Thursday, December 24, 2020

Plant Based for the Holidays? Yes You Can!!!

Thank you to my dietetic intern Anastasia Palshina, my guest blogger, for incorporating more plant-based foods into the holiday menu.


Winter holidays are here. It means delicious food will be on the tables of many Americans. While the current pandemic may destroy traditional gathering plans, it will unlikely affect the contents of the American holiday table. During the holiday season, there tends to be a spike in overindulgence and poor diet patterns. According to the Cleveland Clinic, 40% more calories are eaten at a holiday buffet by the average person versus dining alone.[1]Overconsumption affects people not only on Christmas or New Year’s Day but during the whole holiday season. Families experience a lot of stress during preparation, and some people experience loneliness[2] as well which contributes to overeating. Loneliness is intensified for many during the COVID-19 pandemic. The minimal consequences of such behavior may be a weight gain due to extra calories being consumed; people also may experience tiredness, mood swings[3], due to the type of unhealthy food they consume. Those who suffer from preexisting conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome can have more severe consequences.

         In holiday stories we often see how people enjoy goose or pork, candy canes, and gingerbread cookies with eggnog. Unfortunately, replicating these habits at home, people don’t think that goose or pork have high-fat content, specifically high in saturated fat. A traditional symbol of Christmas - the candy cane has 22 grams of added sugar and that is just for one candy. The list can go on and on. No wonder that for many people holidays is a true test of will power. Regardless of one's culture, the holiday table can vary significantly but they all have the same problem. The type of food chosen is extremely important during the holiday season. Many traditional dishes contain a lot of sodium, sugar, saturated fat and even trans-fat in numerous holidays bakery goods.[4]Trans fat destroys cell membranes, that is why it was banned by law. In small amounts trans-fat will not harm you. A single cookie or slice of cake is allowable; however, a holiday syndrome of overeating can increase consumption of trans fat. The hidden danger of trans fat can be also due to overconsumption of cooking oil, red meat, dairy products, and butter, whereas trans-fat exists in amounts less than 0.5g per serving and is not labeled. Several servings of such products certainly have the ability to be on the holiday table.1 Nothing but the combination of food high in sodium, saturated fat, and alcohol can spoil holiday days. The condition known as holiday heart syndromesends many people to the hospital every year.2

             To avoid such an unpleasant surprise during the holidays, a plant-based approach can be used. Many studies showed improvement in glycemic control and lipid balance in people who followed a plant-based diet, especially with type 2 diabetes.[5][6][7] Even simply replacing some saturated fat with walnuts that have essential fatty acid and a high concentration of omega -3 (3.4g per 3 oz.)[8]may not only help with bad lipid management but also enhance mood and regulate inflammation.[9] While completely switching to a vegetarian diet is a challenge for many people, the replacement of some food during holidays can bring much more joy than stress and prevent health conditions caused by traditional food consumption. Replace salty and fatty foods like pork or goose with plant-based protein such as beans, legumes, and tempeh. Replace sugary treats with more fruit-based reduced sugar desserts. Overconsumption will not be as detrimental if the holiday table is full of healthy plant-based food.

[1] "Holiday Heart Health Secrets: Here's how to navigate a tempting holiday buffet without overeating and compromising your health." Heart” Advisor, vol. 21, no. 12, Dec. 2018, p. 4+. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

[2] "Avoid holiday heart and other seasonal threats to your health: alcohol use and overeating can lead to heart palpitations, but holiday heart isn't the only cardiovascular risk this time of year." Heart Advisor, vol. 17, no. 11, Nov. 2014, p. 4. Gale Academic OneFile, . Accessed 13 Nov. 2020.

[3] MD ES. Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food. Harvard Health Blog. Published March 31, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

[4] Trans fat: Double trouble for your heart. Mayo Clinic. Published February 13, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.

[5] Barnard ND, Cohen J, Jenkins DJ, et al. A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2009;89(5):1588S-1596S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.26736H

[6] Trepanowski JF, Varady KA. Veganism Is a Viable Alternative to Conventional Diet Therapy for Improving Blood Lipids and Glycemic Control. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2015;55(14):2004-2013. doi:10.1080/10408398.2012.736093

[7] Turner-McGrievy G, Harris M. Key elements of plant-based diets associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Curr Diab Rep. 2014;14(9):524. doi: 10.1007/s11892-014-0524-y. PMID: 25084991.

[8] Gropper, S., Smith J.L., Carr T.P. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Seventh edition, Student edition. Boston, Massachusetts: Cengage Learning, 2018; 137.

