeds of legumes such as beans, peas, and peanuts. These foods are rich in protein.
In fact, all vegetables supply some amount of protein, some providing a larger protein percentage and other essential amino acids than others, for the daily requirements of us humans. Variety seems to be the key.
Consuming, throughout the day, a mix of vegetables, legumes, grains, beans, seeds, and nuts, will give you all the essential amino acids your body requires for nutrients and for energy.
Vegetarian sub: Japanese Eggplant, Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Mozzarella Cheese, Lettuce & “Goddess Dressing” on wheat. | Source
I think that the solution to my dilemma, at least for the time being, is for me to keep mixing it up. I trying to “have my cake and eat it too.” Living in both the meat-eaters and vegetarian worlds is fairly easy for me, because I'm single. I live alone and I only have to consider what I want to cook, and what I want to eat.
And, I've decided that meat will be served in my home, but most days, for one meal only. There will be other days within the same 7-day period when I will have “veggie days,” and won't prepare or eat meat at all.
On those days, I will take care in making sure I get required amounts of proteins and other nutrients, but I'll get them from vegetables and fruits.
Some of the non-meat foods I eat that contain good amounts of protein include: red and green lentils, beans, potatoes (surprise, potatoes have protein!), peanuts and almonds, dark-green, leafy veggies (such as kale, collards, mustards, etc.), and eggs and milk (when I’m doing vegetarian, as opposed to vegan).
I haven’t tried it, but my niece (a long-time vegan) told me that quinoa, a grain, is packed with a high-protein content. It is a complete protein, and it has about eight grams of protein per cup.
Living in both the meat and vegetarian/vegan worlds, I believe, is helping me to make sure my body is getting all the nutrients it needs, and I'm cutting way down on calories by consuming less meat/animal fat.
By consuming smaller quantities of meat, I can afford to buy better quality, and the bottom line is, I'm still enjoying food I love, and I'm not excluding anything from my diet that I really want to eat and enjoy.
© 2013 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD
The Part-Time Vegetarian
From the WebMD Archives
I call myself a “part-time” vegetarian because, while I do eat meat, I to eat vegetarian meals often.
I even to order vegetarian entrees at restaurants, just to get new ideas for making meatless dishes.
I still eat fish, chicken, lean beef and pork, but I would guess at least half of my meals are lacto-ovo vegetarian (meaning they include eggs and/or dairy products).
There was a time when all my meals were meatless (can you say University of California at Berkeley graduate school?). Oddly enough, the one thing I totally craved every so often was a good lean cheeseburger (that was before they had all these great vegetarian burgers.)
Two decades and two kids later, I have evolved into a happy, part-time vegetarian. Becoming a part-time vegetarian comes with a slew of benefits. It often costs less to prepare meatless dishes, it helps the environment when we eat more plant-based meals (some would argue), and then there's the health advantage.
Besides reducing the saturated fat content of your diet, a meatless day or two each week, has other benefits, says Julie Upton, MS, RD, with the Environmental Nutrition Newsletter.
Upton says vegetarian diets are lower in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
They also tend to include more of the beneficial nutrients found in plant foods, vitamin A and C, potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients beta-carotene and lycopene.
There's never been a better time to eat meatless meals, whether you do it part time or all the time. Today's supermarkets have many healthful and creative options, including meatless convenience Items you can keep in your freezer for those action-packed weeknights. Here are a handful of quick options to consider:
1. Burger Alternatives. Soy and veggie burgers usually contain less saturated fat than beef burgers, some feature high-quality soy protein, and most have at least a couple of grams of fiber, too. Here are a few examples:
- Boca Burger — Vegan (110 calories, 2 g fat, 13 g protein, 5 g fiber)
- Gardenburger Flame Grilled Soy Burger (120 calories, 4 g fat, 14 g protein, 4 g fiber)
- Gardenburger Savory Portabella Burger (100 calories, 2.5 g fat, 9 g protein, 4 g fiber)
- Morningstar Farms Grillers Original (140 calories, 6 g fat, 15 g protein, 2 g fiber)
- Amy's All American Burger (120 calories, 3 g fat, 10 g protein, 3 g fiber)
- Whole Foods 365 Organic Classic Veggie Burger (100 calories, 2.7 g fat, 14 g protein, 4 g fiber)
2. Frozen (non-meat) pizza. Check the ingredient label to find out for sure, but some brands are definitely suitable for lacto vegetarians. Check out these fun flavors:
- Amy's Pizza Pesto (1/3 Pizza, 128 grams, contains 310 calories, 12 g fat, 12 g protein, 2 g fiber)
- Freschetta Brick Oven Roasted Portabella, Mushroom and Spinach (142 gram serving contains 280 calories, 10 g fat, 12 g protein, 2 g fiber)
- Whole Foods 365 Roasted Vegetable & Goat Cheese (142 gram serving contains 270 calories, 7 g fat, 12 g protein, 3 g fiber)
3. Frozen cheese-filled tortellini and ravioli. In the fresh and frozen pasta sections of your supermarket, you'll provably find at least three brands of meatless tortellini and raviolis.
