Archives for posts with tag: plant-based nutrition

We picked up our second share from the CSA last Tuesday, and it’s been a mystery and  a challenge.

Left to Right – Kale, herbs, yellow squash, Swiss chard, collards, and bok (pak) choi (I think).  Cucumbers at the top.

I was grateful that Joyce (owner with her husband John of The Good Earth) had given Richard a list of what was included, but I was unfamiliar with many of these plants.  My first job was to identify which were which.   I spent quite some time on Google looking at pictures of greens, trying to figure out what I had.  What a treasure trove of fresh green goodness!   Now I need to find some recipes for inspiration.

Being busy, I started with what I knew: yellow squash, herbs and zucchini.

Whole wheat pasta with mixed vegetables (vidalia onion, grape tomatoes, yellow squash, and cucumbers) with chopped fresh basil.

While the pasta was cooking, I added the grape tomatoes to a non-stick skillet and let them start to simmer before adding sliced Vidalia onion, yellow squash and a few slices of zucchini. Or so I thought.  I held the green veggie out toward Richard and said, “Is this a zucchini or a cucumber?”  He said “zucchini”.  Silly me, Richard is not only color blind, he has no sense of smell.  As we later found out, when the “zucchini” tasted like pickles, sauteed cucumber is pretty tasty, and it added something a little different to this pasta dish.  A bit of chopped fresh basil also gave it a nice flavor.  I’m getting used to having pasta without grated cheese, and now that I have such flavorful fresh vegetables, I’d rather not bury their flavor under Asiago or Romano cheese.  But a glass of Merlot always goes with pasta, of course!

Another busy day, so again I stuck with what I knew:  yellow squash, kale, cucumber and herbs.

Left to right: Tossed mixed vegetables, cucumber salad, basmati rice with chopped greens and honey dijon mustard.

As you may notice, Vidalia onions are available right now, and they are so delicious that I have quite a few of them so they are making their way into many of my vegetable dishes.  This mixed vegetable melange includes 1/2 of a Vidalia onion, some sliced white mushrooms, a sliced yellow squash, and sliced red peppers with chopped fresh basil.  I served the veggies with a bowl of basmati rice which I cooked with some chopped kale and then added a tablespoon or so of honey dijon mustard.  The cucumber salad has balsamic vinegar and a little sea salt.   It was a nice variety of flavors and textures.

Then it was time to get down to figuring out how to make the best use of the week’s bounty.  Here are some of the places where I found recipes to use as inspiration.

FatFree Vegan Kitchen: Sinlessly Delicous 

Whole Foods Market Recipes

Nutrition MD 

Vegetarian Times

I was mainly looking for an idea for Bok Choi (or Bok Choy or Pak Choi)  I found one in Vegetarian Times that had an interesting combination of ingredients which I adapted for what I had on hand.

Bok Choi with mushrooms and red peppers in a soy sauce and honey broth.

I started out by sauteing the mushrooms and red peppers with chopped garlic in some vegetable broth.  As they began to cook, I added some soy sauce and a teaspoon of honey.  When the peppers and mushrooms were nearly done, I topped them with the bok choi greens, covered the pan and let them simmer until the greens were tender.  In another pot I cooked some black rice.  Here’s the end result:

Bok choi, red peppers and mushrooms simmered in soy sauce and honey, with black rice.

This was a pretty luscious meal, if I do say so myself.  Black rice, also known as “Forbidden” rice, has a nutty flavor and is fairly sticky.  There are a lot of claims about its healthy qualities.  All I can say is, it’s delicious!  Like many of the grains and beans I’ve been using lately, I found black rice at Ocean State Job Lot.  They have a large section of whole grains, cereals, rice and beans, many of them the Bob’s Red Mill brand.  I haven’t compared prices with the other stores, but I figure that if I can stay out of Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s I can probably save a lot of money.  Between the CSA and the Job Lot, with a small weekly purchase from Stop & Shop, I am finding everything I need for the plant-based diet.

That’s all for week 2.  We already have our new batch of CSA veggies so I will be ratcheting up my stove-side creativity and hitting the recipe websites again real soon!


