Sunday, December 2, 2007

How Produce Can Work for You

When I started trying to lose weight (13 years ago) the one thing I hated was vegetables. I hated everyone telling me to eat more fruits and veggies to lose weight. Yuck!! Who wants to live on rabbit food?? Not me! I hated salad. Hated nasty veggies. Fruit was okay in a cake or a cobbler, or drenched in chocolate. Face it, when you have been living on pizzas, burgers, chips and cookies, a steamed leek is about as appetizing as a boiled old shoe. Even strawberries tasted sour to me. My taste buds were in high gear for processed, refined, highly sweetened and salted foods, and produce just didn't cut it for me.

So imagine my surprise when, this time around, I not only TRIED to lose weight, but I actually am SUCCEEDING and enjoying it! And one of the main keys to that success? Produce!! Now I know lots of people are groaning and rolling their eyes right now. You'd rather eat Splenda and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter on a piece of Weight Watcher's bread than even THINK about eating a plate of cauliflower or a squash. But hear me out. I think I can help you.

When I started this journey in August, one big change I made was going to the local Farmer's Market once a week and buying almost all of my produce there. There is something exciting about a Farmer's Market. All the freshly picked foods, such a wide variety, nice helpful people and FREE SAMPLES get you all worked up and before you know it, you have bought a TON of fruits and veggies... and then it dawns on you... they have to be USED within a week or so or they will rot!! Argh!! So you arrive home with loads of melons, berries, greens, and various other new things to try, and you HAVE to eat them everyday. The local fresh stuff is so much tastier than store bought, too! Thus began my love affair with vegetables.

Of course, I doubt you can find a Farmer's Market at this time of year. Mine is closed til spring. But you can get started by doing the same thing with your local grocery store's produce section. Take a day and scope them out. Go to three, four, or five stores and just walk around LOOKING at the fresh produce in each store. Is there a good variety? Do the fruits and veggies look fresh and colorful, or are they all wilted and faded like they came to the store a month ago on a dirty semi truck? Check prices, too, but remember that per pound, almost all produce is cheaper than junk food. See if they sell organic. Take mental notes and choose which store (or two) has the best overall produce section. Then, make a plan to shop there once a week.

The first time you go shopping, look. REALLY look at the produce. If you're like me, in the past you see the usual fare: tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, onions, bananas, apples, oranges. But if you REALLY open your eyes and look closely, you'll see things you never saw before. I had no idea my store sold fresh Brussels sprouts on the stalk! Or beets with green attached. I never new they had so many varieties of squash. Or how about some broccoflower, parsnips, or persimmons? Try new things. Find out what you like. Don't force yourself to eat things you hate. But LOAD UP your cart with produce. Buy several kinds of apples or pears, try a new green (kale, mustard greens) or a new root vegetable (baby yams). Get plenty so you will have several to eat every day for a week.

When you're done with the produce section, head over to the frozen veggie section and eyeball the selection. Sometimes the fresh green beans look kinda pathetic but you can always get decent frozen ones. I always keep frozen baby Lima beans on hand, too, and some frozen spinach for dips and soups. How about some frozen (no sugar added) blueberries or mango? Great stuff when the fresh ones are out of season.

You get home. Now, what to do with all these veggies? If there is something new that you have no idea how to store or prepare, just Google it and find out the basics. I often roast veggies such as green beans, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Asparagus is great too. If you want some recipes to try, here are my standby sites:

www.allrecipes.com has a "search by ingredient" option so you can find recipes for a particular vegetable. Then click sort by ratings, to get the most highly rated recipes at the top. Watch the fat and sugar content, though, because some recipes on this site are healthy and others are terribly fattening.

"A Veggie Venture" at http://kitchen-parade-veggieventure.blogspot.com/ is ALL about the veggies! You can search there by vegetable, too, and find basic cooking methods as well as some really great recipes. May I humbly recommend their World's Best Green Bean Casserole (it really is!). Their Leeks & Asparagus is to die for!! So simple... it makes me wonder why I never ate a leek before!

"Fatfree Vegan Kitchen" has some great recipes too: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/

Sometimes I just type in the name of a veggie and do a search with Google images. When I see something that looks good, I click on that and find the recipe. If you're a good cook you can tweak recipes to be low fat and healthy by doing this. Or just Google "healthy recipes" and the name of the veggie you have, for ideas. Some of my current favorites: baked slices of Delicata squash with olive oil, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of brown sugar (you can even eat the skin on these! Delish!), baked acorn squash with a little butter and brown sugar and cinnamon, and steamed Swiss Chard with a little swiss cheese melted on it.

