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(Fruit &) Veggie (& Health) Check In

If you’ve been following the blog all through the summer, then you know about my struggle with adding more fruits and veggies in my life. I went from having 4 different types of bread in my fridge and freezer (bagel thins…cinnamon raisin and plain…, bread, waffles, and tortillas) to slowly clearing those out to make room for more perishable items. We switched from trying to go grocery shopping every other week, to grocery shopping every weekend with a $40 dollar cap. Most weeks it’s under $40, around $35 – $37, and every once in a while it jumps up to $42.

And it’s not easy. Sometimes I drag my feet when it comes to broccoli. I don’t crave broccoli. I crave pizza, and not the kind with broccoli on it. But broccoli is a super food and after I’m done eating it I feel super super proud of myself, so I keep it on the grocery list. Some weeks we aren’t as good with the veggies as other weeks. Sometimes the best I can do is V8 and tomato soup and apples. Sometimes it’s really difficult to inject fruits and veggies into a day filled with rice, and peanut butter, and granola bars. Sometimes I just don’t want to.

But those weeks are becoming fewer and fewer the more I chug along on this journey of veggie-rama. Right now instead of lots of bread, I have carrots, cauliflower, apples, watermelon and (well, if you asked me yesterday since now it’s in my belly and in my lunch bag) broccoli in my fridge, and a squash on my counter.

And now we talk about weight. Because it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long long time, and I also believe that weight fluctuation – something I struggled with a lot – is incredibly unhealthy and really hard on your body. And your wallet – because fitting into your clothes and then not fitting into your clothes is probably the worst feeling and the most panicky experience ever! I hate it! Ok. But here is the good news: all of that has finally really calmed down.

Veggies are magical, they are. They give you the vitamins you really need in the way you really need them, they keep your plumbing rockin’ it out, and they fill you up better than processed foods. But! The way I’ve maintained my weight is not just by eating veggies, but by replacing other foods with veggies. It’s not a trick and it’s not a fad, it’s just eating less processed things and eating more things that come out of the ground. It’s so simple, I’m floored. But that doesn’t make it easy. My mouth wants me to eat cookies 24/7. We bought a bag of chocolate covered pretzels this weekend and I ate SO MANY OF THEM. They were SO GOOD. And then finally I threw them out because they were calling to me from the pantry. I ate some at breakfast, and then that was it, I was feeling obsessed!

Also, I’ve started cutting way back on booze. It’s empty calories and it’s empty cash. Cash just flowing down the drain. So now instead of drinking every single day, I’m cutting back to once a week. And I’m replacing those glasses of wine and bottles of beer with …. (drum roll please) water!

I don’t want to have to think about what I’m putting in my mouth as much as I was doing during engagement. During that time both Kamel and I really focused on getting into shape and getting our food situation handled. It was a learning experience. But I don’t want to always be focusing so much on it. I want to be able to do what I do and go out to dinner and sometimes get a creme brulee and still fit into my pants the day after. I want to just live my life and have food be food, but not the main focus of my day. And I’m doing that with fruits and veggies.

On the menu this week:

  • broccoli + mac&cheese
  •  homemade polenta with roasted carrots & potatoes & cauliflower
  •  kale pizza
  •  spaghetti squash + angel hair pasta
  • wild rice + a fried egg.

What’s on the menu for you this week? What are you experimenting with? What are you excited about? I’m always, always looking for new ideas and suggestions! Because the quickest way to gross me out is to have food on repeat that I get sick of.

47 Comments

  1. Wooohoooo!! veggies and fruit and veggies and more fruit! thoughts and menu items and new ideas! (aka things that work for me that might work for others)

    1. Carby vegetables – this is a way to get more out of your vegetables. Sometimes when my “vegetable focused” meals are a little light, you can add carb vegetables that add flavor and sustenance with GOOD carbs (but it looks like you’re already doing that) Ideas: sweet potatoes! squash! carrots! peas and beans!

    2. Experimenting with herbs, glazes, seasonsings, sauces – Im a big fan of trying new things with a stir fry. I try not to rely on processed dressings or sauces (hello salt!) but focus on using natural from the ground things – herbs, cilantro, lemon and butter, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar! there are a ton of recipes out there and it makes veggies much more FUN

    3. I’ve been doing the same thing with liquids! Yay! More water, and wine once a week = you are reading my mind, save wavelength sistah!

    4. I think the statement you made about creme brulee (although it kinda made me drool) was the EXACT and POINT of this post (which i love and reminds me of the convo we had last week!)…..that we eat naturlaly and good goods throughout the week so that once or twice a month we can get licorice at a movie or have a creme brulee dessert at dinner and BE FINE and not have to THIIIIIINK about it. Win!

    ps: win win win!

