VEGGIE MAKEOVERS AND FOOD TRUCKS #463 06/08/2011
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A fruit is a vegetable with looks and money. Plus, if you let fruit rot, it turns into wine, something Brussels sprouts never do.

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5 Ways to Make Over Your Veggies

By Joe Wilkes

We'd like to take a look at a significant study that touts the benefits of adding more servings of vegetables to your diet. This study finds there may be parallels between eating vegetables and keeping the brain young; Of 2,000 older Chicagoans, those having two or more servings of vegetables every day showed significantly less mental decline over 5 years than those who didn't. Here at Beachbody®, for years now we've been recommending that you eat your vegetables. In fact, the "pious tier" on Michi's Ladder, Beachbody's nutrition guide, includes most of the vegetables that are cited in the study as being especially beneficial. Veggies are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, and most have practically no calories. So what's not to like? Well, for many, it's the taste.

We can all agree that eating veggies is a good thing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends that you eat five to nine servings each day. The question is how do you choke down those five to nine servings if you don't care for vegetables? And how can you get your friends and family, especially kids, to "veg out" with you at mealtime without the aid of cheese sauce or a deep fryer? While the best way to consume most vegetables is either raw or lightly steamed, some of us may need to get a little more creative to get all those servings down the hatch. Here are some ideas.

Vegetables

  1. Heal your inner vegetarian. Many of us are nursing vegetable traumas from childhood. When I was a young boy, my grandmother scarred me gustatorily by serving up numerous culinary atrocities, many involving canned or pickled beets. Soaked in sugar and vinegar until any structural integrity had dissolved into fluorescent purple mush, those beets and their sickly taste have been forever seared in my memory. It wasn't until years later that I was served a fresh roasted beet salad, with beautiful ribbons of gold, red, and violet that bore little resemblance to those horrible vegetables I politely gagged into my dinner napkin every family holiday. Now I love hitting the farmers' market, finding multihued heirloom tomatoes, purple cauliflower, exotic Asian vegetables, and all the fresh versions of the creamed, boiled, or pickled monstrosities I was force-fed as a kid (and swore I would never eat as an adult). It's well worth revisiting the vegetables you hated as a child, as well as trying new vegetables for the first time. Often, you might find that it was the preparation you hated and not the food itself.
  2. Chili PeppersSpice up your life. It's been suggested that many warmer cultures began cooking with spices to help camouflage the flavor of meat that was a bit past its prime. Why not experiment with herbs and spices to give some of the blander veggies a flavor boost, or to help out veggies that have too strong a flavor? For example, many find brussels sprouts to be less than enchanting in both appearance (they look like the alien brains from Mars Attacks!) and flavor (I've heard it remarked that they taste like dirt). Try cutting them in half lengthwise and roasting or sautéing them with some chicken broth and curry powder. You'll alter the flavor, color, and texture of the sprouts without losing any of the nutritive value.

    Mix and match spices, herbs, and condiments like basil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cilantro, cumin, dill, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard, oregano, rosemary, soy sauce, and more to add flavor without significantly adding calories. Be creative and experiment with spices that might not immediately come to mind when you think of certain vegetables. For example, a friend of mine, a master of microwave cuisine, sprinkles frozen cauliflower with nutmeg before she nukes it, with delicious results.
  3. Vegetable SoupSoup up your veggies. One great way to eat veggies whose appearance or texture might not be the most appealing is to puree them and make soup. Cauliflower is a prime candidate for the food processor. People who are put off by its rough appearance and strong flavor can get most of the nutritional value by having it in soup form. Sauté some cauliflower florets and other vegetables in some low-fat, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, then blend the cauliflower and broth in a blender or food processor until smooth. Make sure to include the broth you sautéed the cauliflower in, as it will include many of the nutrients. For thicker soup, blend a boiled potato into the mix. Or add some nonfat yogurt for a creamier texture. Add other veggies from Michi's pious tier, like onions, leeks, shallots, or garlic, for extra flavor, or throw in a little nonfat Parmesan cheese.
  4. Don't be bitter. Among the healthiest of all vegetables are some of the ones that are the least commonly eaten: the dark, leafy greens. These veggies, which include kale, chard, and rabe, as well as beet, collard, mustard, and turnip greens, contain more nutrients and fiber than almost any other vegetable, but their bitter, chalky taste often puts people off. Also, when you buy them in bunches, it seems almost impossible to get the grit and sand off the leaves, which doesn't add much to the experience. To clean your greens, start by removing the stems. You can do this easily by folding the leaf in half lengthwise, which should help you tear the leaf halves off the stem cleanly. Let the leaves soak in a sink full of cold water, changing the water several times until there's no grit or dirt left. Or check your produce section; for a little extra money, you can buy bagged, precut greens that are marketed as being washed and ready to cook. We still recommend that you give your greens a thorough rinse before you prepare them. (You can dry damp greens quickly with a salad spinner.)