[9] Kiecolt-Glaser JK;Belury MA;Andridge R;Malarkey WB;Glaser R; Omega-3 supplementation lowers inflammation and anxiety in medical students: a randomized controlled trial. Brain, behavior, and immunity. Accessed November 30, 2020. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

APPLES!!!! One of the reasons I love Autumn!

Feel the soft supple skin. Is it firm to the touch or does it have some give? Smell the sweet fragrance. Gently bring it up to your mouth, touch it to your lips, open wide and one healthy bite into the sweet flesh until the juice starts to slide down your hand. Slowly pull it away. Savor the taste as you slowly chew on the crisp flesh of that delicious Winesap apple. The ever sensual apple. 

There are over 7,500 apple varieties, so many more that I remember from my childhood. Many exciting varietals are actually hybrids – Jonagold is a cross between Jonathan and Golden Delicious, Empire is a cross between the Red Delicious and McIntosh, and the Mitsu (Crispin) is a cross between Golden Delicious and Indu. Who knew? 

Apples can be a combination of sweet and tart and a spectrum from crisp to mealy. Ever have a spicy apple? Try a Winesap. Or the newest apple from Washington State that was developed the old fashioned way - COSMIC CRISP. A cross between the Honeycrisp and Enterprise. It's juicy sweet, and tart. Learn a little more from this NPR clip.

Apples are primarily a late summer/fall harvest fruit but do harvest into November especially for winter varieties like Mitsu, Fuji, Northern Spy, Red Delicious, and Granny Smith. When choosing the right apple, make sure there are no bruises. The ones you get in a regular supermarket are the prettiest of the bunch often waxed to perfection. Don't be afraid of the ones that are a little less shiny and raw looking. Less tampering with mother nature.

Also note that apples fall into the dirty dozen from the Environmental Working Group - which means, organic is best for apples. They retain and or use a lot of pesticides in the crop. General rule of thumb is to store in a dark cool place. Ever use an apple in a paper bag to ripen other fruits and vegetables? Well it is a great trick when you need them to ripen faster. Apples give off ethylene gas which speeds the ripening. So use caution leaving apples in your fruit crisper in the fridge. Keep the apple in a plastic bag in the drawer. 

Apples are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. 

Which apples do you like to use for what purpose? And if you really feel adventurous – Why? Please comment on That’s Vegetarian’s Blog below!

Apple Slaw  
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp oil - Olive, Walnut, Avocado
1/2 tsp table salt
2 cups cabbage - Napa, savoy, purple, green varieties; thinly sliced or chopped
1 cup celery, thinly sliced 
1 cup carrot, shredded
2 medium tart apples - Granny Smith, Cortland, pink lady, empire, McIntosh, Braeburn, Jonathan; cored and coarsely grated or shredded
2 medium shallots, minced
1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries, chopped
1/8 tsp black pepper

First, make the dressing. In a large bowl add apple cider vinegar, honey, oil, and salt. Whisk together for  30 seconds to a minute until well combined. 
Add cabbage, celery, apples, shallots, and dried fruit. Toss. Season with pepper.
Prep time: 15 minutes

Apple Varieties and Uses. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Amaretto Ricotta Parfait Recipe

Summer fruits make great parfaits. I love the flavor, lightness, and the touch of sweetness of ricotta cheese and wanted to use it in a parfait instead of yogurt or whippe
Amaretto Ricotta Parfaitd cream.  By using a non fat ricotta, we are eliminating any fat woes.  It has as much protein as Greek yogurt although half as much calcium and not nearly as sour. In the US, it is typically made from cow's milk.  In Italy, however, it could be made from the milk of cows, sheep, goats and even water buffalo.  The protein from the whey that is cooked to create the ricotta.  It is not that difficult to make.  Who knows, maybe a TVeg future adventure.
Print the recipe, prepare the dish and you'll find yourself saying "That's Vegetarian?!"

Berries are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  These fruits do fall into the dirty dozen of buying organic because of the amount of pesticides often used, especially strawberries. Review our article from last September: To Be or Not to Be Organic 

This is another fun texture and taste bud recipe.  The creaminess from the ricotta.  The nutty sweetness from the amaretto.  Sweet and tart combinations from the berries in conjunction with their varying degrees of firmness. The ricotta gives me the satisfaction as if I am eating a cannoli. Add a little chocolate if you so desire! 

Amaretto Ricotta Berry Parfait 

Ricotta Cheese 
1-15 oz container fat-free ricotta cheese (substitute low-fat if you cannot find fat-free)
1T Amaretto
2 cup assortment of cherries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries, boysenberries, and strawberries.  Pitted, washed and cut into bite size pieces.

