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Learn to Love Vegetables

When I became a vegetarian, I could have probably counted the number of fruits and vegetables that had crossed my lips the previous 18 years on two hands.

But things are different these days, and veggies are the highlight of my lunches and dinners. But it wasn't always that way. Like most people, I hated all things green and healthy.

I get questions about this a lot--people calling themselves picky eaters, saying they don't like a single vegetable out there. Take it from a person who was just like you. You CAN learn to like vegetables. And beyond that, you CAN meet your daily quota in a variety of tasty ways.

Here are 8 techniques and tips I used to like vegetables. Try them yourself--you just might be surprised.

Say no to plain vegetables. One of the main reasons people don't like vegetables is because they try to eat them plain. If you're new to eating healthy, this is one of the worst things you can do! Most people don't have the taste buds for a plate of steamed broccoli or spinach. And why should you have to suffer through that for the sake of your health? The thing I did most when I started eating healthier was put vegetables into things I already ate: broccoli mixed in with macaroni and cheese, chopped carrots mixed in with seasoned rice mixes, and frozen spinach added to a can of soup are just a few examples. This is a great way to introduce veggies into your diet, where the flavors of the other foods you eat them with help them taste better and less noticeable. Start by adding small amounts of veggies to your standard meals, and as your taste buds adapt, you can add more and more.

Mix your food. If you're one of those people who neatly puts your food into distinct piles on a plate, never mixing them up, then you might hate this idea. I'm not one of those non-food-mixers myself. Most of my meals get mixed up into one big jumble, and while it doesn't look pretty, it sure tastes good. This is similar to the tip above, incorporating veggies into dishes you already eat. But sometimes you can't just add a helping of peas to, say, a turkey burger. But served as a side, you can mix bits of veggies on your plate with the other main dishes--to add flavor and mask the taste if you don't like it.

Add some flavor. When cooking vegetables, it usually takes just a little bit of flavor to make them more appetizing. I'm not a fan of plain vegetables either. I don't think many people are. But you can add flavor (and nutrition) to raw veggies with healthy dips like hummus (great with carrots, celery, sliced peppers, cucumbers and more) or your favorite salad dressing (yep, it works for things other than salads). When cooking vegetables, most taste great with just a little salt, pepper and garlic. But I find that sautéed onions and garlic make just about anything taste good, so I often cook those first and then add some vegetables to the mix, which brings me to my next point.

Learn how to cook! I've had to teach myself how to cook as an adult. I come from a family of…whatever word exists to describe the opposite of a chef. Cooking has become quite a hobby for me and it's surprisingly fun, relaxing, entertaining and interesting. So how'd I learn to cook? Mostly by trial and error. But I can't take all the credit. I read books and magazines and would call my cooking friends to ask how to prepare a random vegetable that I bought at the store. Little by little, you'll pick up knowledge and learn how to make food taste (and look) great. Even if it doesn't come out perfectly, you'll still learn what NOT to do, and that's a step in the right direction.

Try, try again. Most of you are probably parents who have to deal with picky eaters on a regular basis. What most feeding experts will tell you is that a child has to try a food several different times before they might being to like it. What's true for kids is the same for adults. There are foods that I swear I hated my entire life that now, I really like. I just kept trying them in new ways, in different combinations, etc. I used to think I hated strawberries because I had never had a strawberry that I ever liked. But a couple years ago, I was on a mission to find that perfect strawberry, because I just knew I'd like it if I just found a good one. And what do you know--I did. And in the process I learned that, to me, organic tastes best. And so does freshly picked berries in summer (when they're at the peak of freshness and flavor), so I only eat them then. I also learned what color they should be to taste perfect. This is just one example of how you can't write off a food, especially if it's been a very long time since you last tried it.

Learn the seasons. Seasonal food is fresher, healthier, and all around better tasting. Strawberries in winter and pumpkin in summer doesn't make much sense, even if you find it in the grocery. Go to your farmer's market and talk to the growers of all things green. They'll tell you what's good and how to eat it, too.