Just pop them in your freezer and when the mood hits, you're about 20 minutes away from tender tortellini (including the time it takes to boil the water)! Add a meatless sauce (marinara, a drizzle of olive oil, pesto, or a vegetarian white sauce) and some vegetables, you're good to go.
Here are seven more meatless dishes to appeal even to the chronically carnivorous:
- Bean there, done that! Beans make great meat replacements, probably because they're super-satisfying with high amounts of protein and fiber. You might not notice the meat's missing when you dine on chili bursting with beans. A bean burrito makes a fine meal, and vegetable stew can be quite filling when you add beans.
- Veggie pot pie, featuring potatoes, peas, mushrooms and any other vegetables with a vegetarian gravy and a vegetarian pie crust (if desired).
- Mexican dishes featuring beans and veggies instead of beef and chicken: burritos, nachos, enchiladas, etc.
- Stir-fry up some Chinese entrÃ©es with veggies and tofu, and serve atop rice or noodles.
- Stuff bell peppers with a mixture of rice with spices and vegetables. Add vegetarian sausage, tofu, or beans to make the dish more satisfying.
- Layer your lasagna with veggies, not meat. Lasagna has so much going for it (sauce, cheese, noodles, spices, etc.) that you won't miss the meat. You can do the same with other pasta dishes, too. Macaroni & cheese doesn't need meat to pass muster. Neither does fettuccine Alfredo, nor cheese tortellini with pesto or marinara sauce.
- Substitute hearty vegetables that have substantial texture and a rich, satisfying flavor ( eggplant, spinach, portabella mushrooms, zucchini) for the meat in your favorite dishes. Thick slices of broiled eggplant can replace chicken in eggplant parmesan, and spinach can stand in for ground beef in lasagna. Tofu can take the place of beef in chili. A grilled portabella mushroom served on a bun can even take the place of a burger.
Ready to give part-time vegetarianism a try? Start with a “meatless Monday,” and work your way up to even more vegetarian meals each week. It might be easier than you think.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
Vegetarian Sausage & Sage Gravy
Journal as: 1/2 cup “vegetables with 1 tsp fat maximum”
OR 1/4 cup “starchy foods and legumes with 1 tsp fat maximum”
You can use this gravy in all sorts of dishes, from vegetarian Shepherd's pie to vegetarian casserole to pot pie.
4 links vegetarian sausage links or patties, Whole Kitchen brand from Whole Foods (about 3 ounces) 1 tablespoon olive or canola oil 1 cup vegetable broth 2 tablespoons Wondra quick-mixing flour (or all-purpose flour) 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional) Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried ground sage
- Heat the oil in a large, nonstick frying pan, then add the vegetarian links or patties and fry until done, crumbling into small pieces as it cooks.
- Add 1/4 cup of the vegetable broth and the 2 tablespoons of flour to a small, nonstick saucepan and mix together to make a paste. Slowly whisk in the remaining vegetable broth.
- Whisk in the salt (if desired), pepper, sage and cooked sausage pieces with oil. Bring mixture to boil and stir until it reaches desired thickness (about 2 minutes).
Yield: 1 1/4 cup gravy (about 4 servings)
Per serving: 93 calories, 6.5 g protein, 5.5 g carbohydrate, 5 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.6 g fiber, 410 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 48%.
