You know what I am sick of? Boring vegetable blends! No wonder people don’t eat their vegetables.
Every restaurant, catered buffet and frozen blend seems to feature the same old julienned carrots, pale broccoli chunks and soggy cauliflower (does anyone really, truly love cauliflower?).
Let’s not forget the ubiquitous cucumber slices with bitter skins and the endless selection of pithy, depressing tomatoes.
I refuse to eat boring, soggy, uninspiring vegetables. Why eat broccoli stem chunks when you can stuff yourself with olive oil-drizzled broccolini? Why deal with yet another white onion when you can try out shallots for the same price?
I’m not exactly what you’d call a chef, but fortunately, coming up with meals that taste amazing is incredibly easy if you just expand your idea of what “getting your veggies” means. It’s just about impossible to mess up vegetables.
So try something new this weekend. There are plenty of really flavorful, interesting plants to nosh on in your quest for flat abs and more energy.
Here are a few to try:
Heart of palm
We can’t get enough of this stuff around the Sisson household. You can slice these stalks up like potatoes au gratin and bake them with a little ricotta, goat cheese or cottage cheese for a really indulgent but healthy meal. Heart of palm is almost nonexistent in the calorie department, and provides a lot of fiber. The texture is similar to canned artichoke or bamboo but is far more rich and satisfying. Heart of palm has the perfect amount of chewiness and a mild, salty flavor that makes it perfect for replacing starchy items like potatoes or pasta – and it makes a great snack.
If you’ve tried and failed at tofu, you will love heart of palm.
Thanks to Chodta for the picture!
If you’re from the South, you already know (and possibly love) okra. A lot of people hear “okra” and think “slime”. But prepared right, okra is…off the chain. I buy frozen chopped okra, thaw it, and rinse it thoroughly several times. It takes a little work to drain and press the goop away, but what’s left is a vegetable that makes a mean stir fry. I cook okra over a really hot grill to get it a little bit seared for maximum flavor, dryness and crunch. Goes great with chili flavors and hot sauces. Okra is just about the easiest way to lose that belly fat – you can eat an entire bag for fewer calories than a slice of cheese.
Seaweed is just the beginning. Look around – health food stores, organic and vegetarian aisles, and ethnic food stores all carry many types of unusual sea vegetables. Some of them are passable, but some are so good I don’t know why anyone continues to suffer through green-white-and-carrot. Experiment. Sea vegetables are nutritionally dense – they’re particularly good for the thyroid and the cardiovascular system.
All those little packets of fresh herbs? Start buying and eating them. A lot.
Herbs are pretty foolproof. Chop them up and throw them into every recipe for amazing flavor, antioxidants, and vitamins (herbs are really just another type of lettuce, if you think about it). Certain herbs go better with certain meat and vegetable combinations, but you’ll almost never create anything that tastes bad. Basil, rosemary, dill, chives and ready-picked blends are all great.
Thanks to photographer Sarah Williams.
Smart Fuel for the weekend:
Berries may be class pet in the antioxidant department, but the humble artichoke is one of the most nutritious foods around.
True, you can’t spread it on toast, but this relative of the thistle contains almost as many antioxidants as berries – and loads of other benefits:
- cleanses the liver, urinary tract, and kidneys
- promotes healthy bile production
- can help reduce bad cholesterol
- has therapeutic medicinal properties, especially for IBS and other digestive illnesses
- among the highest levels of flavonoids of any vegetable or fruit
- high in vitamin C, folic acid, essential fatty acids, many beneficial plant chemicals, magnesium, and fiber
The best part about the artichoke is that you can eat the entire thing and it will only set you back about 25 calories.
It takes a good amount of cooking to soften the leaves enough to snack on. Everyone loves the best part – the heart – but I don’t recommend relying on jars of soybean-oil-soaked hearts as your only source of artichoke. They can be expensive to buy fresh, but one of the Bees points out that you can now find baby fresh artichoke hearts in many stores.