Look for veggie-packed dishes when dining out. Restaurants sure know how to make anything taste good, and that applies to vegetables too. Think outside the box. Order a vegetable side dish or a vegetarian meal instead of your usual meal. I learned that even though it looks weird and kinda gross, I sort of like eggplant sandwiches. I haven't learned how to make them on my own yet, but a local restaurant sure does a good job, so I'm leaving it to them.

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Red and Black Fruit Salad

Fresh berries are one of the most nutritious fruits you can eat, and this is one of the most delicious ways to enjoy them. Antioxidant-packed blueberries and blackberries are packed with antioxidants and fiber, and they're rich in vitamin C as well.

Ingredients

  • 2 red plums, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped
  • 3 mint leaves, coarsely torn (about 1 tablespoon)

Preparation

1. Toss plums, raspberries, and blueberries with sugar, orange juice, and cinnamon; let stand 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with pistachios and mint.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
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How to Turn Your Walk into a Run

You have been walking faithfully four to five days a week, gradually increasing your time to 30 minutes or longer. Congratulations! But after following this routine for several weeks, you may no longer feel the challenge you once did. You feel it’s time to kick it up a notch and see where these legs can take you! The next step for many walkers in your situation is running.

Running is a great sport in which almost all individuals can participate. Despite the fact that many people believe running can lead to arthritis of the knees and hips, studies conducted by Stanford University and the Cooper Institute have actually shown that running can improve bone and joint function for those not already suffering from arthritis.

Running has been also shown to:

  • Decrease blood pressure
  • Increase cardiovascular functioning
  • Increase HDL (the good cholesterol)
  • Improve aerobic endurance
  • Increase muscle strength, especially in the lower body and core
  • Promote better sleep
  • And perhaps most importantly, promote a sense of self-confidence and well-being

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How to Start Eating Healthier

Most people are creatures of habit. We go to the grocery store on the same day every week and fill our carts with the same stuff. If it’s Monday, chicken's for dinner and Wednesday always means spaghetti. We are comforted with knowing what to expect—even if our meals aren’t that exciting, we know what we’re going to eat.

That’s what makes eating healthier so scary sometimes. We are so used to eating a certain way that we rarely think about what we’re actually putting into our bodies. So to eat a healthier diet means actually waking up and paying attention to what's on your plate.

Make Healthy Eating a Habit
Eating healthier doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you want to adopt healthy habits that will last, then the easiest way to do it is by making small, gradual changes. Don’t expect too much from yourself too soon—it takes about a month for any new action to become habit.

Before you start making any changes to your diet, take a week or two to observe your current eating habits. Track everything that goes in your mouth, including drinks and treats, no matter how small. Keeping a food journal will really open your eyes—realizing that you ate 10 cookies over the course of the week might make you think twice before reaching into the cookie jar again tonight, for example. You might not realize how bad your present eating habits are until you see an unhealthy pattern right there in black and white. Once you see that some changes are in order, then you're ready to take the next steps.

Small Changes Mean Big Rewards
If you can't stand the taste of broccoli, then vowing to eat it more often is pretty unrealistic. But if increasing the number of vegetables you eat each day is one of your goals, start by finding a few different ones that you can painlessly work into your diet. Make sure you select a variety of colors (dark green, red, orange, etc.) to get the most nutrients per bite. Add some shredded carrots to your muffin batter or top your pizza with fresh tomatoes, for example.

If you know you need to eat more fruit, start by adding some sliced bananas to your cereal in the morning or bake an apple with a bit of brown sugar for a yummy, low-cal dessert. Fresh berries and yogurt make a nice, light breakfast or snack too.

As you adopt this new style of eating, you will find that your food preferences will gradually change—when you cut out high-sugar, high-fat goodies, your cravings will actually go away in time. Your body wants healthy food!