    5. Also – muthaeffing ALMONDS. Just saying.

    • ps: already lost 5 pounds!

      • Are you serious??? Claire I’m SO impressed! you rock my socks off. And i’m super super excited for your visit!!! I keep wishing it was tomorrow.

  2. I’m closing up my garden this week (TEARS), and so saying goodbye to all my favorite summer veggies: Tomatoes. Green Beans. Peppers. Cucumber. SO SAD. But, on the other hand, I love roasted veggies — nothing says warm and cozy to me like a dish of assorted cubed roasted veggies drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled w/salt, pepper, and rosemary. Oh, and Brussels sprouts. And pumpkin soup. And mashed butternut squash or acorn squash stuffed with yummy pilaf.
    Oh boy, now I’m really stoked.
    I just have to figure out what to do with the four pounds of Swiss chard I pulled out of the bed last night… Any suggestions?

    • oh my god! acron squash and wild rice!! This is on the menu for next week RIGHT NOW. See? And this is why I post about things – I would have never ever thought of this but … DUH!

      • Sometimes I cheat and sprinkle it w/Parmesan cheese. It’s even better that way!

    • I seriously could eat a bowl of roasted veg every day for the rest of my life. I love trying new veggies too! And yes! Brussel sprouts!

    • Roasted veggies! I read your blog almost every day and the one time I choose to post it’s about roasted veggies? That’s how psyched I am about them. That has become our new go-to way of trying new veggies (who knew kohlrabi was so yummy?) We always make too much and then sit there all stuffed wondering how we managed to gorge on vegetables. Part of me thinks I shouldn’t feel bad about eating something so good for me but methinks eating enough to feel painfully stuffed is probably not a great idea now matter how many vitamins I crammed into my belly. One day we should reserve enough to make a roasted veggie soup the next day.

      Ooh, another way to get in lots of veggies is to puree them. Pureed artichokes and leeks (both frozen from trader joes) underneath some sort of fish is awesome. Pureed cauliflower with lots of cheese in it is also tasty (blood sugar issues make that a better option for me than mashed potatoes sometimes). We even did pureed celery once (from the farmer’s market — I always though celery was horribly boring until I got it from the market).

  3. Kale pizza-yum!!

    This week we’re having:
    Sunday-pizza and spinach salad
    Monday-roast chick and veg
    tonight-shrimp burritos (black beans and butternut squash inside)
    Wednesday-onion tart with salad (puffed pastry + caramelized onions)
    Thursday-kale and white bean soup
    Friday-Steak with onions and mushrooms and broccoli
    Saturday-modest dinner out

    We’re in month two of meal planning + $100/wk grocery budget. I tell everyone I know about your $40 budget and every single jaw hits the floor. I’m seriously impressed. We’ve found that sticking to a plan and a budget helps us eat healthier and cuts out so. much. stress. I haven’t had a single annoyed, hungry, 5:15pm “what do want for dinner?” conversation since Labor Day. It is awesome, I tell you, awesome.

    Keep sharing!

    • You are eating like KINGS! I love it! Also – I want to make a puff pastry veggie tart! How do people do this?

      • Don’t tell, it’s the easiest thing in the world.

        Buy frozen puff pastry. Thaw (popping it in the fridge in the morning is perfect). Roll out to the approximate size of a 13×9 sheet. Fold the outer 1/2 inch perimeter over to form crust. Poke everywhere else with fork. Bake per the package instructions. Sautee veg while crust is baking. Spread sauteed veg on cooked crust. Consume. Make out.

        • oh my god that is the hottest thing I’ve read all day!!

          • Ahh! Frozen puff pastry is the most amazingly delicious thing EVER.

      • Also, C is such a inspiration. He approaches money as “how do we squeeze the best life possible out of our paycheck?” where as I focus on all the things that must be paid for. He’s the one that says, “let’s split a medium sized sorloin” rather than “we can never afford steak.” We end up with about 3ox of meat a person and the rest of the plate is Veggie City. But neither of us feel denied or resentful. He’s such a catch.

      • *oz

        Ounces not oxen!

