I ate 2 bacon cheeseburgers for dinner.

Well…sort of.  Got your attention didn’t I?  Let me explain….

Vegan and vegetarian restaurants seem to really be gaining popularity and popping up more and more.  This is amazing and wonderful!  The fact that it’s happening means there is a demand for it, and I couldn’t be happier about that.  There is just one problem.  Much of the food at these restaurants is the opposite of healthy, despite the fact that it’s plant-based.  Sure, you won’t find a fatty piece of meat smothered in cheese, but you may be surprised to realize the amount of fat and calories that are in many of the dishes offered at these “healthy” restaurants.

I know this from experience.  My family and I often eat at a vegan restaurant called The Veggie Grill.  Most of the options are transitional foods – so, they are made to resemble the real thing, however, they are made from plants.  For example, their “carne asada” is made from soy protein.  These items are great for people moving away from the standard American diet.  Personally, I don’t care for that type of thing.  I didn’t enjoy the taste of meat before I changed my diet for good – I don’t want something that tastes just like the real thing.  Plus, I try to eat only whole foods, and faux meat products aren’t that.  So, I would usually get a sandwich made with a tempeh patty, or my personal favorite, the All Hail Kale.  This salad is marinated raw kale, some quinoa, raw red cabbage slaw, a handful of slightly sweetened walnuts, served with a ginger-papaya dressing (the same thing in which the kale has been marinated.  A very light dressing – or so I thought).  Sounds light and healthy right? Wrong.  I spent some time looking at their Nutrition Facts page on their website and was amazed, and saddened, by what I found.  If I were to eat that salad the way I listed it above (and I did eat it), WITHOUT using the side of dressing, the grand total for grams of fat would be…drum roll please…..FIFTY THREE.  I’ll put it another way.  53!!  If I had added tempeh which I often do, and used the dressing, the fat count would have been 73. That’s more than TWO bacon cheeseburgers!  I realize it’s without cholesterol and mega doses of saturated fat, but still!! I emailed the company hoping the numbers were typos (no luck) and was told they use rice bran oil in the marinade which is why its so high in fat.  And since it’s pre-marinated, you can’t ask for it without.  Well, you can ask, but you won’t get it.  I was also told the only way to reduce calorie/fat content would be to order a lunch size portion – which is still 28 grams, btw, and not enough food in my opinion.

The innocent looking All Hail Kale Salad. Same calorie count and nearly twice as much fat as a bacon cheeseburger.

According to diet-centered medicine experts, we should be consuming a diet consisting of no more than 15% fat.  So, for somebody consuming 2000 calories a day, that’s 30 grams of fat.  This number should be less for somebody trying to lose weight or reverse a disease.    Puts that 73 grams for a supposedly healthy salad into perspective doesn’t it?

Some examples of menu items and their values:

Grilled “chicken” wrap = 690 calories, 34 grams of fat.  Kid’s mac-n-cheese = 470 calories, 27 grams of fat.  Portobello mushroom burger = 360 calories, 17 grams of fat.  They do offer a few soups, a green salad, and chili (if you get it without sour cream) that are lower in fat, but the majority of menu items are up there.

I’m pleased as punch that these restaurants exist, as I said.  And I’m not saying we should avoid patronizing them.  What bothers me is they really aren’t making much of an effort to make the food healthy, while making it plant-based (and I realize by virtue of making it plant-based it’s already healthier, but we can do better here!).   Creating a kale salad consisting of over 50 grams of fat, (sans dressing), is almost irresponsible.  I get that a “burger” and sweet potato fries is going to be fattening, vegan or not, and these are meals people need to be careful of regularly consuming, but a kale salad???  C’mon!

Reason for my rant is this.  I want everyone to beware and understand that just because something is vegan or plant-based does not mean it’s healthy.  I’m thrilled restaurants like this exist but people need to realize they are like most other restaurants – they want to sell what tastes good.  Fat tastes good.  And no matter what they tell you, fat is fat.  Good fat, bad fat, doesn’t matter.  It’s gonna end up on your bod if you eat too much (and create a slew of health problems in the process).  That being said, food CAN taste fabulous without being so high in fat.  So pay attention wherever you are dining.  Become a smart restaurant consumer and know exactly what you’re eating by looking at the posted nutrition facts (ask if you don’t see them anywhere).  Don’t assume, as I did, that just because it tastes nice and light, it is, or that if it’s being served at a vegan restaurant it must be good for you.  You know what they say about assuming.