One of the biggest challenges to eating healthier is finding substitutions for existing foods in your diet. Here are some tips to make the transition easier:

  • Use mustard instead of mayo on your sandwiches. You’ll get lots of flavor with much fewer calories and fat.
  • Select whole wheat bread over white bread. Be sure to read the label to ensure you’re getting whole grains, not just colored white bread.
  • Eat the white meat of turkey or chicken, which is lower in fat than dark meat, red meat and pork. Animal fat is the number one dietary source of unhealthy saturated fat.
  • Start using lean ground beef, pork tenderloin or fish instead of high-fat cuts of meat.
  • Change your cooking methods. Bake, grill or broil your meals instead of frying. Use non-stick sprays—or better yet, non-stick pans—instead of oil.
  • Drink more water. Slowly reduce the amount of soda you drink and replace it with herbal tea or water. Aim for eight cups of pure water each day.
  • Don't drink your calories. Eat a whole orange instead of drinking a glass of juice, for example. Real food is usually more filling and more nutritious than juices, fruit drinks, and other high-calorie beverages.
  • Serve sauces and dressings on the side. Dip your fork into the sauce, then dip your fork into the food. You’ll still have the flavor but with fewer calories.
  • Gradually switch to skim milk. Milk commonly comes in four varieties: whole (4% fat), 2%, 1% and skim (0% fat). Gradually wean yourself from the higher-fat varieties to the lower fat milk every two weeks. For example: continue drinking your normal 2% milk for two weeks, then move to 1% for two weeks, and then your palate will be ready for the consistency of skim milk.
  • Switch from full-fat cheeses to reduced-fat or fat-free cheeses the same way you would with milk (see tip above).
  • Order vegetables on the side instead of fries. Flavor them with lemon juice or herbs instead of butter.
  • Snack on fruit and nuts instead of sugary treats. The fiber, protein and healthy fats in this combo will sustain you to your next meal and you won’t have the energy slump that comes after eating candy.
  • Reduce your portion size. Most people will eat whatever amount of food is in front of them, so start putting your meals on smaller plates. You will be just as satisfied because your mind "sees" that you’re eating a full plate of food.
Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to mean deprivation. You don’t have to cut out your favorite foods completely—you just have to make a few changes. Treat yourself to a mini chocolate bar instead of a full-sized one, for example. By trying to eat the most nutritious foods possible, you are creating a healthy lifestyle that will help you reach your best weight. You deserve the very best!

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4 meals that are better than medicine

Five chefs and a doctor walk into a kitchen...sounds like the beginning of a corny joke, but in fact it was the genesis of a deliriously successful (if slightly contentious) partnership.

We challenged a handful of the country's best chefs—Anita Lo from New York City's Annisa, Jenn Louis of Portland's Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, and Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of San Francisco's Bar Tartine—to create filling, flavorful dishes using ingredients that promote health. Then we paired them with Dr. Mladen Golubic, medical director of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Lifestyle Medicine, to assess—and fine-tune—their recipes. There were some differences of opinion along the way, but everyone agreed on the results. After all, it's hard to argue with health that tastes this good. (Here’s the newest science-backed list of the most useful tactics for navigating the produce aisle.)

Grilled Spanish Mackerel With Chickpea And Celery Salad
"Spanish mackerel is a versatile, sustainable, less expensive fish. It has a bold, rich flavor that is still mild enough to appeal to people who don't like other mackerel," says Chef Anita Lo of Annisa in New York City. And Golubic adds mackerel is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help balance omega-6s to fend off inflammation.

Celery and parsley, which contains apigenin, a strong inflammation-fighting phytonutrient, are easy ways to brighten and balance the dish. (Not all fish are healthy. Here are 12 Fish You Should Never, Ever Eat.)

PREP TIME: 15 min
TOTAL TIME: 40 min
SERVINGS: 4

4 Spanish mackerel or Arctic char fillets (5½ oz each), skin on
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cumin
2 Tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp anchovy paste
? tsp red-pepper flakes
¾ c fresh orange juice
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 ribs celery, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1. SCORE skin of fillets diagonally with knife. Sprinkle fish with turmeric and cumin. Season with salt and black pepper. Coat with 2 tsp oil.
2. HEAT remaining 2 Tbsp oil in medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients and cook until onion is soft. Add juices and simmer until syrupy, 10 minutes. Season. Stir in chickpeas and heat through. Keep warm.
3. COAT grill pan or grill with cooking spray and heat to medium-high. Grill fish, skin side down, until well marked, 5 minutes. Flip and cook until fish flakes easily, 5 minutes.
4. DIVIDE celery among 4 plates and spoon on chickpea mixture. Top with fish and parsley.