  4. Lauren you have really inspired me with this. When I focus on my food it’s always about what I can’t have. I prefer focusing on adding to my diet, even when it’s just veggies I’m adding. It’s very positive and proactive and it’s not as full of guilt. So, thank you :)

  5. I must say that I have followed you over from APW and I feel like we could be best friends. I got married two weeks after you and have agreed with you/went through the same things as you since then. The vacation that we want but don’t know if we really deserve and now this with food. My Hubby and I live a hectic life. We both go school full time and each work about 20-30 hours in a….restuarant! the MOST difficult place to eat healthy. We do not have any nights together expect sunday and Kinda tuesday. I have a night class on tuesday that I get done with at 9 so we deem tuesday the crockpot day. I through it in around noon and head out to school. What has helped me is oddly enough Pinterest. I find so many recipies on there and while many are ooey yummy fat filled baked goods, a lot of the food is so pretty that it motivates me to make food and not settle for something less.(I am not a kitchen god, but with my hubby gone alot I have been forced to make dinner) Tonight it is lime chicken tacos in the crockpot.

  6. Good job on cutting down the booze. I was struggling with this (beer is SO good!) but have cut back to once a week and I feel so much better. I do have to admit that last week I drank on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday but I blame that on PMS and making new friends in town. :)

    This week is pretty basic in the Andres kitchen, mostly out of laziness.

    Pasta with mushrooms, spinach, and organic sauce (monday)
    Pizza with vegan mozarella, zuchinni, garlic, and spinach
    Cubed Butternut squash, mushrooms, green peas, and quinoa
    Brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and bbq tofu
    Aloo gobi! (cauliflower, potato, curry powder)

    Saturday is special and I get to eat out for my early birthday (thai food!) celebration and I’m sure that sunday will be a tofu scramble and pancakes kind of day since I keep those supplies well stocked.

    • I think it is perfectly OK in a healthy/all things in moderation lifestyle to have those weeks you drink a bunch. :)

      I stopped trying to do one night a week, or weekends only, because it meant I couldn’t have a glass of wine on a random “non-drinking” night. I started doing a total # of alcoholic drinks per week quota (I generally go w/7 for the one-a-day average) and it’s worked out well.

  7. Do you post recipes?? Like for this one: homemade polenta with roasted carrots & potatoes & cauliflower.

  8. How do you only spend $40 a week on groceries??? I’m feeling like a failure over here. We spend like $60 every week; I’m so tired of it. Also, I LOVE that you have a meal plan for the whole week – any day now I’m going to get organized.

    • I know!! I think we spend about $60-75 a week, and that’s cut way back from what we used to spend. We don’t have access to inexpensive veggies (think Chinese market) but still. $40??!?

  9. Oh gosh, yes. We went from having our meals entirely revolve around meat, to eating meat once a week- huge increase in veggie intake, there (not to mention less spendy). We do lots of pasta, though, which I think is kind of a no-no in healthland. It’s easy to try new veggies when they’re draped over ravioli. I’m Italian. Sue me.

    A big help for us was figuring out which vegetables are able to be used in a variety of ways and keeping the fridge stocked with those (as well as the other few ingredients that make them variational). For example, romaine, tomatoes, green onion… add an avocado, beans and tortilla, and you have a veggie taco. Or, mix with a cucumber, feta and pita and you have some greek veggie thing. Or toss with balsamic vinegar, and you have a light salad.

    • Spinach is a thing of beauty! I add it to almost everything so add some extra green into my meals along with a spinach salad.

      Instead of pasta, try buying cannelini beans or navy beans in bulk, it’s a great source of protein and so tasty with pasta sauce!

    • Oh! I forgot about fruit. Fruit is breakfast. Either we each have a big old dollop of Greek yogurt with some sliced fruit, or we make up some smoothie. You can chop up just about any old fruit and throw it in a blender and have it come out amazing. The trick is to sweeten with a little bit of pineapple juice for the really tart fruits. And if the consistency doesn’t bug you and you want to make it more filling, add some of the aforementioned Greek yogurt.

  10. this week:
    baked potatoes + broccoli
    veggie fried rice w/ tempeh
    enchiladas + carrots
    potato soup
    veggie pizza
    and some leftovers thrown in… plus home-baked apple/carrot/walnut muffins for snacking!

    We get a LOT of recipes from the book How To Cook Everything (ours is the vegetarian version…)– they tell you what to do with weird veggies, and it really helps us branch out.

    Your budget really inspires me! We’re currently on the <$100/week food budget, but… well, I'm inspired. It may be time for some refiguring. Also (maybe you've mentioned this before, sorry), do you use a program for budgeting? Could you maybe show us a sample spreadsheet?

  11. Have you tried roasting the broccoli (cut into florets, toss with olive oil and salt, bake at 450 for 20ish minutes)? It’s really good – I do actually crave roast broccoli sometimes. Yum.