    As for the bitter taste, a common mistake that people make is to steam greens. This can actually seal in the bitter taste, making the greens taste even worse. The best way to cook greens is to sauté them in a nonstick pan with a bit of broth. The bitterness will disperse in the broth, leaving your greens tasting sweeter. Adding something acidic like lemon juice, vinegar, or white wine while the greens are cooking will also cut the bitterness. You can add onion, garlic, or spices to your sauté, which can improve the flavor and add their own nutritional benefits.

    Greens are also terrific additions to soups or casseroles, but you should blanch the greens for 1 minute in boiling water before adding them to the main dish to remove most of the bitterness. Like coffee, greens can be an acquired taste, but the more you eat them, the more your palate will become accustomed to and even enjoy their unique flavor.
  5. Hit the sauce. Okay, you've tried steaming, sautéing, and pureeing your vegetables, and you're still facing silence or worse when you serve them up. It's time to bring out the heavy artillery: sauce. Now, we're not talking "heavy" as in old standbys like cheese sauce or hollandaise—they're delicious, yes, but they're loaded with fat and calories, which kind of defeats the purpose of eating vegetables for your health. (It's like taking your cholesterol pill wrapped in bacon.) But a quick glance at the top two tiers of Michi's Ladder shows that there is hope! There are plenty of healthy ingredients that can be combined to make some sauces that are delicious and can add to the nutritional value of your vegetable dish.

    Nonfat yogurt is a great base for healthy sauces. Try mixing some yogurt with mustard to taste for a faux hollandaise sauce for asparagus or broccoli. Tofu is another exceptionally healthy sauce base. My brother gave me a recipe for pureeing soft tofu with garlic, black pepper, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard to make a thick and creamy Caesar dressing. (This helps solve another dietary dilemma: how to make heart-healthy tofu taste good.) You can double up your daily veggie servings by using vegetables to make sauce for your other vegetables. Make a Spanish romesco sauce out of pureed tomatoes, red bell peppers, garlic, almonds, and olive oil—all ingredients from Michi's top two tiers, which combine to make a delicious topping for green beans, kale, or spinach. And if you don't have time to make an elaborate sauce, just keep some soy sauce, flavored vinegar, lemon juice, Tabasco®, and olive oil on hand, and dress your veggies with a couple of dashes of whatever you're in the mood for.

Hopefully, you'll be creatively inspired to try out some new vegetables and some new methods for preparing them. And if you still can't manage to eat enough vegetables, at least try to take a decent multivitamin every day. Also, make sure to check out the recipe index at TeamBeachbody.com. Not a member? Click here to start your membership right away!

Study: Associations of vegetable and fruit consumption with age-related cognitive change. M. C. Morris, ScD, D. A. Evans, MD, C. C. Tangney, PhD, J. L. Bienias, ScD and R. S. Wilson, PhD. From Rush Institute for Healthy Aging (M.C.M., D.A.E., J.L.B.), Department of Preventive Medicine (M.C.M., J.L.B.), Department of Internal Medicine (M.C.M., D.A.E.), Department of Clinical Nutrition (C.C.T.), Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center (R.S.W.), Department of Neurological Sciences (R.S.W.), and Department of Psychology (R.S.W.), Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL. NEUROLOGY 2006;67:1370-1376.

