Elevate your enthusiasm for eating well!

12 Tips for a Vibrant Total Vegetarian Diet

Vary Your Veggies — Before we knew about vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, it was easy to get the proper amounts of these nutrients because God color-coded our food! Choosing dark green insures calcium and other nutrients, while red and orange veggies give us beta carotene, lycopene and other antioxidants. Now we know the importance of colorful vegetables; it turns out there are thousands of phytochemicals that pour the benefits into our food!

And don't forget the onions and garlic! The allium family of vegetables includes onions, garlic, leeks, scallions and chives, and may be instrumental in addressing elevated blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as bacteria and yeast infections. What a blessing that most savory dishes get their rudimentary flavor base from onions and garlic. Steam up onions and garlic often to serve with an otherwise plain burger and you'll get rave reviews!

Discover Fiber-rich Fruit — Choose whole fresh fruit instead of juice to get the full intended benefit of nature's original fast food. As Dr. Zeno Charles-Marcel says, "Choose fruit, the whole fruit, and nothing but the fruit!"  And eating edible skins will give you lots of fiber as well as other nutrients. With this in mind, whenever possible, go organic.

To remove pesticide residues, make a fruit and vegetable wash by mixing in a sink or basin:

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 gallons water

Allow the produce to soak for about a minute, then scrub slightly and rinse well.

For optimum digestion, eat fruits at one meal and vegetables at another. Keep in mind that anything that contains seeds is a fruit, botanically speaking. The means that tomatoes, cucumbers and squashes are actually fruits and combine successfully with other fruits for most people.

Go With the Grains — Whole grains, of course. And be adventuresome! Try some quinoa, amaranth and millet along with barley, kamut and spelt berries. All of these are simple to prepare in a crockpot and are simply delicious! Brown rice, whole wheat and oats, as well as stoneground cornmeal are always good choices, as they provide essential vitamins and minerals which have been stripped from refined flours and most commercial products.

Watch Sodium Intake — And what should you be looking for? Though no RDA for sodium has been established, a salt-restricted diet would allow 400 mg of sodium, and a moderate use of salt would be about a teaspoon a day, or 2400 mg. Remember that many foods naturally contain sodium without adding any salt. If you are serving a recipe that's fairly high in sodium, be sure to balance it with side dishes that are lower in sodium. Try granulated dulse on vegetables and nutritional yeast flakes with a small amount of olive oil on popcorn, both delicious ways to minimize the need for salt.

Make Legumes a Mainstay — Legumes comprise the large food category in which there are thousands of varieties of dried beans, peas, peanuts and lentils. Most cultures feature a grain and legume combination that is a mainstay of the populous' diet. South America's beans, rice and tortillas, Asia's rice and tofu, India's lentils and chapattis, the Middle East's hummus and pita bread, all parallel America's favorite: the peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

Richer in protein than any other plant food, legumes are low in fat, contain B vitamins, and lots of minerals. The fiber in beans helps to stabilize blood sugar and should be included in each day's menu. Canned beans are convenient to use, but fresh cooked beans have better flavor and a firmer texture. Crockpot cookery again provides a convenient way to prepare this staple from scratch. See The Total Vegetarian Cookbook for recipes.

If you seem to have trouble digesting beans, pouring off and changing the water during soaking, or every 20 minutes while cooking helps to get rid of this problem.

Tofu, SoyCurls, and beans, peas and lentils of every color of the rainbow fall into this nutrient-rich category of legumes. So, be sure to incorporate some into your diet everyday!

Get a Little Nutty — A handful a day of nuts and seeds provide satiety, the right kind of fat, and an essential nutritional boost. Studies show that nuts are helpful in safeguarding the heart. Raw nuts are best, and all nuts and seeds should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer.

Max the Flax — Two tablespoons a day of ground flaxseed will help prevent constipation and provide 4 grams of omega-3 essential fatty acid. Omega-3 has been found to be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of depression, to assist with normalizing the triglycerides, and it gives the immune system a boost. If flax oil is taken, only 1½ to 2 teaspoons is needed to provide about the same amount of omega-3. Many who use 1 tablespoon of flax oil each day report a significant decrease in the inflammation due to arthritis.

Check Your Oil — Fat is an essential part of our diet, but health depends upon using the right kind of fat. When it comes to oil, remember that all oils are 100% fat. Be sure to choose expeller-pressed or cold-pressed, and keep in mind that canola and olive oil are the richest in monounsaturates, which is desirable. Grape seed oil is high in antioxidants, and flax oil is the highest in omega-3 essential fatty acid as discussed above. If you're trying to lose weight, consume fats in the packages God placed them in — nuts, seeds, olives and avocadoes — and you'll do better. In every case, avoid hydrogenated oils as they contain harmful transfatty acids.

Get Calcium — Available from many sources, it's important to be sure you're getting enough calcium. Dark leafy greens like kale, collards and turnip greens provide the best source, but almonds, sesame seeds, figs and carob powder are rich in calcium as well. Arugula is a spicy herb that is higher in calcium than any other cultivated green, and is delicious in salads. To get the recommended 1,000 – 1,500 mg for post-menopausal women, you may need to include a supplement. Remember that calcium citrate is the most easily absorbed form found to date, and magnesium, boron and vitamin D are needed for proper assimilation. Take a daily 30-minute walk in the sunshine to get your vitamin D!

Shun the Sugar — Keep your intake of even healthy sweets to a minimum, serving desserts only a couple days per week. Whenever possible, use whole-food sweeteners like dates, or other fresh or dried fruits. Check out the Carob Pudding and the Banana Date Cookies. They're plenty sweet but with no refined sugar. Sweet!

The Berry Best to You! — Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries: all kinds of berries are chocked full of antioxidants, anthocyanins to be specific. Scientists are learning that berries are contributing to the prevention of everything from heart disease to cancer to age-related brain decline, and they contain fiber, folate, and significant amounts of vitamin C. So, have a berry merry time at breakfast, and include them in desserts like Blackberry Cobbler!

A Time to Eat, A Time to Drink — The right foods eaten at the right time provide optimum assimilation of nutrients and the best safeguard against disease. For the most favorable digestion, refrain from drinking with meals any more than one-half cup of liquid. Eat well at breakfast, and wait at least five hours before eating lunch, being sure to drink several glasses of water between meals. A light evening meal may be taken five hours later, though for many, no supper is preferable, to give the digestive system a good rest. To encourage weight loss, adopt a 2-meal-a-day program, by just omitting supper. You'll be thrilled with the results!

by Barbara Watson
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