A final note: you do not have to eat PLAIN veggies to be healthy. I can't tell you how many times I have eaten a big bowl of greens cooked in olive oil WITH BACON for lunch, or Lima beans with BUTTER AND HAM, or a plate of veggies with BUTTERED BREADCRUMBS or CHEESE SAUCE!! You just have to be moderate, and IF that is serving as a meal and not a side dish, you can get away with it. I use 2 slices of bacon in my greens... which means the whole huge bowl of greens for lunch has well under 200 calories. I use a teaspoon of butter and 2 slices of deli ham in my beans. I used low fat cheese and small amounts of light butter. And since veggies are so very low in calories, the whole huge plate often has under 200 calories for a whole lunch. So go ahead, see produce in a whole new light. Every time you eat veggies, they are taking the place of a higher calorie food in your day. If you can fill up on produce you just don't have room for as much other junk.

Today, I was leaving Wal-Mart at lunchtime and was famished. I spotted the Burger King, but in a fit of sanity I grabbed a red, ripe fresh pear instead. I ate it in the car on the way home, and it was so deliciously soft, buttery and juicy. It was so much better than a bag of cold fries. Make produce your friend. It will treat you right!

14 comments:

Cynthia in NW Arkansas said...

Thank you Thank you, Lyn!!!

Patty said...

Amen! I'm a die-hard fan of farmers' markets and I'm so lucky to live near so many of them. Our current produce favorites are winter berries smothered in half a cup of our favorite yogurt. We have them every night and they're very sweet, filling and satisfying. Also, we've recently discovered sweet butter lettuce...who thought that lettuce could be so delicious? LOL

Patty
http://pattylite.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I love fruit and veggies too! They're especially important when I'm living away from home and dieting to boot. I love persimmons! They are very sweet and are great snacks for me. Also I'm talking One-a-Day vitamin and calcium pills to stay healthy. So far my weight have been okay despite being stressed out, wish I could lose some weight...Seeing how you're being patience with your weight loss made me feel more determined to keep trying!

lbs

Leslie said...

Once again, an awesome post!! You're such an inspiring writer... made me wanna run out and buy a leek :)

Alanna said...

Hello Lyn,

Your post brought tears to my eyes, seeing how learn and challenge yourself and finding joy in vegetables. You go, girl!

~W~ said...

I love fruits and vegetables, and have been trying many new recipes from the internet.
Another great post, and thank you for the links.

Melanie said...

Wow Lyn, thanks for the produce pep talk! I like the traditional fare, but have been less than adventagious when it comes to branching out. Maybe I'll try something new this week!

honib1 said...

LYN.. can u see me standing and applauding you.. BRAVO very well said.. my dietician wants me to try a new food every week ( healthy new food).. thank you for your inspiration...

honib1 said...

LYN.. can u see me standing and applauding you.. BRAVO very well said.. my dietician wants me to try a new food every week ( healthy new food).. thank you for your inspiration...

honib1 said...

ps the beer bread rocked the universe and was great with chili YUM..

Heather said...

everything you wrote is so true! When I did WW in the past, I filled up my daily points with junk and said, ohhh Im eating healthy! Boy was I wrote and I learned nothing about healthy eating habits. This time around doing LAWL, I have incorporated 3 serv of veggies into my diet and have found that not only do I love them, they fill me up more so than all the junk I was eating before and I feel fantastic. Plus I look a lot better at the same weight I got to when doing WW eating junk and mostly its because of the veggies. Excellent post because everything you wrote is so true!

Hanlie said...

I also love fruit and veggies... It's all about retraining our tastebuds and our bodies thank us for it with glowing good health! Great post!

FatGirl said...

Great post!!!!!!

Did you get that pear at walmart? I have so much trouble finding decent fruit there! But you've just inspired me not to have another bbq chip (I've had three.. d'oh) and go have an apple. Thanks XD

Teale said...

I definately need this! I am so bad... SO bad about trying new veggies. I did go to the farmer's market when it was going on, but I still just got the usual: tomatoes, green beans, corn on the cob.... I suppose I need to get out there and try some new stuff. The recipes always look pretty good, and are usually so pretty & colorful. I just gotta do it!