    I’m impressed with your $40/week budget too. We are at $60/week right now for 2 people and even then, I sometimes have $80 weeks.

    • Roast broccoli is amazing, I totally love it – I also roast with some garlic and crushed chili flakes. Yum.

      Another dish I have been making lately is the Palak Daal from 101 Cookbooks (http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/palak-daal-recipe.html) has tons of spinach and lentils are a great source of fiber. I have been making it with black lentils and it is delish!

      • We LOVE that palak dal recipe in our house. I usually use yellow split peas.

  12. Yay for changing habits to a healthier path. We are also on that road, eating meat/chicken only 1 time per week and the rest, well perishable stuff. This week we had:
    -Spagghetti with leek and tomato. (It is delicious, should post the recipe).
    -Ratatouille with mashed potatoes.
    -Omelette and salad with goat cheese.
    -Chicken in honey mustard sauce and rice.

  13. Wow, very impressed with the drinking one day a week only! We too only eat meat one day a week, but we spend a fair bit of our budget on it. I’d rather buy one meal of really nice, well-raised, sustainable week from a good butcher than five days of buy-one-get-one-free cheap meat.

    Also you should really make some dal, its so easy and yummy, just boil up (pressure cook is better) some red lentils, cumin, garlic and curry powder until really mushy and then serve with rice and love soft brown onions. yums. Ax

  14. I am really into roasted veggies now that the temperatures are slowly cooling off. Toss minced garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil into a bowl, stir, and pour over chopped broccoli (or any roastable veggie for that matter), roast for around twenty minutes or so (40 for potatoes and the like) and you have yummy veggies with plenty of options. Roasted veggies can be a star side dish or can become a main dish when added to pasta or couscous. You can also make roasted veggie sandwiches. Roasting brings out the natural sugar in veggies and makes them super tasty. I discovered last year that I actually liked brussel sprouts when roasted, which totally surprised me.

  15. I definitely like to incorporate veggies right into main dishes instead of plain sides (although my fave just-a-side way is roasting), and use lots of herbs/spices/sauces/flavors.

    Last night we had roasted tofu, sweet potato, and eggplant w/ a chipotle-cranberry sauce and brown rice (not trying to pimp my blog, but I just posted the recipe: http://www.breadandcheeseplease.com/2011/10/new-for-now-look.html)

    Right now, I’m cooking a white bean, ham hock, and mass quantities of veggie stew/soup (adapted from http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/white-bean-and-ham-stew)

    I am amazed you can feed the two of you for $40/week! Does that include all your meals? I spend $100/week for 2 people for all breakfasts and snacks, 6 lunches and 5 dinners (we eat out two nights a week and grab sandwiches or something for one weekend lunch).

    • Yes! It includes all of our emails, our total grocery run per week. It’s so much easier than I ever thought. We make things stretch, like 1 box of mac and cheese (annies) plus 1 big head of broccoli = 4 meals, one dinner for each of us and one lunch for each of us. We always buy on sale items, use coupons when we can (not every week), and go without a lot – which sounds worse than it is. Sometimes we have cereal and milk, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have eggs, sometimes we don’t. We have pretty much 0 stored, unused food. And it keeps things fresh and interesting. And I haven’t thrown out a veggie in months.

      • emails? obviously I’m in work mode. hahaha!! meals! MEALS I SAY!

  16. Spaghetti squash! Roast with olive oil, salt and garlic and then put with mushrooms and chicken or shrimp. It is a yummy fall favorite! And its good with meatballs, or make a spaghetti lasagna with the noodles!

  17. We are huge fans of fruits & veggies in our house. One way we cut down on buying processed food and cut our grocery budget is by making our own jam. My husband found a great freezer jam recipe that has 1/3 of the calories of store bought jam (read 1/3 the sugar) and 4 times the fruit. When we bought all of the supplies (canning jars & fruit) our jam priced out at about $1.50 an 8 oz. jar. Now that we own our jars it’s about .50 cents a jar. Not too shabby. We love jam and now can eat more with less guilt. It’s one way we’ll be able to extend the flavors of summer into winter. The whole jam thing was much easier than we originally thought and we just made our second batch. Yum!

    For dinners this week so far we’ve had:
    Monday= Thai chicken soup (light coconut milk base, lemongrass, cilantro & lime garnish),rice
    Tuesday =crispy baked pork chops with asiago & prociutto (crusted with shallot, garlic breadcrumbs) roasted veggies & whole wheat pasta with fresh tomato sauce.
    Wednesday = leftovers
    Thursday = grilled chicken with mushroom & herb white wine pan sauce with green beans and salad
    Friday = I don’t know yet…

    p.s. My husband gets all of the credit for cooking in our house, it’s amazing and I am super spoiled.