Whip or puree the ricotta cheese and amaretto until lighter and fluffier for about 4 minutes. 
In parfait dishes or bowls, layer the ricotta and fruit using 1/4c ricotta and 1/2c fruit in each serving.  

Serves 4. 
Level of difficutly: Easy
Prep time: 10 minutes.
3PP with recipe builder, 2PP with simple math
Printable Amaretto Ricotta Summer Fruit Parfait

Monday, July 6, 2020

Cool Refreshing Gazpacho

I enjoy Gazpacho.  It is great on these hot, steamy humid days with a lovely glass of rosé or Albariño. I often see it on the menu and I'm usually disappointed when I order it, like last night.  I like mine to have a little bit of chunkiness to it. However, it is usually all pureed. I understand because it is easier just to puree it all instead of chopping and dicing.

Gazpacho is a traditional dish from Spain that spread to Portugal and Latin America.  They all have their own variations with adding bread or avocados and even omitting the tomatoes and having more fruit-based like watermelon.  They traditionally use a mortar and pestle instead of a blender of food processor, which cause the puree to foam a bit, and a sieve for the tomatoes to get the seeds out. 
It is great summer soup because it is a soup served cold and the acidity of the tomatoes add to the refreshingness of it.  There is some prep work with dicing and chopping.  Or you can just throw it all in the food processor until completely pureed.  Your choice and it is worth it either way!
To make the soup as rich and flavorful as you can, use fresh tomatoes from your own tomato plants or gather some up at a wonderful local farmers' market.  Canned tomatoes can be more flavorful than many fresh ones you buy in your regular supermarket.  Check out this article on tomatoes.  Letting it sit longer also enhances the flavor of the soup, a minimum of 2 hours but t is still spectacular days down the road.
Visit That's Vegetarian?!  to prepare any one of the dishes and you'll find yourself saying "That's Vegetarian?!" 

1/2c Celery, chopped
1 Red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 Red onion, chopped
1 Garlic clove, chopped
1 Cucumber, peeled and chopped
2t Hot pepper such as jalapeno, Anaheim, or Serrano, chopped
1/2c Cilantro, chopped + 12 stems for garnish
5 Tomatoes, chopped
2c Tomato juice
1 can Tomatoes, diced
1 Avocado, cubed (opt)
2T White wine vinegar
1T avocado oil or olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 lime wedged
Mix the celery, peppers, onion, garlic, cucumber, cilantro, and 3 of the chopped tomatoes in a large bowl. Using a regular or immersion blender or a food processor, puree the can of tomatoes. Add half of the veggie mixture to the pureed tomatoes and pulse about 5 times for 3-5 seconds each time. Add the remaining mixture and pulse another five times. Continue to blend until you get your desired texture. Pour into a bowl and mix in the tomato juice, remaining chopped tomatoes, vinegar and oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours, preferably overnight. 

Serve with cilantro, lime wedge, avocado and/or cucumber slices.

Serving size 1 cup
Serves 6
Prep time 20 minutes

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Watermelon Mint Salad with Vegan Option

It's hot across the county.  We could all use refreshing food to help 'cool the hot'.  The Watermelon Mint Salad does just that!  

The watermelon is cool, juicy and crisp.  The mint is refreshing.  The optional feta cheese adds a little bite and salt. Fig balsamic vinegar mixed with the blood orange olive oil drizzled over the top just creates a smooth, tangy finish. Add a little bitterness with some arugula.

I hope you love this combination as much as I have so far this summer.  I think I have made it at least 4 or 5 times already!!
VIsit Happiest Healthiest Me for more information for more recipes and webinars or enter your information below to subscribe. 
Check out YOUTUBE to watch other videos, subscribe to channel and prepare any one of the dishes and you'll find yourself saying "That's Vegetarian?!"

1 T Blood orange olive oil (or other favorite olive oil)
1 T Fig balsamic vinegar (or other balsamic vinegar)
2 T Watermelon juice (you get this as you cut the watermelon)
6 c Watermelon, 1/2” cubes seeded
2 t Mint chopped (Basil worked too!)
5 oz Arugula (optional variation)
3 oz Feta (omit for vegan or add a vegan cheese)
Mint sprigs for garnish

Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, and watermelon juice for about a minute.  Pour over the watermelon. Add feta, arugula and mint. Toss. Finish with mint sprigs. Chill. This is so yummy!!!!

Prep Time: 10 min
Serves 6

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