Not only can you buy a dozen baby artichokes for the price of one large artichoke, they have the same nutritional value and are more tender – you can pop the entire thing in your mouth, leaves and all. Try it out this weekend – steam or broil (the latter is great with some olive oil, lemon juice and a little parmesan) and dig in!
Here’s your smart fuel, just in time for the weekend!
This chewy grain is not really a grain at all. It’s not even rice, technically speaking. It’s a grass shoot, more akin to bamboo. (Which, incidentally, is grass, not a tree. Imagine mowing that.)
Wild rice is incredibly high in protein, low in sugar, and has more fiber than a cardboard box. This is one of the smartest ways to get an internal “scrub” (hey, it’s true). It also tastes a lot better than cardboard and won’t puff you up like pasta or white rice.
Here’s a great recipe for wild rice from the Bees. I suggest substituting the sausage with organic chicken or turkey.
The Top 10 Smartest Foods…possibly even genius.
Why: Fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, flavor. Broccoli is an internal scrub-brush – and it tastes better than oatmeal.
2. Dark greens
Why: Again with the fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Greens ought to be the basis of every diet. Low in calories, high in nutrition, and disease-preventing.
3. Red bell peppers
Why: Like tomatoes (another great red veg), red bell peppers are loaded with antioxidants and may be a cancer-fighter.
4. Wild salmon
Why: Rich in protein, brain-boosting fat, and flavor. A cleaner source of protein than regular old chicken and hamburger. Be sure you pick this wild child.
Why: High protein, valuable vitamins, enzymes and fat. An incredibly dense energy source. Buy the Omega-3 enhanced version for a morning boost of good fat!
Why: Fresh garlic (not crushed, peeled or powdered) is a potent cancer-fighter and artery-scrubber. Loaded with antioxidants.
Why: Again with those antioxidants. Berries are one of the most vitamin-rich, free-radical fighting foods on earth. Blueberries are among the best.
8. Olive oil
Why: By now, everyone knows about the heart-healthy benefits of Omega-3 rich olive oil. But avocado oil, walnut oil, and coconut oil are also healthy choices. Use instead of butter, canola oil and corn or soybean oil.
Why: I’m biased. But in fact, apples have more vitamin C than oranges, are high in fiber, and have one of the lowest glycemic index rankings of any fruit.
10. Tie-breaker: tea and almonds
Why: tea is rich in antioxidants and stimulates important immune functions. New evidence suggests that a little morning coffee is beneficial, too. And nuts like almonds are full of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Smart Fuel, Just in Time for the Weekend…
Want skin that Cindy Crawford would be jealous of? Eat fat. That’s right – fat! Many of us, especially women, tend to avoid fat because we’ve been told it’s bad for us. Mark will be posting later today on the fat debate (would you expect anything less than ornery here at Mark’s Daily Apple?), but for now, here’s our suggestion: fat is your friend!
Keep in mind the type of fat you eat is very important. Fried foods and processed items tend to be high in “bad” fats – the kind that clog arteries, release free radicals in your body, and stimulate inflammation. But good fats – heaven be praised – can prevent disease, help you lose weight, and make your skin positively glow. Sound too good to be true? Nope. Good fats really can help with all those health goals.
Here are some “good” fats you can eat to feel great starting this weekend:
Animal fats top the list: think tallow, lard, fish oil.
Other great fats:
Other good fats:
Organic yogurt and cottage cheese. These dairy products are typically easier to digest than cheese or milk. Be sure to get the sugar-free varieties of yogurt. Although dairy isn’t rich in Omega-3 fatty acids like fish or nuts, there are other valuable fats. And science reveals that the proportions of various fats in the diet are more important than any single fat. Fats work better together than alone.
Now, admittedly, we’ve been on a bit of an Omega-3 tear this week, but that’s because we see people missing out on these fantastic fats. Fat’s not bad. Far from it – so enjoy! You’ll sleep better, your skin will be radiant, your organs will love you, and your waistline might even shrink a bit. Magical things happen when Omega-3 fats come to town: headaches run in fright, bad moods slink away, and spare tires get rolling.
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