  18. Maybe I’m the last person on earth to do this, but I just stopped being snobby over fresh veggies and getting the ones that steam in a bag. In the summer-to-fall/winter transition, my energy level plummets and my body wants CARBS CARBS CARBS. Also, pasta is quick and easy on those nights that I want to go to bed at 8:30. (Seriously.) So I started buying those steam-in-a-bag frozen veggies and eating them on the side with my pasta. That means less pasta on my plate and getting 2 extra servings or so of veggies in a day. I feel weird about buying frozen stuff, but at the same time, it’s better to get some veggies than to just eat a mountain of pasta and sauce and cheese at dinner.

    • Don’t feel bad about frozen veggies! They are way better than canned, and in the middle of winter, they are sometimes more nutritious than fresh veggies in the produce aisle. Frozen veggies are more likely to be picked ripe at maximum nutrition, and IN SEASON. So a bag of frozen peas in December is probably better for you than a tomato or a pepper!

      • I agree! I try to do all fresh in the summer months, plus whatever is seasonal in the spring/fall, but it’s sort of slim pickings in the winter. Frozen veggies can be awesome!

        We’re trying really hard to eat fewer processed foods and more veggies. Mm, veggies. Luckily, we both love them. This week we made veggie and tofu curry with rice one night, which was yummy, and a take on that kale soup from Olive Garden last night (ours had spinach, turkey sausage, noodles, and three or four different types of beans.)

        Another favorite is a big spinach salad with other veggies (peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes), sometimes some fruit, and nuts for protein. Mm. And sauteed veggies- pretty much any kind of veggies (especially green ones- broccoli! Spinach! Swiss chard!)- with a little garlic and fried/scrambled eggs works for me for any meal of the day. I also really love making a casserole with kale in it– with kale, sliced red potatoes, turkey sausage and cheese on top. It’s pretty yummy. I love kale, and we tried making kale chips that everyone raves about, and man… ours were NASTY. Maybe we did something wrong?

        Also, I really like burritos with refried or black beans, salsa, veggies and a little cheese. Yum. It’s quick and easy and (provided you don’t use lots of sour cream and cheese and white flour tortillas) pretty good for you.

        • we’ve been snacking on frozen berries. Put them in a bowl and they are like frozen candies. Also I make my own fruit non fat yogurt with them. And NO added sugar!!!

          • Yum!! Yes!! Also, have you ever tried freezing grapes? They are like tiny frozen popsicles!

          • I really like frozen blueberries with a little skim milk poured in. It freezes and feels almost decadent to eat. :)

  19. You should visit skinnytaste.com she´s a blogger who puts the most delish recipes! all of then with veggies in it! hope you like it!

  20. I cannot figure out how you spend just $40/week on groceries for the both of you in the Bay Area. I spend about $75 / week on groceries, and that’s cutting back from where I used to be! $20/week goes toward our farm share, which is an awesome way to get more veggies into your diet. We get WAY more for $20 than we would at the store, and it’s all organic and straight out of the ground. YUM.

    Some of our go-to veggie meals are similar to yours: Polenta with roasted veggies (except we put poached eggs over the top), for example. We also do stuffed peppers — bell or poblano peppers, roasted then stuffed with a mixture of sauteed ground beef or tofu and whatever veggies we have around (one combo we like is zucchini, mushrooms, and onions). I usually spice the meat mixture with chili powder and cumin. Another good way to get veggies in is peanut noodles. I make a quick peanut sauce in the food processor (Peanut butter, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, garlic), and we serve it over soba noodles with sauteed veggies — broccoli, pea pods, zucchini, bok choi, kale, red peppers, etc.

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Who the hell is she?


Lauren

I am a writer living in Seattle and I believe that life is a grand adventure and only boring if you believe it to be. Plus! You don't need money to have fun.

I live with my husband, a photographer by education and a maker-of-video-games by trade, and a baby named gabe in an apartment on the hill.

I am romantic about most things and I cry... about almost anything. I tell stories to entertain you, I spread stories to keep you in the loop. I am not a grammar freak, but I do know how to spell it. I am exceedingly proud of my scrambled eggs and I really could eat an entire pan of cupcakes. If I met me, I would be my best friend. I tend to be irreverent.

If you would like to chat with me or see what else I'm up to you can follow me on Twitter (betterinrealife), on facebook, or email me at betterinrealife at gmail.


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