Again, to reiterate: I am NOT trashing The Veggie Grill or anybody else.  I applaud them for going against the grain and for being successful!  I just wish they’d make more of an effort to create truly healthy food, not just food that looks like it.  As consumers we are charged with looking out for our best interests.  We simply can’t assume this is being done for us.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Creamy Gravy! Vegan, Oil-Fat-Gluten FREE!

So, I bought 2 acorn squash to decorate my Thanksgiving table and they’ve been sitting on my kitchen counter ever since.  I finally decided to cut those bad boys open and do something with them.  What a favorable result!!!  If you are pressed for time, this isn’t the best dish to make, unless you omit the gravy….then it’s not bad.  The gravy on it’s own isn’t time consuming or difficult, but if you stick it in with the other steps for the squash, it adds up.

*If you’ve ever cut a raw acorn squash before, you know how difficult it can be. To make this process easier, next time I will roast the squash whole first, for maybe 10 minutes, then cut it in half, and finish cooking.  Not sure if 10 minutes is the magic number but the squash would have to be softer than when they went in!  Give it a try.  Without this step, the squash takes about 35 minutes to cook.  I prefer scooping out the seeds and stringy stuff after its cooked – it comes out much easier that way.

Meal in a Pinch! Hot and Healthy, No-Fat Meal in 5 Minutes!

I came home from a 2-hour appointment that took place during the time I would normally eat lunch.  It was 2:30, I was grumpy and nearly passing out from hunger (ok, so I’m exaggerating a tad – but you get the picture.  I was HUNGRY!). I needed to put something together fast!  Anyone who knows me well, knows I do NOT skip meals.  If and when I do, it’s not pretty.  Sure, I could have shoved my fist in the peanut butter jar (this may, or may not have happened previously), but I wanted to make a good, nutrient dense, low-fat choice.

I pulled mashed yams out of the freezer – sold by Trader Joe’s.  The bag contains frozen “pucks” of cooked sweet potatoes and you simply reheat as little or as many as you need. Genius.  Then, I grabbed the frozen chopped kale, also a Trader Joe’s item.   And lastly, thank you Trader Joe’s – the frozen brown rice.  I threw all these items with some water in a pan and had lunch in 5 minutes.  I seasoned it with some hot sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper.  I was ready to eat in literally 5 minutes.  Not only was it quick, and healthy with no fat, it was GOOD!  Since I was basically delirious from hunger while preparing it, I didn’t measure or really even pay attention to amounts used.  I will do my best to recount the details in the recipe here, so that you too can have a super quick and healthy meal next time you’re in starvation mode.  It would be difficult to screw this dish up so play with it and enjoy!

Red Lentil and Rice Soup

RedLentilRiceSoupWhy are they called red lentils when they are pink, and become yellow once cooked? Weird.  All I know is they make an amazing soup!  Unlike other types of lentils, these cook and break down quickly, and end up soft, almost as if they have been pureed.  The first few times I made this soup it was on the stove, but recently I used the crock pot and it was even better.  There really is something to slow cooking, allowing the flavors to build and grow.  Either way, it’s an easy, delicious meal, any time of year. One of our favorites!!

Chipotle Spiced Baked Beans and Kale

I’ve been sitting here racking my brain trying to think of what to write for my first blog post. I mean, let’s face it, bloggers are a dime a dozen these days.  Actually, I don’t even want to refer to myself as a blogger.  I blog.  Occasionally.  Posting recipes is the main goal here but I also want to share thoughts, tips, articles, and anything else I think you may find even the slightest bit interesting, as it relates to food and health (I won’t be sharing sad stories of my dog who’s lost her mind, how much I love my kid, my favorite TV shows or my thoughts on politics – no way, definitely not going there!)  Some blog posts go on for what seems like days, resembling a journal or diary, with every thought in the author’s head no longer a mystery.  I don’t want to replicate that here. I also don’t want to hammer you with posts 8 days a week.   I know the marketing gurus would say it’s important to really put yourself out there, but who cares. Less is more, that’s how I see it.  Bottom line is this:  I love food, and what I know healthy food does for the body (from first-hand experience, as well as what is clearly shown in the scientific literature).  Hopefully I can impart some of my passion and knowledge on to you!  Following is one of my favorite recipes.  Enjoy!

NOTE: Some brands of chipotle in adobo sauce contain a little wheat flour.  Make sure to check the label.  If you are on a strict gluten-free diet, use chipotle powder or chipotle hot sauce instead to make it officially gluten-free.