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Joe WilkesQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 13th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Food Trucks: Navigating Your Way to Healthy Roadside Eats

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Rule one of avoiding fast food may be to drive right by, but what happens when the fast food restaurants start driving to you? The food truck has become the newest culinary craze, announcing their scheduled appearances via Web sites, Facebook®, and Twitter®, which results in thousands of people cyberstalking their whereabouts every day. In most major cities around the United States, chefs and entrepreneurs alike have been taking these "meals on wheels" to a whole new level. You want samosas, tacos, pad thai, sausage, cupcakes, falafel, or sushi? There's a truck out there that'll sell it to you. But what if you've been diligently following your nutrition plan and everyone in your department decides to "graze at the curb" for lunch? The easy answer would be to submit and go back to your old ways, wallowing in grilled cheeses and cupcakes. But you're better than that. Instead, let's look at some healthier options for food truck feasting. (Note: Specific nutritional information for each dish will vary from truck to truck.)

Food Truck

Mexican

Mexican FoodTacos have been traditional street food for generations. In their authentic form, a corn tortilla, a couple of tablespoons of chopped meat, and some cilantro aren't actually too much to be concerned about. Unfortunately, gourmet food trucks tend to deviate quite a bit. Most trucks offer tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, many topped with fancy crème sauces, loaded with four types of cheese, and accompanied by a slew of fried tortilla chips. Whatever your local food trucks are offering up, the rule with Mexican food is this: the fewer the ingredients, the better. The traditional taco I just described has about 150 calories, whereas a fully loaded burrito can have 800 or more! Stick to corn tortillas, lean protein, and veggies, and leave your chips for the pigeons.

Wraps

WrapMany people, myself included, have been led to believe that a tortilla must be better for you than a slice (or two) of bread. Unfortunately, we were all wrong. Your average wrap-sized tortilla has about 300 calories, and up to 6 grams of fat. This is before you stuff it with yummy fillings. And just because the wrap is spinach- or sundried tomato-flavored doesn't seem to make all that much difference. They're still high in calories and carbs, and not so low in fat. So even if you fill your wrap with chicken or turkey and cram it full of veggies, you're looking at a sandwich that's got a minimum of 400 calories. So how do you survive the wrap truck? Ask if they'll make the filling ingredients into a salad, or just dissect the tortilla and eat the insides. This might cause your cool factor to drop among your colleagues, but really, this isn't Spago®, so who cares?

BBQ

How they get that big smoky flavor out of a truck is anyone's guess. But yummy meat dripping in sauce seems to be a food truck staple. And although chicken, tri-tip, and smoked ham are okay calorically, every tablespoon of barbeque sauce can add 70 calories of sugar to your entrée. And I think the likelihood of their stopping at one tablespoon is about as likely as we all are to win the lottery. Then there are the sides: baked beans, cole slaw, potato salad, and Texas toast (also known as pork fat [beans], mayo fat ["salads"], and butterfat [toast]). Yes, several trips to the BBQ truck could lead to a trip to the cardiologist. Try ordering the chicken with no sauce and some unbuttered toast. If they have collard greens or corn on the cob, again avoid the butter and eat it plain.

Chinese

Chinese cuisine seems to follow the yin and yang of ancient Chinese philosophy. It's either relatively healthy or horrible for you. Both can exist side-by-side in the same food truck and comingle in your to-go container. An order of mu shu pork at 800 calories a pop, a side of eggplant in garlic sauce for another 300, and a serving of white rice and a single egg roll at 200 each adds up to a day's worth of calories and a week's worth of sodium. If the East is calling your taste buds, ask the chef on wheels if there's a steamer on board. A few ounces of steamed tofu or chicken, steamed veggies, and a half-cup of brown rice could save you upwards of 1,000 calories. For some added flavor, ask for the sauce on the side and use chopsticks to drizzle it on.

Hot dogs

Hot DogMost people who work hard doing an hour of intense exercise daily are probably not going to be lining up outside a hot dog truck. Most of the population would not construe any type of frankfurter as a health food. Especially when you order the gourmet bacon, guacamole, onion, and bean monstrosity that could clog an artery if you look at it. Your average dog sans toppings is between 200 and 300 calories; the bun adds an additional 100. The biggest problem is that most of those calories come from fat. Your best bet is to ask if they have a turkey or tofu version, a whole wheat bun, and more traditional toppings like mustard and onions. Or walk to the next truck in line.