Some of last summer’s backyard harvest.

When my doctor suggested that I watch the movie “Forks Over Knives“, my lackadaisical approach to healthy eating began to change into a more focused move toward a plant-based diet.  The movie described the health benefits of eating plants and only plants, and made the claim that most of today’s chronic diseases can be reversed or cured by cutting animal protein completely out of our diets.  The movie was compelling, and I encourage everyone to check it out of their local library and see it.  (If your local library doesn’t have it, buy it on Amazon for $13.91 and then donate it to the library!)  Or, you can watch it for free (if you don’t mind the ads) on Hulu!

After seeing the movie I still needed more information about starting a plant-based diet, so I followed up by reading “The 21-day Weight Loss Kickstart: Boost metabolism, lower cholesterol and dramatically improve your health.” by Neal Barnard, MD.  This is a very good introduction for anyone looking for more information on a plant-based diet. It is clearly written, and simple to follow. Even if you don’t want to exactly follow the 21-day diet, the information the book presents will be helpful in getting started toward better health.

Next on my list was “The Engine 2 Diet: The Texas Firefighter’s 28-Day Save-Your-Life Plan that lowers cholesterol and burns away the pounds” by Rip Esselstyn.  This is another fine introduction to beginning a plant-based diet, full of easy-to-follow information and recipes.  One nice thing about this book is that you can go to the index and look up, for example, “cereals, best brands” or “refrigerator, E2-approved foods for stocking” and get real basic, down-to-earth, specific information to help you get started.

There are also some fine websites and blogs available with good information:

MindBodyGreen – Plant-Based Diet for Beginners 

The Mayo Clinic – Vegetarian Diet: How to get the best nutrition  (Includes the Vegetarian Food Pyramid)

Vegetarian Times – Vegan Recipes 

Physicans Committed to Responsible Medicine – Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

And, here’s a list of more books and movies that you can choose from to get more information.   And here’s another list!

Little by little, these sources answered my questions:

Will we get enough protein?  Conventional wisdom tells us that we must get the protein we need from animal products.  This is not the case.  Whole grains, legumes, soy products and nuts and seeds are primary protein sources in a plant-based diet.  The RDA for protein, based upon a person’s weight, averages between 40 and 60 grams per day.  We need only 2.5 to 11% of our calories from protein, and that amount is easily supplied by common vegetables.  Vegetables average around 22% protein, beans 28%, and grains 13%. Have a look at the chart on this page.

Read more:

Don’t we need some of the “good” fats, like olive oil and canola oil, and aren’t those healthy, plant-based foods?  “Healthy” is a relative term.  Olive and canola oils are indeed healthier than butter or other animal fats, but any excess dietary fat contributes to disease, and the process by which these oils are made removes any of the healthy properties that they once contained when they were vegetables.  They have little or no nutritional or health benefits.   In another post I’ll talk about learning to cook without oil – it’s a process, and I am still working on it.  How am I going to make salad dressing?  Stay tuned……

Here’s a list of 15 reasons to avoid vegetable oils.

Don’t we need calcium to avoid osteoporosis as we age? Dairy products are not the main sources of calcium. The PCRM (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine) website explains, “The most healthful calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes, or “greens and beans” for short. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and other greens are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a host of other healthful nutrients.  ….Beans are humble foods, and you might not know that they are loaded with calcium. There is more than 100 milligrams of calcium in a plate of baked beans. If you prefer chickpeas, tofu, or other bean or bean products, you will find plenty of calcium there, as well.”

Will we become anemic from lack of iron?  Again, common knowledge tells us that iron is supplied mostly from animal products, and again, this is not the case.  Many plant foods are great sources of iron, especially leafy green vegetables and beans.  There is also iron in whole grains, and many grain products are fortified with iron.  Matt Ruscigno’s article, “What every vegetarian needs to know about iron” explains this very well. has a list of fruits and vegetables high in iron.

So, I’m feeling pretty certain that we can live healthfully without meat, seafood and dairy.  I’ll add more resources to this post as I come across them.  There is always more to learn!