NUTRITION (per serving) 400 cal, 34 g pro, 19 g carb, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 21 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 540 mg sodium

Open-Faced Cod Sandwich
Instead of the usual salmon or tuna, chefs Nick Balla and Cortney Burns of Bar Tartine in San Francisco go for tender, buttery smoked black cod. "It feels luxurious while still being very healthy," says Balla.

"One way to make this—or any dish—even more immuno-boosting is to add mushrooms," Golubic says. "There are more and more studies showing that they work in unique ways to keep immunity in good shape." (Cutting-edge science reveals the 9 Power Foods That Boost Immunity.)

PREP TIME: 15 min
TOTAL TIME: 45 min
SERVINGS: 6 (2 slices each)

½ med head cauliflower (1 lb), cut into florets
1 sm onion, thickly sliced
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1 Tbsp chopped roasted red bell pepper
1 Tbsp white miso paste
1 clove garlic, chopped
¼ tsp hot paprika
3 Tbsp toasted sunflower seed kernels
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 sm loaf (8 oz) dense sprouted rye bread, cut into 13 slices
½ lb green cabbage, thinly sliced
12 oz smoked black cod (sable), flaked or sliced
Dill sprigs and grated lemon zest (optional)

1. HEAT oven to 400°F.
2. TOSS cauliflower and onion with 1 Tbsp of the oil on large baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper. Roast until tender, 25 minutes. Transfer to blender with roasted pepper, miso, garlic, paprika, 2 Tbsp of the sunflower seeds, 1 tsp of the lemon juice, and remaining 1 Tbsp oil. Add 1 slice of the bread. Blend until smooth, adding 1 Tbsp warm water, if necessary. Season to taste.
3. TOSS cabbage with remaining 1 tsp lemon juice. Spread cauliflower mixture on each bread slice. Top evenly with cabbage and cod. Garnish as desired with dill, lemon zest, more paprika, and remaining 1 Tbsp sunflower seeds.

NUTRITION (per serving) 350 cal, 17 g pro, 29 g carb, 5 g fiber, 5 g sugars, 19 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 880 mg sodium

Pasta with Kale Pesto
Leafy greens, like the kale in this pesto, contain tons of folate, which has been shown to be an important nutrient for mood. "My recipe called for homemade pasta with mood-boosting cocoa," says Tony Mantuano of Spiaggia in Chicago, "but it had white flour. Golubic suggested dried whole wheat pasta instead."

To make up for the lack of cocoa-flavored pasta, Mantuano recommends shaving unsweetened chocolate over the dish. Golubic also recommends dark chocolate for its mood-enhancing properties. (Feel better the healthy, natural way with these 15 Mood-Boosting Foods

PREP TIME: 10 min
TOTAL TIME: 45 min
SERVINGS: 6

1 med sweet onion, cut into 8 wedges
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch (8 oz) kale, large ribs and stems removed
¼ c chopped toasted walnuts
1 clove garlic, smashed
? c grated Pecorino Romano (1? oz), optional
1 lb whole wheat fettuccine
1 Tbsp capers, rinsed
1 c black grapes
Unsweetened chocolate (optional)

1. HEAT broiler.
2. TOSS onion with 1 Tbsp of the oil on baking sheet. Season. Broil 4" from heat, turning once, until charred and tender, 5 minutes.
3. COOK kale in large pot of boiling salted water, 1 minute. Drain, rinse, and press with paper towels to remove all excess moisture. Finely chop in food processor with walnuts and garlic. With motor running, slowly add remaining 3 Tbsp oil until pesto is smooth. Transfer to bowl, stir in cheese, and season to taste. Set aside.
4. PREPARE pasta per package directions, reserving ¾ cup cooking water. In serving bowl, toss drained pasta with capers, reserved onion, reserved pesto, and cup of the water (adding a little more as needed). Toss in grapes. Shave or grate chocolate (if using) over top and serve immediately.