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
Journal as: 1/4 cup “starchy foods and legumes with fat” + 1/2 cup “vegetables with 1 teaspoon fat maximum”
15-ounce can chickpeas (or garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed 1 cucumber, unpeeled and finely chopped 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved 1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, finely diced or cubed 1 tablespoon olive oil 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Add chickpeas, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, basil, and mozzarella to medium serving bowl.
- Drizzle olive oil, vinegar, and salt over the top, and toss all ingredients well to combine.
- Cover bowl and refrigerate at least 1 hour to let flavors blend.
Yield: 6 side servings
Per serving: 153 calories, 9 g protein, 15 g carbohydrate, 6.5 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 2.5 g fiber, 197 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 38%.
Sausage & Saffron Rice
Journal as: 1 cup “hearty stew, chili, bean soup” + 1/4 cup “starchy foods and legumes without added fat” OR 1 “frozen dinner light, pasta or rice dish with meat or fish or vegetarian with light sauce”
1 tablespoon olive oil 1 small red chili, stemmed, seeded, and finely minced, or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional) 2 teaspoons minced garlic 1 cup long grain brown rice 1 3/4 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth) 1 pinch saffron threads (find these in jars in the spice section) 5-6 ounces vegetarian sausage of your choice, cut into 1/2-inch slices 1 cup diced, vine-ripened tomato (or use drained chopped canned tomatoes) 2 bay leaves 1/4 cup chopped green onions (the white and part of the green) Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Heat oil in a medium, nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili or red pepper flakes, if desired, and sautÃ© for exactly one minute. Stir in the brown rice and let brown in oil for a minute. Stir in the broth, saffron, sausage pieces, tomato, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to simmer; cover saucepan and cook 35-40 minutes (rice should be tender).
- Let the rice mixture sit in covered saucepan for 10 minutes. Stir in green onions, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Yield: 4 servings
Per serving (using Whole Foods brand Vegetarian Sausage Links: 291 calories, 13.5 g protein, 43 g carbohydrate, 7.4 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 5 g fiber, 620 mg sodium (depending on the sodium in the broth and sausage). Calories from fat: 23%.
Journal as: 1 cup “entrÃ©e salad with starchy foods light salad dressing” OR 1 portion “frozen dinner light, pasta or rice dish with meat or fish or vegetarian with light sauce” OR 2 slices “bread, toast, whole grain bread” + 2 ounces low-fat cheese + 1/2 cup “vegetables with 1 tsp fat maximum”
4 medium portabella mushrooms, stems removed and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices 2 teaspoons dried oregano flakes 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil Salt and pepper to taste 3 medium zucchini, cut into matchsticks (about 2 inches long and 1/2 inch thick) 1 medium red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick 8 corn or flour tortillas 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded, reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese 1/2 cup salsa of your choice
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add mushrooms, oregano, oil, salt and pepper (if desired), zucchini sticks, and onion slices to large bowl. Toss to blend well.
- Spoon mixture evenly into a jellyroll pan (line it with nonstick foil if you have it). Place pan in oven and let vegetables roast, tossing occasionally, for about 30 minutes.
- Soften tortillas by wrapping them in a damp cloth and heating in the microwave for about a minute. Or you can warm them in a nonstick frying pan (use a little canola cooking spray if you ).
- Fill each tortilla with mushroom mixture, some shredded cheese, and salsa.
Yield: 4 servings (2 tacos each)
Per serving: 309 calories, 15 g protein, 40 g carbohydrate, 12 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 15 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 370 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33%.
Recipes provided by Elaine Magee; Â© 2006 Elaine Magee
SOURCE: Environmental Nutrition, August 2005.
© 2006 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved.
Why Mark Bittman wants you to be a part-time vegan
A balanced diet means wide variety of foods, but real foods. Again, not hyper-processed foods, but real foods.
Meat and dairy can be a part of that diet, but it should not be a part of that diet in the way that it is for most of us now, which is to say we eat a pound and a half or so of animal products every day on average, which is conservatively ten times as much as we need and ten times as much as is good for us.
So, the overconsumption of animal products is bad for us.
The overproduction of industrially raised animals — as in factory farms — we've all seen pictures of those, is not only bad for us, but terrible for the environment, for the people who live around those factory farms, for the animals, of course. So, the idea is really a balance of real foods, but a much stronger and much heavier emphasis on plants than really we've done in the United States for 100 years.
