Monday, November 16, 2015

Let's Talk About The "V' Word....Vegetables!

      Vegetables. That is the word that constantly pops up in discussions about health and wellness. There is no escaping the fact that if you want to be healthy you have to eat your vegetables and lots of them. How many of us picture an over steamed pile of something green in the corner of our plate? Vegetables have a bad reputation for being bland and boring. Vegetables feel more like a chore than a delicious addition to a meal. I remember many meals holding my breath, chewing super fast, swallowing, and slugging down water like my life depended on it.  On my journey of getting my healthy back, I forced myself to make peace with vegetables, to go beyond the green pile of something, and dive into a world I knew little about; a plant based diet.

     I am a bit “hippie”ish when it comes to food choices I make for my family. We do not eat processed foods or food with ingredients we cannot read. We only eat organic meat twice a week. Our main food is plants which includes vegetables and whole grains. I have somehow managed to transform my meat everyday family into veggie eating machines. How? I got creative. I bought kitchen gadgets to aid in the creation of plant based meals. Zoodles, anyone? I busted out of my comfort zone and tried new recipes that I found on Pinterest. I have learned a lot in the past 5 months and it is time to pass on some wisdom.

Let’s start with pictures of meals I have made.... 

Buffalo Cauliflower Bowl 
Thai Raw Carrot Noodles with a Peanut Sauce 
Zoodles with Tomatoes and Capers
Vegetarian Pad Thai
Deconstructed Manicotti with Zoodles

Lasagna Rolls

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein
Homemade Falafel 
Homemade Spaghetti O's 
White Bean Avocado Burritos 
Meatless Black Bean "Meatloaf" 

      Not one over cooked pile of something in the mix. Everything was made with fresh, mostly organic (I buy what fits into my budget) vegetables. I discovered that these plant based meals take the same amount of time, often less time, as the typical meal we were used to eating. I do not spend more time in the kitchen! I repeat; I do not spend more time in the kitchen! If time is an issue that you have been telling yourself is why you can’t or won’t...well....debunked. Most nights the meal is done in 30-45 minutes. 

     I am not a chef; I am a self taught home cook and YouTube has been my go to tool for learning technique and skills in the kitchen. Need to know how to cut open a spaghetti squash or not sure what “mince” means? You can find answer just a few clicks away. I had to push my ego aside, be ok with not knowing, and be willing to learn. It did not take long for me to feel empowered in my kitchen again. It is ok to not know in the beginning. Get comfortable being uncomfortable and in no time these foods will become your normal. 

     My family and I have grown to trust the plant based meals I set down in front of them. There was apprehension at first as we were taken out of our comfort zone. The typical three item plate we have spent years looking at suddenly changed. Where once there was meat, a starch, and a vegetable now sat vegetables with a side of more vegetables. I appreciate my family’s support and willingness to try new items. We all, happily, discovered that everything tasted fantastic! In fact, we were eating more satisfying meals because of the rich flavors and variety of foods!

     From the pictures above it is clear that not every meal is vegan. Eating a vegan menu is not my intension. I am not a vegan, nor is anyone in my family. I believe in balance and moderation.  I started implementing Meatless Monday and slowly added more plant based meals over time. This was not an overnight change. We eat organic meat twice a week. Why organic? Because once you understand what is done to mainstream animal products you won’t (I hope) be able to eat it again. We eat vegetarian meals 2-3 times a week and vegan meals at least twice a week. Balance and moderation. When it comes to real food, I do not have a prejudice against any of it, just a belief that our bodies do not need animal products every single day. 

     Veggies used to make me think of doom. The ‘do what I have to’ portion of my meal. Now they are exciting and a welcomed change to our meals. Even my 10 year old son has jumped on board the veggie train and cleans his plate every night. It took time and a willingness to try new recipes. I had to get comfortable with being uncomfortable in the grocery store while I searched for items on my list I had never cooked with before. After a couple of trips, I am no longer the lost child among the aisles -  I know where to go and what to get.

     Over the past 5 months my husband and I have both lost weight with our diet overhaul. My husband has lost 20 pounds with just diet change alone. I have lost over 30 pounds because I also workout 5-6 days a week. We have not felt deprived during this journey. We feel healthier and happier. It is hard not to get excited when we are both tossing clothes in the “too big” pile. Our bodies feel better, so much so that when we talk about a cheat meal or going out to eat we often times decide against it. Why? We do not miss the feeling of heavy, bloated, icky, and blah. The idea of sitting in discomfort turns us off to junk foods. 

     Vegetables do not have to be the boring side dish. They can be the delicious main dish or new favorite side that brings you and your family nutrition without feeling tortured. I promise that if you just try one recipe, you will discover how not intimidating cooking vegetables is, how easy it is, and how delicious your meals will be. Start simple and start slow. This is a journey, not an overnight change. If you would like recipe ideas please follow New Figure Forward on Instagram and Pinterest. I post regularly the new meals I prepared for my family and recipes I plan on trying. 

Here’s to your health, wellness, and happiness! 

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