NUTRITION (per serving) 450 cal, 17 g pro, 59 g carb, 9 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 16 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 270 mg sodium

Almond-Crunch Biscotti
"These biscotti were originally made with all white flour, but Golubic recommends only whole grains," says chef Jenn Louis of Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Ore. "The recipe actually works well when you use 100% whole wheat flour, creating a pleasantly hearty cookie."

Why the swap? "Fiber in the whole wheat flour and nuts slows the absorption of sugar, which means you won't have as drastic a glucose spike and crash from this dessert," Golubic says. (Which packaged goods aren’t packed with preservatives? Find out the 100 Cleanest Packaged Foods.)

PREP TIME: 35 min
TOTAL TIME: 1 hr 35 min + cooling time
SERVINGS: 4 dozen

2 c whole almonds, toasted
1? c all-purpose flour
? c whole wheat flour
? c brown sugar
½ c granulated sugar
½ c candied ginger, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
2½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)
¼ tsp cayenne
3 lg eggs
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. HEAT oven to 325°F.
2. GRIND almonds in food processor to a coarse meal, 30 to 40 seconds. Put in bowl with next 9 ingredients and ½ tsp salt.
3. BEAT eggs, oil, and vanilla in another bowl until smooth. Stir just enough into dry ingredients to form a dry, shaggy dough. Reserve remaining egg mixture (about 2 Tbsp).
4. KNEAD dough briefly. Divide into 2 pieces. With wet hands, roll each piece into 12"-long log, flattening top until 1½" high. Put on large parchment-lined baking sheet, 5" apart. Brush tops with reserved egg mixture.
5. BAKE until edges are browned and firm and centers have puffed and developed skin but are still slightly soft, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool about 1 hour, then gently cut crosswise into ½ -thick slices using large serrated knife. Lower oven temperature to 300°F, return sliced biscotti to baking sheet, bottom side down, and bake, turning halfway through, until golden and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool. Store in airtight container up to 2 weeks.

NUTRITION (per cookie) 90 cal, 2 g pro, 12 g carb, 1 g fiber, 6 g sugars, 4 g fat, 0 g sat fat, 50 mg sodium

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Health Benefits of Eating Lebanese Food

The staples of Lebanese cuisine are fresh vegetables, seeds, legumes, low-fat dairy, nuts, and fruit. Instead of cooking with fatty butter or cream, olive oil is used. While olive oil is still high in fat content, it is full of monounsaturated fatty acids which can lower cholesterol and improve heart health. Olive oil can also help control blood clotting and blood sugar levels.

When eating a Lebanese diet, fresh veggies, fruit and legumes are consumed in a much greater quantity compared to meats and high-fat dairy ingredients. Even high-starch carbohydrates are not very common in this class of cuisine. Small amounts of rice and lentils are more common than white bread, noodles, or potatoes.

 

Lebanese food is extra tasty and appreciated by the palette because of the variety of spices and fresh herbs that are included in so many of the common recipes. The parsley used in the traditional dish, Tabouli, aids digestion and provides a crisp, green flavor. Parsley is also high in antioxidants and an incredible amount of vitamin K (which plays a key role in bone health and protects the brain fro neural damage).

Mint is a common herb found in Lebanese dishes, and while this plant may seem like it is just a garnish or an aid to freshen your breath, it is actually helpful with digestion and full of carotenes and vitamin C.

The traditional sauce, Tahini, is made from sesame seeds, which have the highest oil content of any seed, also can enhance a dish with its rich, nutty flavor. Sesame seeds, and therefore tahini, are rich in Omega 6 fatty acids as well as protein. Tahini is also a good source of copper, methionine, calcium and manganese.

The use of lentils in Lebanese cuisine also contributes to the health benefits of this type of food. Lentils are easy to cook with because they easily absorb the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish, and take well to seasoning. Lentils are high in fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Plus they have almost no fat content at all, and are relatively low in calories.

Lemon stars as an important ingredient is several traditional Lebanese dishes. It is used in the preparation of hummus, tabouli, stuffed grape leaves, and baba ganoush, among others. Lemon is full of potassium. It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties which helps keep food fresh and keep your insides free from infection. Getting a daily dose of lemon can aid constipation and inflammation. Adding lemon to your diet is also an aid in weight loss and a booster for your immune system.

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