Sushi

SushiNutritionally, sushi is probably the least scary of food truck options. Until you do anything fun with it. At around 40 calories a pop, a piece of fish on a tablespoon of rice isn't going to affect you adversely. But the minute you stir in some spicy mayo, roll it in more rice, and top it with tempura, you're looking at hundreds of calories. Stick to fish and rice, with perhaps some edamame if they're available. If you need flavor, add some wasabi and low-sodium soy sauce. And most importantly, if it tastes and smells overly "fishy," use caution. You always have a greater danger of bacterial issues with raw meat or fish.

Dessert

People have been peddling dessert to us off trucks for decades. Summer wouldn't seem like summer without the ubiquitous ice cream man. Yet what's peddled in trucks today isn't a Big Stick® or a Sno-Cone. Think about homemade ice cream piled between two fresh-baked cookies. Warm crepes filled with Nutella® and sliced banana and drizzled in Godiva® chocolate. Warm chocolate bread pudding with vanilla custard. Crème fraiche cheesecake with a blueberry compote. Yeah, just reading it could send you into a diabetic coma. If you must indulge in something, try a single scoop of ice cream. Or split something with four other people. Or run.

The "roach coach" has been around forever, and especially with this latest gourmet reinvention, it looks as if it'll hang around at least as long as the critters it's named after. Visiting a food truck is essentially the same as going to a fast food restaurant, except the food's slightly more expensive and there are no plastic tables to sit at. Use them the same way you would Subway® or Taco Bell®, which is rarely and judiciously. And if you need to cyberstalk something, use Twitter and Facebook for their original intentions: finding ex-boyfriends/girlfriends and flaunting how hot you are after 60 days of INSANITY®.

Related Articles
"Seafood Done Smart"
"Go Healthy. Go Asian!"
"Delicious and Healthy Mexican Food"

Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Steve Edwards, the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development (who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards), in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, June 13th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Recipe: Tuscan Bean Salad

From P90X® nutritionist Carrie Wiatt
Tuscan Bean Salad

Looking for something healthy to take to a summer potluck or BBQ that's not going to bum everyone out? Check out this delicious, nutritious bean salad that's rich in fiber and low in fat—and looks as good as it tastes.

Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1-1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper

Salad:

  • 2-1/4 cups raw green beans, chopped
  • 2 cups cannellini beans, home-cooked or canned, drained
  • 2 cups red beans, home-cooked or canned, drained
  • 1 cup new potatoes, boiled until tender and chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup carrot, diced
  • 1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup roasted red bell peppers, julienned
  • 1/2 cup roasted yellow bell peppers, julienned
  • 1/4 cup red Bermuda onions, sliced, quartered, and separated into segments
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

To make vinaigrette, combine water and cornstarch in a small saucepan, stirring with a whisk until the cornstarch dissolves. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in remaining ingredients and set aside.

In a large bowl, toss all salad ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Add dressing, toss to coat vegetables, and chill. Makes 8 servings.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes (plus 80 minutes of cooling/chilling time)

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
195 10 grams 10 grams 38 grams 2 grams < 1 gram

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Reviews
Total number of Reviews: 2
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"I am very disappointed with the natural flavor of fruits and vegetables I purchase from my local grocery stores. The produce looks succulent; however, when you taste it, it has no flavor. It taste bland. When I was a child, I remember the district flavor of eatihng a juciy, red ripe strawberry. Strawberrys now look beautiful but lack in texture and sweetness. YUCK!!"

– Cecilia, Aurora, CO

"I would just suggest going to the pcrm.org website to read the real TRUTH about veggies and fruit because this person doesn't know what he's talking about. Whenever you cook fruit or veggies, they lose a LOT of their nutritive value. And fruits and veggies taste great by themselves if you haven't tainted your taste buds with the sugar and salt laden diet of fast food crap. Eating meat causes ALL heart disease and drinking milk (liquid meat) causes diabetes and cancer. Get the facts."

– Don, Kitchener, ON

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