MB: Yeah, why do we ignore the science? Many books have been written about this. We look for silver bullets. We expect magic to happen. We think that at some point, there's going to be a pill that makes our ills go away — there's going be a tech solution that makes climate change go away.
And it doesn't always work that way. In fact, it usually doesn't work that way. So, when the science says, and the science does say a good diet is actually a very, very simple thing, people find that boring. Everybody says, “Oh, it's so confusing.” Well, the reason it's confusing is because the industry wants you to be confused.
So, if I say to you, “Eat lots of tomatoes,” and then a study comes out and says, “Well, tomatoes are good because there's lycopene (PH) in it,” then the industry wants to promote lycopene because it can take lycopene and put it in Trix, and now tell you that Trix are good for you because there's lycopene in them.
But the fact is that's not how it works. What works is eating a wide variety of foods, as I've now said three times — most of them plants. And that's so simple that people think, “Well, it can't be that. It has to be that some scientist invents something.” That's not how things are going to get better.
MB: I was thinking about this for years — and not making that many changes in my own diet. I didn't eat much hyper-processed food, but I did eat a lot of animal products. And I thought, “You know, if I'm going to walk the walk, I have to be eating a more plant-based diet.”
And I needed a rule. I recognized that I needed one and many of us do. It's not enough to say, “Eat more plants,” because then you wake up and you say, “I'm going to eat more plants, but maybe not at breakfast.” And then you say, “Maybe not at lunch, and maybe not at dinner, either.” And days go by.
So, I made this rule that I called “Vegan before 6:00,” which is I eat as a very strict vegan all day long. That is, I eat very heavily from the plant kingdom and exclusively from the plant kingdom, and no white flour, no white pasta, no white rice. Nothing white. No meat, no dairy, no junk.
Only plants until dinnertime, and then at dinner, I do whatever I want to do. It was just a thought.
It was just a little game I was going to play with myself, which was, “Let's see if I have the discipline to eat a strictly plant-based diet, all day long, and then at night I'll let myself eat meat and doughnuts or whatever,” which I don't, but it worked.
I did it at first as a challenge and it was kind of fun. I did it, and all my blood numbers, my weight, my cholesterol, all of that stuff went in the right direction.
So, I kept doing it, and it kind of became a way of life. But I want to emphasize that any strategy that enables you to eat more plant foods, more natural foods, more whole foods and less hyper-processed foods and fewer animal products, any strategy that works for you is the right strategy.
MB: Some people don't get to eat enough, some eat too much of the wrong things and then there's the environmental problems. So, all of this is an educational issue, which is why I'm talking to you now.
There's a notion that so-called “healthy food” is more expensive than junk food, and it's really not true.
And if you compare a dinner for a family of four at McDonald's or Burger King or any fast food joint you want to name,(and that is for the most part unhealthy food because no one's going there to order salads) to what it costs to cook a normal meal for a family of four …
and I'm not talking about organic and I'm not talking about going to a fancy supermarket … We're talking about buying regularly grown vegetables and fruits, a little bit of meat, beans and rice, whatever, that is less expensive. You know, your $20 goes a lot farther at a regular supermarket than it goes in a fast food joint.
MB: The bottom line is the same as the first line. The bottom line is eat less hyper-processed food. Eat no junk at all, if you can.
Eat more plants, and when I say “plants,” I don't mean distillations of plants. I mean things that don't have labels, fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds.
And eat way fewer animal products. That is the formula. It's pretty simple.
Want more tips these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on , and Instagram.
“,”author”:null,”date_published”:null,”lead_image_url”:”https://media4.s-nbcnews.com/j/newscms/2018_28/2493426/180710-mark-bittman-ac-548p_be0a8eb88a20ce77d3d8999c4ab7373f.nbcnews-fp-1200-630.jpg”,”dek”:null,”next_page_url”:null,”url”:”https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/why-mark-bittman-wants-you-be-part-time-vegan-ncna889916″,”domain”:”www.nbcnews.com”,”excerpt”:”Mark Bittman has a golden rule for eating well: Eat more plants, less junk and fewer animal products and everyone â including the planet â gets healthier.”,”word_count”:1000,”direction”:”ltr”,”total_pages”:1,”rendered_pages”:1}